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!


Find an event near you

Equine Professional

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

Recent Posts

Recent Comments