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FEBRUARY 2012 THE RIDER /45 Saddlefit 4 Life: Saddles that fit and saddles that don’t

By Jochen Schleese. CMS, CSFT, CEE

I recently went out to fit one of our saddles for a client to a horse (like I always do!), but what I experienced there truly troubled me to the point that I had to write about it. The owner and the trainer were both not pre- sent; the groom brought out this lovely, sad, little horse. I have rarely encountered such a pathetic picture of absolute dejection and mis- use – probably totally unknowingly – and I was at first completely flabber- gasted that our saddles could cause such blatant damage. However, as it turns out, the owner herself

wasn’t riding the horse more than twice a month; it was regularly ridden by her male trainer, who was using his own “C….” brand saddle on the horse. (A common situation; he was given this saddle to ride in, it fit him great, but not necessarily the horses he was using it on). So it was actually not this saddle that I was looking at to fit – and immediately it became clear why this poor horse was the picture of abject misery. Firstly, the saddle had a gullet channel that was clearly much too nar- row – 2 fingers at most for a spine that clearly needed minimum 4 fingers width all the way down. Result – pinching the spinal pro- cesses, nerve damage on the back, and certainly not supported by the saddle support area of this fairly short backed horse. Sec- ondly, the saddle was much too long for this horse (the trainer was a male and built differently than the owner, who was riding in a proper- ly sized saddle – albeit, unfortunately, not very often). The panels went way past the saddle support area, causing all sorts of difficulty for this horse’s back and resulting in the lovely pictures you see below. Notice the way the horse is standing – the hind

Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CEE; Biography:

Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CEE


Certified Master Saddler, Saddlefit Technician, Equine Ergonomist

legs are splayed way behind; where the top of the pelvic bone and the knee bone should be aligned vertically, they are out by at least 6”!

I suspect that if the trainer doesn’t ride with the saddle actually on the shoulder, it will no doubt slide up on the shoulder because this is a common result of being too long for the horse’s back. This can, of course do all manner of damage to the scapula, (especially because the tree points in this particular brand of saddle are also forward-facing), causing cartilage damage at worst, and not allowing the horse to move freely at least. Anyway, I could go on and on about what a poor state this animal was in – there was no more life in his eyes -, but what truly made me sad (and angry at the same time) was hearing

that the horse was on the market to be sold because it was just ‘too much’ for the owner to handle! Too much?? The horse was likely showing behavioural issues (especially flight!) by simply wanting to escape and avoid the pain of having to be ridden in something that didn’t fit him. So many times – I’ve said it before over and over again – so much of what your horse is trying to tell you (and horses cannot lie) is simply based on a reac- tion to what they have to deal with on a daily basis. For most of them, they simply become numb to what is happening and per- form in spite of us. Others – it becomes unbearable, and then they become a saleable, disposable com- modity because the owner can’t deal with it. Mali- ciousness on the part of the owner/trainer? I like to

Equine Enthusiasts to Trail Blaze for Erin!

Equine enthusiasts and business professionals alike may have reason to call 2012, The Year of the Horse. It is rare to have the chance to chart your future but for those in Erin, that chance is now here with a town council looking for input.

yields some short-range tangible results. What’s unique about this one is that it’s the first time it’s being applied specifically to equine. The Erin group may well be providing a blueprint for other commu- nities to do the same.” To

If you are active in the horse industry, whether as a recreational enthusiast or professional, then the Erin Equine Task Force is interested in hearing from you. Responses from industry will be the origin for designing the way for- ward to achieve a “horse- friendly” business climate with positive outcome for years to come.

identify the equine oppor- tunities and problems, trained volunteers will visit businesses and recreational riders to gather information using the BR+E survey tool.

Those interested may want to saddle up and

become part of the trail- blazing team that will carve out a new future for equine enthusiasts in Erin! To do so, or for more informa- tion, simply send your name and e-mail address to Connie Cox (

think not. Ignorance? Per- haps stupidity? Certainly at least.

and agents worldwide. He developed the

This story reassures me that I am on the right track and have to keep edu- cating the trainers and the other equine professionals to see when a horse is truly simply in pain from badly fitting tack, which can result in such deformity.

Mr. Schleese is a for- mer 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. Schleese has made the trade of sad- dlery registered and certifi- able in Ontario as the only authorized training facility. Schleese has 60 employees

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 result- ing from poor saddle fit.” Jochen’s passion and life mission to educate is improving the well being of horses and riders world- wide!

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“There are other com- munities in the U.S. and Canada that have strategi- cally built their community around horses, giving a real boost to the local equine industry, as well as the local economy.” according to Brian Gentles, one of the project’s coordinators. “We’d like to do the same in Erin.”

“Our approach is one- on-one interviews with people personally or pro- fessionally involved in equine or equine-related activities,” continued Gen- tles. “This approach is modelled on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs’ Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) program. One of the reasons for the popular- ity of the well-respected BR+E program is that not only does the process pro- vide for development of a long range plan for the community but it also

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