I hesitated posting anything about it while I was trying it because I waffled back and forth between liking it, but Mac got a new saddle!
I got Mac a Heather Moffett Vogue dressage saddle. I've tried a few other treeless saddles over the years and have always found them very comfortable for trail riding, but have had a hard time with them for actual dressage work. My complaint is that they are generally too bouncy and I've always thought it had something to do with the big pads you have to use because of the lack of structured tree as part of the saddle.
Here's what the saddle looks like:
The first day I tried it I did notice the bounce factor, although it wasn't as bad as in the other saddles I've tried. The seat is nice and comfortable, my leg hangs in a good position, and Mac seemed to like it because he was very forward. It made me realize how resistant he was to doing work in the other saddle. With this saddle, I really didn't need any leg to get a forward response, and same with a half-halt or downward transition - he was just very, well, responsive! But, still, there was the bounce. The rep was supposed to send me the smart panel pad to go with it but left it out of the box so I was using the standard panels that come with it - the smart panel pad is filled with little cork balls so it helps with the bounce factor and is good at helping with weight distribution. The standard panels are some kind of latex rubber.
Even though the bounce factor made my equitation horrible, I wanted to do a back-to-back trial of that saddle compared with my regular saddle, so I had Colin video me (don't know why it wasn't focusing well, but you get the general picture):
I showed it to a couple people, didn't tell them which saddle was which, and got some good feedback on which saddle they thought Mac liked and went better in (and they all were in agreement).
Next ride I went for a trail ride. The seat is very comfortable for trail riding, but I found myself being pitched forward onto the pommel. The seat is memory foam so it sort of molds to you once it warms up and I thought that since we were going up and down hills in the forest, that was the problem. Next ride in the arena, though, I noticed the same problem. I contacted the fitter who suggested using thin shims in the panels, and I happened to have some so I tried it and that helped a lot. Not only did it help prevent me from sliding forward to the pommel, it helped the balance on Mac's back and also took away a bit of the bounce factor.
I trail rode with the shims again and didn't have the problem again so that was solved. Still was waiting for the smart panel, though.
I finally got the smart panel and used it twice. In order to use the smart panel, I took out the rubber panels. Instead of two different "panels" that go in the panel-holding-places, for lack of a better term, the smart panel is basically just a half pad. It wouldn't really work with the wool pad I was using so I had to go back to a cotton square pad. I used the attachments on the panel pad to affix it to the rings on the saddle, put the square pad on, put the pad/saddle on, and off we went. Ok, that really does make a difference. The bounce factor was gone, and Mac seemed very happy. Halt-canter transitions were easy. Trot-canter transitions were forward and smooth and lacking ear-pinning or tail-swishing. He feels lighter to me. My position felt much better - more secure, less bouncy, just like in a regular treed saddle.
So I bought it. The quality of workmanship is really lovely - it almost seems too nice to trail ride in!
I decided to sell my Crestridge western saddle because I just didn't like the way it fit Mac, and now my other dressage saddle is for sale, also.