Equine Ergonomics studies the interaction of working horse and rider in motion utilizing theory, principles, data and evaluation techniques.

The goal of the Equine Ergonomist is to maximize the health, well-being, performance, and productivity of both horse and rider in motion, taking into account equipment design, abilities and limitations of horse and rider, and the saddle as interface. Proper ergonomic design helps to prevent injuries which may develop over time, possibly leading to long‐term disability.

Riders and horses come in all different shapes and sizes, with different capabilities and limitations – strength, age, speed, judgment, and skills. When sitting in a saddle, the main part of the body weight is transferred to the seat, and onto the horse’s ‘saddle support area’. The proper transfer of weight is the key to a good saddle design. When the areas are not properly supported, sitting in a saddle can result in unwanted pressure and pain to both the rider’s and horse’s back.

For riders with physiological challenges or horses displaying symptomatic signs of discomfort, pressure which seems insignificant for some, may be very painful to others, even rendering a saddle unusable. Ergonomically designed saddles (to horse and rider) are recommended for the prevention and treatment of issues and pressure‐related chronic pain.

The trade of Equine Ergonomics is recognized in Germany as a viable and necessary part of the “circle of influence” around the horse. Unfortunately, many career paths within the equestrian industry remain unregulated, with no local, state, or federal guidelines to determine common learning requirements. The exception to this is Schleese Saddlery Service, which registered the trade of saddlery with the Ontario government and operates the only authorized training facility and apprenticeship program in North America.

Although riding is an inherently dangerous sport, many equine professionals working with horses are not required to present proof of their educational background or demonstrate the credibility of their expertise. The trade of saddlery itself is for the most part, a non-registered and a non-regulated trade, and this proliferation of “DIY” learning can have potentially dangerous ramifications.

Evaluating Saddle Fit to Horse and Rider

Equine Ergonomists use the principles of equine ergonomics to conduct comprehensive diagnostic evaluation of the fit of the saddle to horse and rider in both static and dynamic phases. The 80 point Saddlefit 4 Life® diagnostic evaluation (25 points to rider/ 55 points to horse) examines the factors and variables of each unique horse and rider partnership (sex, rider’s physical attributes, discipline, horse’s age, physical condition, demands, equipment – size, shape, and appropriateness).

Saddle Ergonomists or Saddle Fitters analyze the Saddle Fit Evaluation (provided by the Equine Ergonomist or perhaps conducted by themselves) using 2 approaches in making the necessary saddle fit adjustments – either a reactive approach (fixing a problem caused by something else) or proactive approach (taking corrective action to improve or prevent potential issues).

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Testimonials

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.


      Balancing_Act_Heuschmann_BookScannedImageGerd Profile Pic 150px S4L site   Horse Roll Kur - Video Icon              S4L in Germany with JS and Gerd Heuschmann       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

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