Message from Jochen

How much better could we ride and how much better could our horses perform if our saddles fit optimally, accommodated each horse’s unique conformation and natural asymmetry, and were built for the differing anatomy of men and women? Horses should not suffer for the ignorance of the rider, nor should they be farmed out or put down because of severe, irreparable damage caused by poor saddle fit.

I wrote Suffering in Silence on the basis of my own 34+ years of experience working in the equestrian industry. I incorporated insights gained from my own apprenticeship and master’s training, from associating with numerous other industry professionals and picking their brains, and from doing evaluations (personally and through my company) on over approximately 150,000 horses (reword) of all breeds, ages, condition, and ability during these years. I hope you will look at your saddle and saddle fit a little more critically in the future, and use the guidelines in Suffering in Silence to evaluate your personal status quo. Perhaps you will go to your saddle fitter and ask him/her to do a proper evaluation book. Saddlefit 4 Life® knowledge not inherent in many people who are working with saddles in the industry – your fitter, saddler, or tack shop owner may make recommendations that are in direct opposition to what you have learned here. You will also experience skepticism – ‘it’s all smoke and mirrors’, ‘absolutely unnecessary to put so much emphasis on saddle fit’. People may try to persuade you that the saddle you just bought is absolutely the best thing for you and your horse.

Don’t let them bamboozle you! You need to ask the right questions of your saddle fitter – to reassure yourself that either he is right or that he doesn’t really have a clue. You need to be steadfast. Insist on the answers you need to make an educated decision. Question the qualifications and training of the people you work with – don’t be afraid to ask!” I personally have fit and evaluated more horses in my life than most saddle fitters or tack shop owners. I have probably learned more and taught more about saddle fit than most people who call themselves experts in this field. Decide who you want to put your faith in. YOU carry the responsibility for the well-being of your horse. It’s really only common sense and simple logic.

Horses should not experience discomfort, pain and irreparable damage caused by ill-fitting tack, due to lack of knowledge. Nothing compares to the feeling you experience when you know you have helped your best friend!

I wish you continued success, health and happiness with your horse; I wish for you a well-fitting saddle that will provide enjoyment with your horse; I wish you access to a well-trained and competent circle of professionals caring your horse for your ongoing enjoyment of riding for years to come!

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ask_watlter_bookI have known Jochen as a talented rider and master of his trade since 1986. It is easy to recognize how much Jochen Schleese cares about the comfort and well-being of the horse. Many rider errors have their origins in poorly fitted saddles—to either horse or rider. Too many times these issues are simply ignored and that is why I cannot thank Jochen enough for bringing them to our attention in his book, which every rider who loves his horse should own. He uses illustrations and descriptions not only to discuss what a saddle should look like and that it should fit, but also how it should be fit to individual horses. Only then can the animal carry the unaccustomed weight of a rider and the saddle without pain.  The horse is not really made to carry any weight on its back – which is the second most sensitive spot after its mouth.  It really only becomes possible to do so after its back has been properly strengthened and trained to do so using specific training and gymnastic exercises. All of this was taken into consideration by Jochen during his many years of training and studying with his master in Germany, and later as a master saddler himself while establishing his business in his chosen land [Canada]. Especially Jochen’s experience as a successful competitor in 3-day eventing allowed him to observe and feel the necessity for freedom of movement required under saddle in all three gaits.  His own training had taught him that only a correct seat will facilitate the right aids to the horse. What happens when the rider is even only slightly out of balance?  This is where the saddle comes into the picture: one often sees the rider react by holding his head somewhat to the left or the right. This is the first mistake in the seat; from this he may collapse at the same hip and shift his weight to the other side to compensate. This will of course put more pressure on one side of the horse’s back. Then the rider pulls more on the opposite rein, the whole other side comes higher, and so forth. The result of such seemingly inconsequential errors in position that may go unnoticed or uncorrected for years may be a crooked saddle. It will not fit the horse properly any longer and secondly continue to place the rider in an incorrect seat. One shouldn’t underestimate the frequency or speed with which this crookedness and unevenness can happen. Many rider errors have their origin in poorly fitted saddles to either horse or rider.walter Too many times these issues are simply ignored and that is why I cannot thank Jochen enough for bringing them to our attention in his book ‘Suffering in Silence’. Every rider who loves his horse should own this book. Jochen discusses what to look for in a saddle and how to ensure it will not cause your horse any pain. Horses did not ask to be ridden, which is why it is so important to Jochen that he protect our four-legged partners from poor saddle fit. He is ensured a measure of gratitude from all horses for making their lives bearable and comfortable with properly fitting saddles. I thank him on behalf of riders everywhere, and also his wife Sabine who played just as big a role in the writing of ‘Suffering in Silence’. Jochen teaches discuss what a saddle should look like and that it should fit, but also how it should be fit to individual horses. Only then can the animal carry the unaccustomed weight of a rider and the saddle without pain.

— Walter A. Zettl, Olympic Level Dressage Coach, Professional Trainer Extraordinaire, Clinician and Author of Dressage in Harmony and The Circle of Trust

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