Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, DVM

Saddlefit 4 Life®  Partner shares our Passion to Protect Horses!

Trained as a Bereiter (Master Trainer), Dr. Gerd Heuschmann is an equine veterinarian based at the Warendorf Veterinary clinic associated with the German National Riding School. A respected international lecturer, Heuschmann educates equestrians on how to make the sport better for the horse. A true horse lover and voice for the horse, Dr. Heuschmann boldly speaks about the damaging effects of incorrect training methods (especially hyperflexion!) employed by many competitive riders and trainers today.

In 2008 Dr. Heuschmann studied Jochen Schleese’s Saddlefit 4 Life® system, and was certified as a [Saddlefit 4 Life® Professional] providing diagnostic assessment of suspected saddle fit issues. Jochen Schleese has taught with Dr. Heuschmann at the German National Riding School, training Bereiter and Reitlehrer on saddle fit principles and assessment, as well as at clinics all over North America.

Heuschmann speaks about the saddle as the interface between horse and rider, and damaging effects of poorly fitting saddles:

“The saddle is the connection between horse and rider and plays a massive role in this partnership. A poorly fitting saddle cannot result in optimum performance even with an excellent rider. The saddle size impacts the longissimus dorsi of the horse’s back. Saddles do fit better than they did even 20 years ago but there are still many poorly fitted saddles and there is a lot of room for improvement. The industry simply requires better education, such as Saddlefit 4 Life® is giving.”

Author of “Finger in der Wunde” (Germany Oct. 2006) translated as “Tug of War – Classical versus “Modern Dressage” link (Sept. 2007), as well as “The Balancing Act” (2012) Heuschmann explains why Classical Training Methods are necessary and beneficial to the horse, and how incorrect “Modern” riding negatively affects horses’ health. Comparing both classical and “modern” training methods, Dr. Heuschmann believes the horse’s body tells us whether our riding is “building the horse up” or wearing it down and tearing it apart.” His documentary [“If Horses Could Speak”] link 2008, shows the damaging effects of poor training methods on the functional anatomy and bio-mechanics of the horse, and features several experts in the industry with their commentary, including Jochen Schleese.


Together with Klaus Balkenhol and other prominent dressage experts, Dr. Heuschmann is a founding member of “Xenophon,” an organization dedicated to “fighting hard against serious mistakes in equestrian sport” www.xenophon-classical-riding.org.

Dr. Heuschmann writes on the [functional anatomy of the horse]:


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Equine Professional

The riding school where I first took lessons had "good" saddles, made by a venerable European manufacturer, so when I noticed my riding was uncomfortable, I assumed a problem with my position. Eventually though, I realized that no position was comfortable, that riding varied from unpleasant to excruciating. Nobody else seemed to have a problem, and my instructor was not a person with whom anyone discussed non-public parts of the body, so I just accepted that riding was painful. Until I rode in a friend's saddle, made by another venerab1e European manufacturer. It was an old saddle, but the moment I sat in it I was like Goldilocks in Baby Bear's chair -it was just right. Painless! Amazing! So I measured, compared, tried other saddles; then my husband made me foam blocks that I placed next to my stirrup bars to widen the saddle waist until I could buy a used saddle-shaped -like-me. If I or my instructor had had Jochen Schleese's important book “Suffering In Silence”, I would have been spared years of pain and frustration. It seems an unfortunate human tendency to take no steps toward a solution unless the ultimate solution is achievable, like the onlooker who wondered why to throw a single starfish in the sea if they couldn’t all be saved.  I can’t afford to buy custom saddles for my school horses, but there are many things I can do, with the information in Mr. Schleese's book, to make my horses and my students more comfortable. Correct diagnosis is vital to solving problems, and its information that you need to make a diagnosis, like the significance of saddle length, gullet width, equine asymmetry, billet placement, cantle angle, and many other features of the interface between rider and horse. Little, inexpensive things like foam blocks can make the difference between painful and painless for both the equines and the humans you are responsible for, if you have the information that comes from Mr. Schleese's experience, we may not be able to do everything, but we should do what we can.

— Katie Aiken, Riding Instructor Magazine Copy Editor Fall 2014

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