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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andrea Jochen Schleese’s experiences and ‘aha’ moments while working as a saddler are truly unique. It is truly a great honour that he shares this knowledge with us in Suffering in Silence. The use of his plaster cast method to take ‘butt imprints’ of many men and women exemplifies the sometimes circuitous route he used to achieve this level of knowledge. This methodology clearly demonstrated the differences between male and female pelvises and was integrated into saddle designs for the benefit of both. Riding is a very demanding sport, and the only one in which the athlete is dependent on the interaction of another being in order to move. As a physiotherapist and a rider myself, I can only state how important it is that finally the differences between male and female anatomy have been taken into consideration to positively impact biomechanics. The topic of saddle fit is a key consideration when I teach my course in biomechanics of the rider at the German National Riding School in Warendorf.  The rider forms the horse and the saddle forms the rider – these two statements are not mutually exclusive. I often compare the saddle to a shoe, which should be comfortable to wear – except that this ‘shoe’ needs to fit two beings (horse and rider) equally well at the same time. This leaves the saddlemaker with a huge responsibility – one which requires a good basic knowledge in human and equine anatomy. Although many of my students are not consciously aware of the anatomical differences in male and female pelvises, they are nevertheless adamant that a saddle should work well for either gender (which infers that these differences need to be taken into consideration during design). I can only expect good things to result in the sport of riding when riders, trainers, veterinarians, saddlers and physiotherapists combine their expertise and experiences for the common good of horse and rider. Only then can the saddler fulfill his role as interface between horse and rider and open the door for discourse. This in a nutshell is the philosophy of Jochen Schleese. Knee rolls are of specific interest to me personally. Through personal observation, which is substantiated by research, the opportunities for human activity and movement continue to dwindle nowadays. Children spend much of their time in inactivity, watching TV, playing games on their computers and cell phones. The result is necessary prosthetic compensation to make up for this loss in muscle development; for riders it is the addition of huge knee rolls on the saddle, which help to keep the rider in a static position while hindering movement.  A pliable seat for the rider and taking up the rhythm in motion are no longer achievable. Although at first glance it may seem that the rider is sitting properly balanced and straight, it soon becomes apparent that the rider is actually sitting stiffly but thinking that this is the way it should feel. The complementary muscle interactions are not in harmonious states of contraction and relaxation, which means that the rider cannot give the aids properly. How can she properly relay the message to the horse to achieve rhythm, suppleness, and connection – which are only the requirements from the first training scale? The rider feels cramped, experiences pain and possibly long term damage (up to and including slipped discs and torn muscles).  This is the possible result regardless which discipline you ride in – which is why the saddle should not only be correct for the rider’s gender and anatomy, but also appropriate for the riding discipline.

— Andrea Koslik, Rider and Physiotherapist

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