May 27, 2021

Saddle Fitting #8: Bua Saddles

Brand: Bua
Cost for Fitting: $150 for 7 day trial, including shipping both ways (You do have to put a refundable 50% deposit down for the full price of the saddle, like not a hold on your credit card, but an actual charge. Do not do this with a debit card (Really don't use a debit card at all, ever, especially online, but that's a conversation for another day.))
Number of Saddles Tried at the Fitting: 1
Number of Saddles Trialed:

Betcha thought we were done with this rodeo, didn't you!

Hello from the "clearly not prejudiced against ugly and weird saddles" club

I'm not actively searching for a Dressage saddle at this point. My jump saddle is getting the job done and GP trainer doesn't mind it. But that hasn't stopped me from idly wondering WHY he seems to go so much better in it than in most Dressage saddles, and I'm starting to come to the conclusion it might be the tree points.

See, my CWD jump saddle has insanely flexible and short tree points, to the point that Mary told me not to freak out about the fit when I first set it on his back. "When you girth it up, it like, goes into sport mode and lowers itself down and around his back, which means it will look too narrow when you just set it on top of his back ungirthed," she said.

Sorry for the blurry picture, but CWD takes this concept so far, they only partially sew the knee block onto the saddle. See the black gap between the block and the panel? The block is just floating there, to allow for maximum panel flexibility for the horse's shoulder.

So my working theory that he doesn't like the long tree points of most Dressage saddles, even properly fitted ones, and isn't as willing to lift his withers into them. Former saddle fitter Mary agrees. Hence, we're investigating Dressage saddles with trees (no treeless!) but with short or no or flexible tree points. Enter Bua, a relatively young Irish saddle company with a radical saddle idea: a saddle based on a cantilevered tree.

Bua (or rather US-based rep, Irish Saddles USA) does a 7 day trial for $150 and will build and send you a saddle based on photos so I said, hey, low effort, low investment, and I'll get a good blog post out of it, let's do it! There isn't much adjustment to be done on these saddles - they fit "most horses" and on request, they can send you multiple types of panels. Mine came with a mesh covered/foam flocked set, and a leather covered/wool flocked set.

Wool on the left, foam on the right. The wool ones have a zipper so that you can adjust flocking easily, although they don't allow you to mess with that in the trial.

There are a few interesting features of the Bua. First, the cantilevered tree, which I've roughly drawn the position of in red here:

This means the rider is not sitting on the same surface that is in contact with the horse's back, even though it's a single united tree. That means the saddle has a suspension, kind of like your car's, and you can stiffen or soften the suspension on-demand using the mechanism on the back of the cantle:

So if you're trail riding you might want a softer suspension, but if you're flatting you might want a stiffer suspension.

Also interesting: the weight. The whole thing clocks in at 9lbs, and I could lift it over my head without even trying. I LOVED that about it. It's absolutely the lightest saddle I've tried.

Shown hanging easily on the flimsy baby gate that serves to keep Hank out of my trash can

If you're an eventer and you buy a Bua saddle, you need only buy one saddle because you can buy both jump and Dressage flaps for it and swap them out. I had the Dressage flaps only, but I'm all for anything that lets me own fewer single-purpose tack items, so I thought that was a cool concept.

Finally, the last interesting feature is the whole reason I tried it: the complete lack of tree points. It has a tree, but the tree has no points whatsoever.


So flexy

On the first night, I rode with it in the foam panels, and by the end of the ride, it was up over his withers:

Despite that, he went quite well in it, and from the moment I put him on the lunge to see how he went in it all the way through my Dressage ride, he was very willing to lift his back.

Me, on the other hand...


In the above GIF, you'll see some of the most effortless still-crappy-but-progress half pass we've ever done, and you'll see my butt being bounced like a basketball. This is not a horse with a big bouncy trot, guys. And the saddle was in the completely ratcheted down low suspension configuration for this ride. Plus the balance was all wrong even before the thing crept over his shoulders.

Irish Saddles USA, the distributor I was working with, suggested I do the next ride with the wool panels to see if that prevented the saddle from slipping, and changing out the panels took me all of 2 minutes after watching a YouTube video. You just undo a strap with a button fastener, slide the panel off, slide the new panel on, and re-fasten the strap.

Shown with one panel removed

The wool panels helped quite a bit, the saddle didn't creep forward at all for my second ride, but I still found the balance all wrong - it was way too high in the pommel and way too low in the cantle, setting me back on my "pockets". I also felt very high off the horse and like the saddle was somewhat unstable laterally.

Pommel too high, but look at that fit along his shoulder. Not many saddles fit this closely on him.

By this point I had a feeling the saddle wasn't for me, and the biggest reason? I found my seat aids very ineffective in it. For example, normally my canter depart aid is lifting my inside seatbone, but that aid must have not been getting through because I had to back it up with leg. And the suspension would have been welcome on a trail ride, but was not helping me in the Dressage ring.

That said, I still asked them if there was anything we could do to improve the front-to-back balance of the saddle, and they said no, and with that plus the seat aids thing, they told me this might not be the saddle for me. I appreciated the honesty and how easy they were to work with.

Really though, this balance ain't right

So what's the bottom line here? This isn't the saddle for me, but this was also not a waste of time and money. He did go better in it. That IS a datapoint to support my theory that he doesn't like long tree points, and he seems to prefer a less-well-fitting saddle with no/short/flexible tree points over a well-fitting saddle with long ones, like my old CWD Dressage.

Long tree points are HARD on a horse shaped like Connor

Do I think Bua is a bad saddle? I do not. I think they really have a good concept from a horse welfare standpoint. There's no denying Connor went better with me suspended over his back rather than sitting on top of it, that model just doesn't work for my sport. 

If my horse was in a medium tree or smaller and I never had to sit the trot, I would definitely give Bua a legitimate shot. And I desperately wish I could combine the rider-focused Eq Saddle Science saddle with the horse-focused Bua saddle to create One Saddle to Rule Them All. No one's asking my opinion though.


The rep was great to work with and answered all of my many questions promptly, so if you're curious about trying one, I can very much recommend working with Irish Saddles USA!


  1. I got recommended one of these saddles 3 years ago when I was looking for my first dressage saddle for a then lease, and I was super excited to see you wrote a post about them. I was always curious how the seat felt in motion.

    1. They encourage you to ride in it a lot over the 7 day trial, because the seat in motion is unlike anything you've ever ridden in. It's comfy, but very very weird. I liked it for everything except sitting the trot.

  2. So.... When are you launching your saddle company?

    1. *cries in "Probably Doing GP Dressage in an XC saddle"*

  3. That is an interesting saddle, but I agree it seems to take away the seat aid and would cause me to fight the position. I have to put my saddle further back than the eye expects so Roscoe's shoulder is free. He wants no pressure. Cobs are a special shape.

    1. I've heard many saddle fitters say to put the saddle further back these days than I was taught as a child, I think prevailing wisdom is changing on that. Makes sense to me.

  4. I purposely bought an Equipe Viktoria (short tree points and flexible, LIGHT tree) for the pony I ended up showing last year. I absolutely despite the long tree-points of the normal line-up for my sport and am thrilled the Viktoria appears to be working for my new WB mare. I am sure you've tried Equipe but if you haven't, try them. They are amazing :)

    1. Selling, not showing. Hence the selling lol.

  5. This was very interesting, as I have never heard of this brand or concept! The horse in my header photo (on my dressage blog, not the farm blog) was a "prince and the pea" horse; getting the right saddle for him took forEVer. I thought an old, original Ortho-Flex might be the key for him, but ugh, no. However, the inventor of the Ortho-Flex, Len Brown, has created a saddle-fit pad called the Corrector that DID fix Russell's fit issues. Lance was much easier to fit, and so far Stella is happiest in my ancient AP Wintec that SHOULD be too narrow for her.

  6. I've found your saddle fitting journey to be fascinating because I also have a horse that just *cannot* with the long tree points. I have resigned myself to mostly flatting in a jump saddle (easier since I event though), but I've been eyeing the Equipe saddles when I can afford one. Curious if you've looked into them at all? I've been told they have short tree points (although haven't actually ridden in one yet), and I've been particularly interested for my horse due to their E-Carbon range because he loves his carbon fiber CWD. Curious if this brand has been on your radar at all!

  7. Smith worthington’s helix saddle has a short pointed saddle that has worked for my arabs and friesians. Maybe worth a look.

  8. That is one interesting saddle. LOL

  9. So interesting! I feel like Bridget has the same feelings re: tree points. I've been pulling out my jump saddle for a couple of years now for flat work because she's just freer through the shoulder and better in her back in it. Despite the dressage one being the one that was bought and fitted just for her, I need a really good warmup to have her feeling like she does right away in the jump saddle.

  10. That is one ugly saddle lol - though looks can be thrown out the window if it works for both the horse and you, sorry this wasn't the solution and you are still on the hunt.

  11. That is the oddest saddle I have ever seen lol