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AUGUST 2012 THE RIDER /53 Saddlefit 4 Life: Saddle Fit and Horse Straightness

should instead be accommodated by using, for example, sad- dles which are adjusted properly so that the rider doesn’t feel the need to compensate by collaps- ing on one side, or have the stirrups hang differ- ently on both sides, or whatever. Unfortunate- ly, most of the inherent crookedness comes from the bone structure rather than the muscula- ture; the muscle devel- opment is actually more often a result of the underlying bone struc- ture.

By Jochen Schleese. CMS, CSFT, CEE

One of the most com- mon questions I am asked has to deal with both sad- dle ‘straightness’ and horse ‘straightness’ and whether the correct thing is to try and force the horse into ‘straightness’ with exercise or to accommodate their basic ‘non-straightness’ with a crooked saddle. As is pretty obvious, most horses are inherently not 100% straight; in fact most are dominant in the musculature on the left.

Lateral Deviation

While one school of thought is that the horse needs to be ridden straight and forced into straightness (ie., ‘equalness’), we feel strongly that the natural conformation of the horse

A very controversial and fairly new idea coming from an equine osteopath in Germany whom I work closely with goes so far as to maintain that colic can even potentially be caused by this ‘forcing’ into straightness – makes sense when you consider that the appendix is on the right (which is usually the non- dominant side); when you try and straighten the horse out so that the right becomes equal to the left, it follows that internally all

sorts of shifts and changes take place – which can def- initely impact the digestive tract (and appendix!) possi- bly leading to colic. This is a topic which still needs some research to back up the hypothesis, but it cer- tainly could seem to make sense...and it is food for consideration!

You are right if you say that it is function that must be straight, because frustration will arise when you try to straighten posi- tion – especially without the correctly fitted ‘tools’. But just as forcing a left- handed child to write with the right may cause psy- chological and possibly physiological issues later on, it bears thinking about whether this is necessarily a good thing or even the right thing to do with hors-

es as well! This definitely allows room for individual interpretation, which also underlines the conclusion that we don’t train straight- ness for position’s sake; we train horses to be straight to improve function and performance!

One of the key ramifi- cations of a horse which is unevenly muscled is that the saddle which has been fit evenly from the factory will always slide to one side unless the horse is actually also even (maybe 10% of all cases). For the majority of horses, which are more muscled on the left side, the rider will find himself on a saddle which slides to the right during movement. This will cause a chain reaction of several things – to feel straight in the saddle, the rider will

lean to the left. The saddle will pinch over the lumbar vertebrae, causing possible subluxations in the SI joint – which then in turn can lead to issues in the right hind leg from the sciatic nerve being pinched. You have a horse that now also exhibits symptomatic issues and a rider who can experience lower back and hip pain – all resulting from an uneven horse being ridden ‘straight’ in a saddle which has not been fitted to accommodate the conformational require- ments.

Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CEE m

Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CEE; Biography:


Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CEE

Certified Master Saddler, Saddlefit Technician, Equine Ergonomist

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 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 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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Equestrian Factory Outlet Expands

Across North America

HOCKLEY VALLEY, Ontario – From a single location in Hockley Valley horse country six years ago Equestrian Factory Outlet Franchising Inc™ (EFO), “ the little brand that could,” will be expanding yet again to broader North American markets. “We have now moved to the next level of growth as a powerful brand,“ says co- founder Victoria Nicols. “In order for our core team to focus on growth outside Cana- da, we have allowed the acquisition of the Canadian Franchising business and EFO Canadian trademark to a bold new group headquartered out of Queensville, Ontario headed by Helen Curtin.”

market and remain the franchise holders, retaining ownership of the original flagship store where it all started in Hockley Valley and serving the surrounding trade area which includes the Caledon Equestrian Park and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

“Together we will continue to build the brand in a bigger way. Helen’s team will be focused exclusively on Canadian growth, while our team develops other markets with the concept, the brand, and the premium products from Europe,” says Nicols. “In recent consumer test marketing, these new markets just love the EFO brand concept and the pricing model for these premium European products,” she states.

“We will be focused on continuing the great foundation work that has already been done over the past six plus years, and con- tinue to drive “Quality,“ “Value,“ “Service,“ with the strong commitment to the riding community and rider development for which the EFO brand has become so well respect- ed,” says Helen Curtin.

While EFO’s end-of-season lines of high-end European horse and rider apparel have been a resounding smash hit with horse lovers and fashionistias, it’s the attentive customer service and its commitment to ‘giving back’ to the equestrian community that has set the company apart in the equine business world.

“We are very proud to have acquired this premium equestrian apparel and lifestyle brand, and trademark for Canada,” says the new Canadian CEO and owner, Helen Curtin. “Our team is very excited about the planned growth for the Equestrian Factory Outlet brand in Canada, and we are also looking forward to expanding the cur- rent store footprint from its already solid foundation in key equestrian communities.” Victoria and team have maintained there solid commitment to the Canadian

EFO locations include the current flag- ship store in Hockley Valley, Langley British Columbia, and the soon to open new location in Sharon, Ontario. This new shop will be located in the historic “Brammar House “ located at 19027 Leslie Street in Sharon, Ontario and will open prior to the end of August 2012. This new location will serve York Region and the surrounding communities of Newmarket, Uxbridge, Sun- derland, Mt.Albert, Aurora & Bradford. For more information on Equestrian Factory Outlet Franchising Opportunities, visit

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