Circle of Influence

The Role of the Saddle within the Circle of Influence

A saddle needs to distribute the weight of the rider correctly over the horse’s back so that the rider’s center of gravity becomes one with the horse’s center of gravity. The horse will change in conformation over the course of its life due to many influences, least of which are his age and training. To illustrate some of these influences, consider a circle surrounding the horse, divided into (a minimum of eight) equal pieces. One of these pieces represents the rider;  other components include the trainer, the veterinarians, body workers (physiotherapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists), the nutrition and supplements for the horse, the farrier, and last but not least tack – including bits, bridles, saddles, and pads.

It requires training and empathy with the horse to discover the cause of symptomatic issues. I call this the Circle of Influence around the horse, in which the saddle and the work of the saddle fitter are never to be considered in isolation. ALL of the influencers are interdependent – if for example, training methods change or nutrition is supplemented or changed, the body conformation of the horse will change. It follows logically that then the saddle will no longer fit – and the reason is not because the saddle fitter did a bad job.

Saddle fitting is nothing more than attempting to prevent long term damage to horse and rider by avoiding pressure on the reflex points and by distributing the rider’s weight optimally on the horse’s back. Keeping the horse sound and the rider healthy should be the ultimate goal for each one of the ‘pieces’ of the circle, who need to work together cooperatively to achieve this. Every change effected by any one of the pieces – whether deemed positive or negative – will have a consequence on the others, which may have the simple end result that the saddle will no longer be balanced. (Let’s recall Newton’s 3rd law here that every action brings with it an equal and positive reaction!)

For the most part it will not be the saddle which changes; it is the horse’s three-dimensional back shape which will alter the saddle support area. But it is without exaggeration the saddle (as interface between horse and rider) which has the potential to inflict the most anatomical and physiological damage especially to the horse if it no longer fits.

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Jochen saved my horse - even the vet school couldn’t provide an explanation of his symptoms. Understanding how the horse dictates saddle fit added a whole new dimension to my practice and helped countless clients and their horses. Passion for true horsemanship brings us all together. Thank you to Jochen Schleese.  Jochen saved my horse’s career, and in doing so, shaped mine.  Even the vet school couldn’t provide an explanation of his symptoms. Understanding how the horse dictates saddle fit added a whole new dimension to my practice and helped countless clients and their horses.   The saddle fitting material in my book “Recognizing the Horse in Pain and What You Can Do About It” is largely due to your years of experience and passion for teaching. Passion for true horsemanship brings us all together.” My post-graduation experience of seeing numerous records filled with refills for steroids and antibiotics or frequent, needless joint injections soon left me desperately searching for a better way to practice. The ensuing experience (meeting with Certified Master Saddler Jochen Schleese) changed my life, and subsequently changed the lives of the horses I’ve been able to work with. When I met Jochen Schleese, the founder of Saddlefit 4 Life® and listened to his in-depth explanation of how saddle fit affects the horse, I had a revelation. Here was someone who could put all the pieces together for me with compassionate understanding for the horse. I will admit, when I understood how much pain I had caused my horse, and how he had continued to try to do his job for me in the face of that pain, I cried uncontrollably. Now I was armed with something different in making the decision – the knowledge of my horse’s anatomy, how it dictated proper saddle fit...and an option to correct his problems and continue to enjoy riding my horse knowing he is free of pain.”   Recognizing the Horse in Pain and What You Can Do About it - Video Icon for Website How to Use Thermography

— Joanna Robson DVM, CVSMT, CMP, CVA and Owner of Inspiritus Equine

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