Fred Egli Jr. & Eric Hawkins (Owners)
1998, Jacks Fork River Emminence Missouri Trail Ride
Trail Saddles by Trail Riders
Our Steele Saddle is the best-shaped tree and fit for horse and trail riders anywhere handmade here in McEwen Tennessee. Over the years we have added a line of western saddles, endurance saddles, and custom hand-tooled saddles for our trail riding customers.
All of our saddles still have the same shape top and bottoms to ensure great fit and comfort for the rider. These saddles will fit the vast majority of horses well. Trail riders can enjoy riding for up to 8-12 hours per day in a Steele Trail Saddle.
Steele Trail Saddles are unique and comfortable like no other. When you settle down into your saddle, you will then know, that it is the most comfortable saddle that you have or will ever experience.
Custom Tree & Saddle “Trail Saddles by Steele” is one of the few custom saddle makers in the USA who build their own trees and provide a 100% unconditional lifetime warranty. We encase the tree on each saddle with fiberglass to make the strongest available anywhere and offer reinforced tree options for those who will use the saddle for roping or for hard crupper use. Most of the saddles are built for trail and pleasure riding. Our saddles are 100% made in the USA here in Tennessee and we are proud to say that!
We use American-made materials with the exception of a few items of hardware. On the western saddles, we use 2” thin stirrup leathers backed with bio-thane. We feel that this is much more flexible and they tend to swing much more easily for trail riding in the rough country.
We pull all fork covers on wet so that they fit tight against the fork all over. You can’t feel soft places anywhere with this. Our horn covers are sewn on by hand and fastened to the horn so they will never get loose and turn in on the horn cap.
The seat shape is perfect in the tree itself and the seat is laid in with no buildup so the ridges or bumps of the trail will never show up after the saddle has been ridden. There isn’t any padding to cover up under the saddle. When the seat shape is correct on your saddle, it should be much more comfortable with little padding. If the seat shape is incorrect, there is not enough padding to correct this and give you a comfortable ride.
We offer a saddle seat shape that fits the rider. We refer to it as “the rider’s groove”. This is very well defined to contour to your body so the weight will be distributed evenly all over to give you a perfectly comfortable saddle. This also helps in sizing the saddle. Sizes arrange from Small to Extra Large. You can easily see the differences in our trail saddles and most importantly, you will feel it.
You will frequently hear references to “pressure points”. This is where the tree of the saddle doesn’t fit the horse correctly and the areas that support the weight on the horse aren’t divided equally. You will hear experienced riders tell some inexperienced riders that they will just have to get used to the uncomfortable feelings and walking funny as they dismount their horses. This is not something that you will get used to. This has to do with an incorrect saddle. You will never have the feeling of wasted money with our trail saddles. That’s why we offer the try before you buy. We have all the confidence and truly stand behind our work. Put our trail saddles to the test. Come in and experience the comfort in our saddles.
Eric Hawkins & Fred Egli Jr, Custom Tree and Saddle, Saddles by Steele
Our Fiberglass Encased Trees Are 100% Unconditionally Guaranteed for Life at Steele Saddle
We manufacture saddle trees for our trail saddles and for many other custom saddle makers. They are the best and strongest on earth. Our saddles are primarily built for trail riding and pleasure riding, but even the trees in our English Saddles are stronger than the competitor. Our mule saddles come with a reinforced crupper and our roping saddle comes with a reinforced roping horn all of which are guaranteed for life as well as comfortable.
Our Custom Tree & Saddle trees fit horses better than any others. To demonstrate this, saddle makers who use our trees, sell lots of saddles to customers concerned with the comfort of their horses. Customers know that good fit and comfort for their horses will directly affect the quality of their performance. Reputable saddle makers use our trees to build saddles for pleasure riding, roping, cutting, reining, endurance racing, and many other events.
A saddle is only as good as the tree it is built on. When it comes to the comfort or strength of the rider there are no trees anywhere close to ours.
Questions & Answers
(click on the question for the answer)
How do I clean my Steele Saddle Pad?
We take ours to the car wash and hang them up from the clips there and spray them which works very well. Thanks, Eric & Fred
Top Questions Are…
1. Do you think a Steele saddle could be made to fit the senior? We have been successful in fitting 99% of horses and feel confident in providing a saddle that will work well for you and your horses. We have been doing our demo program for 22 years with over 100 demos on the road all the time. So we have gained a lot of experience and knowledge over the years that other trail saddle makers simply will not get because they do not have a detailed demo program. We have solved thousands of issues with horses and riders. Our greatest testimony is it’s hard to find a used Steele saddle.
2. Could we order two demos (one for Sarge/my husband and one for Flippee/myself)? Yes we can provide you with two demo trail saddles to ride.
3. How would we determine what size demo to order for each? SEE ORDER DEMO
4. Could we obtain the mold material from you? Yes we do provide mold materials for you to utilize on hard-to-fit horses.
5. What kind of rigging do your saddles have? We ride with our legs more underneath ourselves rather than forward. The rigging on our Steele trail saddles can be English or Western and the stirrup leathers are set to allow you freedom of movement.
6. I am interested in the lightest version possible since I had a 30lb saddle that was much too heavy for my petite size. Our lightweight cedar trees reduce the weight of our saddles to 17 to 23 pounds depending on the model saddle you choose and come with our lifetime warranty on the tree.
7. How long does it typically take to have the specific saddle made for each horse? Typically it will take 8-12 weeks to build a saddle for you, however, we may need to provide you with the bare tree to ride first and adjust the fit somewhat which would take a longer period of time.
8. How confident can we be that the custom tree made off the mold provided will fit perfectly? We have been very successful. You will need to ride the tree because the mold is formed to a stationary horse. All of our saddles provide the closest contact between you and the horse. If we need to change the fit for the rider or the horse we will have you ride the tree after the adjustments.
9. After riding bareback we really got used to having minimal material between ourselves and the horse so we would prefer not to have a bulky saddle, but the closest contact possible with a saddle. Our new endurance saddle will provide you with a close fit and are very lightweight as well.
I love the Outback, does it come with a horn? I am looking for the best model for my horse, do you recommend one over another, and what is your most popular saddle sold
The Outback trail saddle can come with a horn if that is your preference. All of our trail saddles are equal in comfort, however, the most popular saddle is the Mountaineer.
What is the weight of the Endurance Steele Trail Saddle with a cedar tree?
The weight of our endurance series trail saddles are 17-23 pounds with the cedar tree in them which also features our 100% unconditional lifetime warranty.
I would like to try a demo saddle and have an arab qtr cross with very wide shoulders and a short back, how you determine the fit for the horse?
Great question and many of our saddle customers have the same one. It is the reason we have the Demo trail saddle program and the 12 step program after you ride one of our trail saddles.
*We need a photo from you before you receive a demo taken with your horse standing on level ground with their head up in riding position. To be sure the horse is level, take a broom handle or something straight and place it from wither back to the hip so we can see what fit is correct for you. The straight item needs to be level (you may have to pull the stick off the wither slightly to make it level or lift one end to make it level. We need to see the straight line in relation to your horse’s back) You can upload your photo and order a demo CLICK HERE
What do you suggest for saddle – leather care?
Only use real neets foot oil. (nothing else). The saddle soaps have glycerine. It will pull the color out of the saddle. Don’t use conditioners. Don’t put anything on the seat except water to clean. Water will not harm our leather.
Wet the fenders and turn them a full turn(fenders will then be like a tube). Stick a broom handle through the stirrups. Let them dry. When you pull the broom handle out the fenders will bounce back a little.
Information on Flex Panel, Flex Tree, Tree-less, & Shims…how do they fit the horse?
Flex Panel Saddles, Flex Tree Saddles, Tree-less Saddles, and Shims in your pad are all very bad for your horse. Flex Panel tree saddles put pressure on the 4 points of the saddle where panels are attached to the tree. Flex trees put pressure in the flex joint from the rider’s weight. Tree-less saddles put all the weight of the rider on the horse where you are sitting instead of distributing the weight properly. Shims in your pad: No padding of any kind will ever make a bad fitting saddle fit correctly. It just changes the problem.
What is the safest saddle for me to buy? Frontier, Mountaineer, Outlaw, Trail Boss or Aussie?
Our Steele Frontier, Outlaw, and our Aussie saddle are most secure riding saddles.
How much weight can you take out of a saddle with a standard tree width and a medium seat.
Our mountaineer in a medium will be around 17 to 19 pounds with our lightweight cedar tree.
What are the differences in the Steele saddle models?
The Classic is a more traditional style with a rounded front end (rounded pommel);The Trail Boss is a little A-frame pommel, not a lot of swell to it; The Outlaw is the biggest front that we have, it has a sweptback pommel and a leg cuts with pads that you can bring your legs up under for added security. The Old Timer has an A-frame fork, similar to the Slick Fork. The difference is that is has an extended lip out in front of the horn. Whereas the Slick Fork has a snub-nose in front of the horn. The Mountaineer has a rounded front-end (pommel) that you can wrap your hand around; this is our most popular style right now. The Frontier also has a hand hold, but it has leg cuts (which are padded underneath) that you can bring your legs up under for added security.
You say without the rider, the back of the saddle is slightly up then settles down? Explain
Once you put your weight in the saddle, it carries your weight underneath the tree like a ski in the snow. In other words, it carries your weight properly without tossing your weight forward onto the front of the saddle. This creates less poundage per square inch. Again, like a ski in the snow.
What is the difference between your mule saddles and your horse saddles?
My mule is not gaited. I have not found a wester/trail saddle made for a horse that fits her very well, even one that is made for a wide horse. What is the difference between your mule saddles and your horse saddles?
Answer: For our mules we have several different fits. It’s best to start with our standard fit. This is why we offer the demo program. Once you receive the demo saddle you’ll be able to see a good sweat line on your pad. If not, you’ll know that the tree is not fitting properly.
Do you use American made products?
Yes. All of our products are made in America from the high quality leather we use in making your saddle to the items we suggest to our customers to buy that are not made by Steele. We manufacture our saddles and line of accessories in Ashland City Tennessee proudly.
Can I do a walk through of your operations?
We do allow you to tour the facility upon request with an appointment.
Have you tried the trees on a variety of horses and do they fit?
Our standard fit to the horse is fitting 85-90% of the horses that we send it out to regardless of the breed. We have many other fits for the other 10-15% that our standard fit to the horse does not work for and can custom fit the saddle to those horses that are difficult to fit. Read More About Saddle Fit
This involves sending you a mold kit that you heat in the oven for 10 minutes, lay it on your horses back to cool and return it to us. That way we have a replica of your horse’s back on our shop to build the tree by. We then add stirrup leathers, rigging, and a temporary seat to the tree so you can actually ride the tree to check the fit to your horse before we complete the saddle.
Do you guarantee your trees not to break for life?
Yes. No matter what the issue or the circumstances, our Steele Saddle trees are built to stand up to the toughest circumstances and we stand behind them 100% with a full lifetime guarantee on the tree. If it breaks we will replace it.
Is your lightweight tree as strong as the standard?
Absolutely. All our our trees are manufactured with our Lifetime Warranty and built to last. The Cedar Tree is an option we offer our customers who want to decrease the weight of their saddle by 3-4 pounds and is just as strong as our standard trees built here at Steele.
What we offer our customers?
- Custom trees built right here at Steele Saddle Company in Tennessee
- Customer Satisfaction Guaranteed. A 100% Lifetime Guarantee on our Saddle Trees.
- Saddles that feature a “Rider’s Groove” enabling rider 8-10 hours of riding comfort.
- Demo Program where you can Try Before you Buy.
- Highest Quality Materials.
- Superior Staff
- Saddles that are custom made weighing 21-27 pounds or with our Cedar
- Lightweight tree 17-23 pounds.
- Gaited, Non-Gaited Horse, & Mule Trees.
We guarantee our trail saddles to fit the horse and rider better than any other trail saddles on the market. To prove this, we offer a try before you buy program.
Our trail saddles not only represent fit, comfort, strength, the highest quality materials and superior workmanship, they are the most attractive trail saddles in the saddle industry.
Our main concern is for the comfort of the horse. That is why we started the try before you buy program. This demonstration program has set a standard in the saddle industry to prevent soring of horses. If this program were exercised by other saddle makers, it would prevent the selling of poor fitting saddles for the rider, horse or both. Our trail saddles allow freedom in the shoulder movement and proper weight distribution not to create pressure points under the saddle.
For the rider we have formed a rider’s groove so that your back will sit up straight for a natural, comfortable position and no pressure on your pin bones. This comfort allows riders to ride 8 to 10 hours without soreness.
My seat size is bigger than a medium but not quite a large?
I’m not so sure that you need a larger size. WE may just be able to correct your posture slightly in the saddle. This will also make you more comfortable. If that does not suit, we can either shave the cantle points a little (this is where the cantle meets your rear-end and your leg begins) or give you a 1/2 size bigger if necessary. I don’t think the large is completely out of question, but I think these other two may solve the problem.
Three things that we recommend when trying a demo:
- You must use our Steele Saddle Pad during the Demo Process because we need the impression your demo saddle will leave on the pad to check your saddle fit. If you choose to use your pad after purchasing a Steele Saddle, then a thinner pad than normal (1⁄2 inch or less) will usually work just fine. When designing the tree it took 4 1⁄2 years of riding the bare tree on the horse with no padding for the horse and no padding for the rider. This is why we suggest using a thinner pad because the pad is used for shock absorbency not to make a bad fitting tree fit. This same concept is used for the seat for the rider. We use minimal padding for the rider because the seat in the tree fits the anatomy of the rider and the padding there is also used for shock absorbency. Just like for the horse no amount of padding in the world will ever make a bad tree fit.
- The girth system needs to go at a slight angle forward and the girth needs to fall two (2) fingers behind the front leg/elbow of the horse. After you tighten the girth (please do not over tighten the girth). The front 20% of the saddle with lock down on the horse’s withers to enable the rider to get on and off the horse. You will notice that the back end of the saddle will be up off the horse just slightly. When the weight of the rider is in the saddle, the back end of the saddle rests down on the horse’s back, the front 20 % will raise up slightly, now you have even pressure throughout the bottom of the saddle whether you are standing in the stirrup or sitting in the seat. The rider works with this fit to the horse because we have designed a rider’s groove that has a rise which comes up in front of the rider. This rise kicks the rider’s pelvis up straight and tucks their rear-end under creating a deep-seated pocket which adds a lot of security. This keeps the rider’s back up straight and keeps pressure off the inner thighs, knees, and ankles.
- Our standard fit to the horse is fitting 85 to 90 % of the horses that we send it out to regardless of breed. We work mainly from two tree fits for this 85% to 90%. We have many fits for the other 10 to 15 % that our standard fit to the horse does not work for.
If you would like to try a demo, give me a call at 615-746-2456 to make arrangements for shipping of your demo. The customer is responsible for shipping and handling of the demo secured via credit card.
My horse is still growing,
First, you say that it’s very important to be able to check levelness; that’s the problem I’m most worried about at this time. I am not sure exactly my horse’s vertical growth will affect the fit of the tree…first of all, she’s growing taller every couple of months, which makes her back unlevel (downhill). I can only assume that when the saddle slips forward, it impedes her shoulders’ range of motion, possibly painfully pinching nerves and so forth, so I don’t know if it’s possible to get a tree that will fit her perfectly until she has finished growing.
While your point is well taken that no amount of shims and/or corrective padding will take care of a substandard tree, I am wondering if it’s even possible to get a “perfect” fit right now. I would certainly hope so, for her comfort is important to me, but I just don’t know enough about these things to be sure… if I were to hazard a guess, what I would hope to have happen would be that as she grew, I could use a corrective shim whenever the saddle ran “downhill,” removing it when she no longer needed it. Unfortunately, I would have to guess that corrective pads of any kind would cause the kind of pressure points you were talking about when you admonished riders to use the thinnest possible pads with your saddles.
In addition, the fact that it’s likely that my horse will “muscle out” a bit as she gets ridden more concerns me when contemplating a purchase of this magnitude. Because my horse’s muscle tone is likely to change rather significantly, at least over the next year or so, what effect will this development have on a tree’s fit? I would not want to have to, say, send the saddle in every few months to have it re-worked somehow, which would take considerable time to do, and in all likelihood would be cost-prohibitive.
What’s a girl with a young horse to do?!? I have had back pain bad enough to make me consider taking my own life on occasion, and therefore the idea of inflicting that kind of discomfort upon a helpless animal who can’t speak up for herself is very unpleasant for me and sets off alarms for me… Faith is such a blessing in my life, for she literally got me out of bed and into therapy, part of which is riding and becoming more active and strengthening my body, which allows me to tolerate the chronic pain condition I have with much more success than I ever believed was possible before she came into my life, allowing me to “rescue” her; truly, the reason I named her Faith was that SHE was the one doing the rescuing, although it took a serious leap of faith to risk following a long-lost dream. So you see, I have to do right by her… she saved my life, and there’s no way I will let her suffer for it.
If a custom saddle is not a good idea right now because of Faith’s growth spurts, could you recommend an interim solution that would be acceptable and perhaps I could start making payments toward my “dream” saddle? All I want is what’s the very best for my sweet angel, within my means to provide it.
Thank you so much, Barbara
We have had many, many situations just like yours over the years. We can do several different things. Once we establish a close fit we can use a dense closed cell foam that can be removed if necessary. This would cost extra in the future, but it would be reasonable. The second would be, you just ride the tree that we set up for you with a temporary seat, stirrup leathers and rigging. We’ve had many customers do this and be very successful. If your horse changes a little after getting in some good riding, then we would not have to tear the saddle down. I think you will be very surprised at how little your horse changes where our tree sits.
Do I need a thick pad for my horse?
A thinner pad than normal (½ inch or less) will usually work just fine, when designing the tree it took 4 ½ years of riding the bare tree on the horse with no padding for the horse and no padding for the rider. This is why we suggest using a thinner pad because the pad is used for shock absorbency not to make a bad fitting tree fit. This same concept is used for the seat for the rider. We use minimal padding for the rider because the seat in the tree fits the anatomy of the rider and the padding there is also used for shock absorbency. Just like for the horse no amount of padding in the world will ever make a bad tree fit.
What is the “rider’s groove”?
When the weight of the rider is in the saddle, the back end of the saddle rests down on the horse’s back, the front 20 % will raise up slightly, now you have even pressure throughout the bottom of the saddle which is known as the rider’s groove. This rise kicks the rider’s pelvis up straight and tucks their rear-end under creating a deep-seated pocket which adds a lot of security. This keeps the rider’s back up straight and keeps pressure off the knees and ankles. Most saddles do not have a rise with a rider’s groove for the rider. Due to this, it causes the rider’s lower back to slump over, their pelvis to tilt over on their pin bones, excessive weight on your knees and ankles which causes extreme pressure and soreness to the horse under the front end of the saddle.
Where should the girth fall on your horse?
The girth system needs to go at a slight angle forward and the girth needs to fall two (2) fingers behind the front leg/elbow of the horse. After you tighten the girth the front 20% of the saddle with lock down on the horse’s withers to enable the rider to get on and off the horse. You will notice that the back end of the saddle will be up off the horse just slightly. When the weight of the rider is in the saddle, the back end of the saddle rests down on the horse’s back, the front 20 % will raise up slightly, now you have even pressure throughout the bottom of the saddle. The rider works with this fit to the horse because we have designed a rider’s groove that has a rise which comes up in front of the rider.
What is involved in a custom tree?
Another option is to send you a mold kit. You would heat it in the oven for 10 minutes, lay it on your horse’s back to cool and return it to us. This way we have a replica of your horse’s back in our shop to build the tree by. We then add stirrup leathers, rigging and a temporary seat to the tree so you can actually ride the tree to check the fit to the horse before we complete the saddle. A good fitting tree should be like a ski in the snow. A skier’s weight is distributed properly underneath the hard surface of the ski from front to back. Our tree has a hard surface under it; there’s not a lot of padding. We insist on the rider not using a thick pad because in order to distribute your weight underneath the tree just like that ski in the snow. The hard surface needs to allow your weight to flow from front to back evenly with no pressure points for the horse. If you use a ¾ or 1 inch pad like most riders use with their saddles you will create your own pressure point from the thicker pad. In other words you will stop the flow of your weight being distributed evenly from front to back. The rider helps this fit tremendously because the rise that comes up in front of the rider tilts their pelvis up straight and tucks the rear-end under into the center of the saddle allowing even weight distribution under the tree. 1) A thinner pad than normal (½ inch or less) will usually work just fine, when designing the tree it took 4 ½ years of riding the bare tree on the horse with no padding for the horse and no padding for the rider. This is why we suggest using a thinner pad because the pad is used for shock absorbency not to make a bad fitting tree fit. This same concept is used for the seat for the rider. We use minimal padding for the rider because the seat in the tree fits the anatomy of the rider and the padding there is also used for shock absorbency. Just like for the horse no amount of padding in the world will ever make a bad tree fit.
What do I need to order the right saddle?
Our standard fit to the horse is fitting 85 to 90 % of the horses that we send it out to regardless of breed. We have many other fits for the other 10 to 15 % that our standard fit to the horse does not work for. Our saddles come in S, M, L and XL. For example someone weighing 140 – 190lbs would require a medium fit. If you are 5’5 and under, please let us know to include short fenders. Order a saddle now…
I typically ride with a horn bag, so am trying to decide between the Small Pleasure Horn and the Low Post Dally Horn. What is the difference between these?
The small pleasure horn has a small cap, tips forward and works well with horn bags. The low-post dally sits up a little straighter and has a bigger cap; it will work o.k. with your bags too.
The Trail Boss, Classic, and Outlaw saddles look fairly similar. Are there differences other than cosmetic?
The Classic is a more traditional style with a rounded front end (rounded pommel); The Trail Boss is a little A-frame pommel, not a lot of swell to it; The Outlaw is the biggest front that we have, it has a sweptback pommel and a leg cuts with pads that you can bring your legs up under for added security.
I ride two different horses, will that be an issue?
As long as you are getting the standard fit for the horse, the tree is the same. We do have different fits for the horse if needed. Our demo program is available to help determine if the standard fit works for you and your horse or if a different fit is required.
How to clean your pad
You can spray it with warm water or use a curry brush. You can also take it to your local car wash and hang it up like you would a car mat, spray it out thoroughly and sun-dry both sides completely. I personally don’t use soap because it takes a lot to rise all the soap out of the pad. If you must use soap, use a small amount, and rinse thoroughly.
How to clean your saddle
If your saddle gets dirty you can spray it all off with water You can lightly oil your saddle with (NeatsFoot Oil) 1-2 a year, 1- spring and 1 – fall. If the saddle gets mud on it clean it off as soon as you return to the barn. If the saddle gets clay on it get it off as soon as possible because clay pulls the dye out of the leather. If your saddle gets saturated in a rainstorm you want to let the saddle thoroughly dry and apply a light amount of NeatsFoot Oil to the saddle. Do not oil the seat. Only use a damp cloth to clean the seat if it happens to get dirty.
How to turn stirrup leathers
1. Put the saddle on a stand.
2. If you were sitting in the saddle, your left foot would turn a FULL turn counterclockwise your right foot would turn a FULL turn clockwise. This may seem like more than you need as you are turning them, but you need to go beyond the point you actually need.
3. This will turn the fenders into a tube. Then you stick a broom handle through the stirrups to hold them. It is easier with 2 people.
*For added flexibility you may wet your fenders front and back with a hose. This will make them stay permanently.