48/ MARCH/APRIL 2017 THE RIDER Saddle Fit and the Circle Of Influence

By Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CSE ©2017 Saddlefit 4 Life® All Rights Reserved

Given that this issue of The Rider will be dis-

tributed especially at the 2017 Can Am Equine All Breed Equine Expo at the Markham fairgrounds, I thought it fitting to look back to over 14 years ago when we attended the inaugural Can Am Equine conference in London, Ontario. I think it was 2003, and we worked together with several other equine professionals to put on a well-received demonstra- tion that we called “The Back Symposium”. It was March break, and our kids had to forgo their annual trip to Florida to spend the better part of a week in beautiful downtown London, Ontario. Thankfully, the hotel had a pool so that was one way to make the week more palatable to them! For the presentations we had a rider, a farrier,

a trainer, a judge, and of course a saddle fitter working together to discuss the necessity of all of all of these equine professionals working as a team to ensure that the horse and rider reached their full potential. Which brings me to the topic for this ar- ticle: The role of the saddle within the circle of in- fluence.

(See illustration at right) As you can see in the picture, the circle of in-

fluence around the horse consists of basically everyone and everything which plays a role in the well-being and performance capability of the horse. It doesn’t work if each of these operates in a vacuum without consultation or consideration of the others. A horse will change in conformation several times over the course of his life due to many influences, the least of which will be due to age. As such, the work of these influ- ence(r)s cannot ever be considered in iso- lation, since they are all interdependent. For example, if training methods or nu-

Jochen Schleese

trition are altered or supplemented, the horse’s shape will change. It follows log- ically that the saddle may no longer fit. The work of especially the saddle fitter may never be looked at by itself, since paradoxically it is the fit of the saddle which is the best indicator of change re- sulting from the influence of one of the other team members. Keeping the horse sound and the rider healthy should be the ultimate goal for each member of the team – and they need

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to work together coopera- tively to achieve this. Every change affected by any of the team members – whether deemed positive or negative – will have a con- sequence on the others; with the simple end result that the saddle may no longer be in balance. Let me give you an example: your horse is showing lameness on the hind right and your saddle is twisting to the right (which brings in a whole other con- sideration – does the lame- ness cause the saddle to slip or is it because of the saddle slipping to the right that lameness manifests? I will

address this philosophical and controversial ques- tion in a future article, but for now – let’s take it simply at face value. It’s happening; let’s deal with it). You call in your saddle fitter to address the sad- dle fit issue and reflock accordingly to make the saddle sit straight again. The vet comes and admin- isters a hock injection. Lameness disappears and the saddle ‘fits’. Then you have your farrier come in and re-shoe. This changes the balance of the sad- dle again; it begins slipping right again and your

horse begins to lame once more. The point is, unless you advise your veteri-

narian of what’s happening with the saddle and the fact that you just had your horse reshod, he/she will be operating simply under the premise that ‘for whatever reason’ your horse is indicating lameness, and treats accordingly. Most times the vet will not see the horse under saddle (and has not necessarily been trained in saddle fit in any case) so that they are dealing with what they know and what they can see. Communication is key – like with anything else!

For the most part, it is not the saddle that

changes; it is the three-dimensional back shape of the horse which is altered as a result of one or more of these external influences. It is the saddle how- ever, as interface between horse and rider, that has the potential to inflict the most anatomical and physiological damage when it no longer fits, and is the best indicator that something is going on. Here then are several outside influences that

can affect either the horse, the saddle or the rider at any given time – some of which will result in the necessity for ongoing saddle fitting 1-2x per year, some of which may even change the fit within 24 hours.

(See chart below) Knowing the potential influencers is key; communicating what is being done to everyone in your team is no less important!

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