Jochen Schleese is truly a master in his field, with comprehensive knowledge stemming from not only his training in saddlery but also his achievements as a rider – and he uses these attributes to reach a level of excellence in this multi-faceted industry. Jochen offers an alternative to the industry. The saddle is the connection between horse and rider and plays a massive role in this partnership. Only a balanced rider not forced into position can adhere to the goals of ‘classical riding.’ The saddle trees should accommodate specific and individual requirements for female and male riders. Only a rider with a properly made and fitted saddle can give his horse the proper aids so the horse can move free. Although there has been much improvement in the last 20 years there are still a lot of badly fitting saddles. The industry simply requires better education, such as Saddlefit 4 Life® is giving.
A prerequisite for harmony between horse and rider is the pairing of a healthy, mature horse with a practiced, empathetic, sensitive, and well-trained rider. The saddle is the connection between these two totally disparate living beings: it will either bring them together or distance them - biomechanically speaking. This makes a well-fitting saddle key to ensure commonality in motion, as well as playing a critical role in ensuring successful training for horse and rider. It can help a rider with a good seat find harmony with the horse, but can also restrict and prevent this if it is not fit properly to both.
A well-fitting saddle will quickly allow a good rider on a young horse to attain suppleness. Still, even the best rider will find it impossible to reach harmonious movement on the horse’s back if the saddle doesn’t fit. There is only one thing that even the best fitting saddle doesn’t guarantee, however: it will never counteract the effect of an unbalanced, tense, rough, and overall poor rider.
As has recently been discussed in numerous print publications, riding has become rather far removed from its former idealistic representations, especially dressage, which has been brought into a negative light by the actions of a few controversial trainers in the industry. The negative consequences for horse and rider have been and continue to be illuminated, discussed, and evaluated. A few saddle manufacturers have reacted to the described issues and made some major design changes in their products.
In my opinion, the main issue is that a rider will have difficulty in finding an independent, pliable and balanced seat if the horse is held in a position of constant tension with the rider pushing forward in the seat to go forwards while pulling on the bit. The saddle now needs to afford the rider additional support to augment this increased and constant tension on the reins.
As a result, many modern dressage saddles now have extremely deep seats with high cantles, and huge knee rolls. They allow the rider to wedge himself securely and tensely in a deep, non-pliable seat behind giant knee rolls and hang in the reins with tight hands. Many saddle manufacturers are aware of this phenomenon and yet are powerless to change it for economic and market demand reasons.
As an experienced rider and certified master saddler, Jochen Schleese has taken an alternate direction with his saddle production, which orients itself towards an unencumbered rider sitting on a relaxed horse. Only such a rider – completely balanced and not forced into position with either his seat or his legs – can adhere to the goals of ‘classical riding’. But Jochen’s philosophy of saddle fit doesn’t stop here: the trees are made to accommodate the specific and individual requirements of both male and female riders. Only a rider with a properly made and fitted saddle can give his horse the proper aids without clamping the thighs, relying on the hands, and sitting unbalanced on its back.
We all want a horse that moves freely and without restriction. The saddle should not cause it pain or hinder its movement. This means that the back muscles need to move freely, which is furthered by a well-fitting saddle (that may also have to take any asymmetry or unevenness into consideration). These are also parts of the equation considered by Jochen in his work.
— Gerd Heuschmann, DVM Author of Tug of War and The Balancing Act