Monday, January 25, 2016

Changing a Tree: My Experience With Prestige Trees

I am the very proud owner of a Prestige Nona Garson Elite.

I bought it used about 3 years ago with the idea in mind that I wouldn't be riding Candy forever, while continuing my education, so I needed a saddle that would adjust to fit a new horse while falling inside a student's budget. Removeable gullet systems like Bates, and the Genesis system on M. Toulouse saddles didn't appeal to me, and I adored my old trainer's circa 1980s (or older) Prestige close contact saddle, so a Prestige was the obvious choice to me.

My saddle originally had a 34 cm tree, which correlates roughly to a wide tree. With a Thinline pad, it fit Candy very well. However, it was a snug fit for Lexie. Since Candy is retired from work, I decided to get the tree widened to fit Lexie because she will be the one wearing it (using it?) regularly, and I can pad it up for Candy for trail rides.

Ain't she a beaut?
Prestige trees aren't made of wood, so they can be adjusted in 2 cm increments to be narrower or wider. Prestige recommends that you use a certified dealer/adjuster to maintain their warranty for your saddle. In my research and personal experience, I've found that both Dover Saddlery and VTO Saddlery  are certified to do tree adjustments. I decided to contact VTO based on recommendations from COTH. For Lexie, I wanted to the tree to be adjusted 2 cm wider to be a 36 cm (or extra wide) tree.

Now to the (mildly) painful portion: VTO Saddlery charges $150 (including return shipping) to adjust the saddle. I chose UPS to ship my saddle, which, including insurance for the price of the saddle and packaging, cost roughly $60. Still significantly less than a new saddle, but a little ouchy for my tender student budget.

For my experience: the whole process took roughly 2 weeks between shipping the saddle to Virginia from Kentucky (during the holiday season), and then return shipping from Virginia to Alabama. VTO Saddlery did contact me once during the process; my saddle was stamped as a 34 cm tree, but actually measured 35 cm. I told them to go ahead and do the full 2 cm widening, since Lexie is a big girl. I'm super pleased with how it turned out; it's still not a perfect fit, but Lexie seems much happier. She's reaching up through her back a little more, and seems to be more comfortable.

The verdict? If you plan on riding a variety of extremely different shaped horses in a short time- this is probably not the greatest option. If you're like me, and ride 1-2 horses at a time, and may not stick with one specific build throughout the lifetime of your saddle, I highly recommend Prestige saddles for their trees.

- K & C & L


  1. Glad it's keeping the mare happier. I personally couldn't ride in the prestige. Somethin about them just didn't agree with me. (The ones I have sat in anyways).

    1. I will say I haven't sat in any high end saddles outside of the Prestige brand, but if it ain't broke- don't fix it! So sorry they didn't work out for you. :(

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience! I bought a Prestige a few years ago and the ideas of being able to change the tree was a really appealing bonus, but of course I'd remained a little bit skeptical. Sounds like it works great though, and $200 is a LOT less than a brand new saddle!

    1. It's been about 3 weeks, and I love it! The saddle feels a touch wider when I sit in it, but I am so happy with it! I was worried it would affect the integrity of the saddle, but it's been great!