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MAY 2011 THE RIDER /61 Saddlefit 4 Life

By Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CEE

By Jochen Schleese Ride Pain Free. For You. For Your Horse.

low, further adjustments to the saddle’s flocking will be required to correct the fit. Any adjustments should be dealt with by a professional, in particular those saddle models meant only to be handled by professionals. Any- one can turn a screwdriver, but you would never open the hood of your car and adjust the timing belt! With a professional fitting, the horse will benefit from the expe- rienced eye and is more likely to get a proper fit. The first consumer adjustable tree was the Wellep tree, which was designed in the 1980s in England, and involved a hinged plate at the pommel of the saddle, which was adjusted with an Allen key. The concept was a unique one, but it was not without problems. The key was frequently misplaced in the stable and the motion of the horse, together with wear, often loosened the ‘hinge’ and, with time and use, many of the saddles began to self-adjust. The next innovation of this type was the Easy-Change Gullet Sys- tem introduced in 1999, designed by Australian innovator Ron Bates of Weatherbeeta. The new gullet system was intro- duced in both the Wintec and Bates saddle ranges. When they purchased the rights to Collegiate saddles, they added several models with the system to this line. Their system includes a set of six metal gullet plates, in varying widths, which are colour-coded. They have a measuring guide that gives you an estimate of which plate to insert. With the removal of four screws, and about 10 minutes, you can adjust your saddle. The saddles are all flocked and can be re-stuffed and have minor adjustments made by a professional. The prob- lem with all of these ‘self- adjustable’ saddles is that while you can change the tree angle, you can do nothing about the width. There are only a couple of saddle manufacturers on the market that make what you can call truly adjustable saddles – adjustable does not always = adjustable! (Changing the flocking without adjust- ing the tree in most cases is a very temporary band-aid

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If the gullet width is too narrow, the saddle ‘pinches the withers’ which means that the sides of the tree are catching on the superficial trapezius muscle, further affecting the deeper tissue beneath, the rhomboidus muscle. Widening the gullet plate, will address this prob- lem but -if the gullet is too wide, the saddle will sit lower in the front. If it is determined the saddle is too

Saddle Fit & Gullet Width


While you might be tempted to purchase one of these saddles in the hopes of using it on more than one horse, I would strongly advise against it. With the tradi- tional saddles, once you adjust them to fit a specific horse, it really is best not to use the saddle on other hors- es, as the flocking conforms to the horse’s shape. And ideally, you will want the gullet to be adjusted to a spe- cific horse. If a saddle has to be shared, hopefully the two horses share a similar build. A good point to remem- ber is that you have a better chance of using pads to make a wide saddle work on a narrow horse, than vice versa. In most cases, all things being equal, I would sug- gest fit to the wider horse, and correct to the narrower one. The analogy here would be trying to make a too- small shoe fit better by wearing thicker socks. Another common concern is whether adjusting the tree will compromise its strength, thereby affecting the saddle’s longevity. For most English-made English sad- dles, you are looking at the ability to make a minimal adjustment to the tree width/angle maybe (if you’re lucky) twice without impacting the integrity of the gullet plate. Only models like Schleese, Hennig, Passier, and a couple of other more obscure companies have gullet plates that will hold up over more radical adjustments more often.

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Biography: Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CEE Certified Master Saddler, Saddlefit Technician, Equine Ergonomist

Mr. Schleese is a former member of the German young rider’s Three-day event team, and graduated from Passier Germany as the youngest-ever Certified Master Saddler at age 22. He came to Canada as the Official Saddler for the 1986 World Dressage Championships.

Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CEE

Schleese has made the trade of saddlery registered and certifiable in Ontario as the only authorized training facility. Schleese has 60 employees and agents worldwide. He developed the Saddlefit4Life® philosophy and diagnostic system. Saddlefit 4

Life® is taught worldwide to DVM’s, REMTs, DCs, Trainers and Saddle Fitters. Through sharing expertise Saddlefit 4 Life® professionals are protecting horse’s and rider’s backs. Jochen states, “Horses should not suffer for the ignorance of the rider, nor should they be farmed out, or put down because of severe, irreparable damage resulting from poor saddle fit.” Jochen’s passion and life mission to educate is improving the well being of horses and riders worldwide!

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