Recommended Reading List

Suffering in Silence -The Saddle-Fit Link to Physical and Psychological Trauma in Horses
– by Jochen Schleese, CMS CSFT CSE

Humans and horses have been joined for thousands of years, and for much of that time, one thing has served as the primary point of contact between them: the saddle.  However, for many horses and many riders, the saddle has been no less than a refined means of torture. Horses have long suffered from tree points impeding the movement of their shoulder blades; too narrow gullet channels damaging the muscles and nerves along the vertebrae; and too long panels putting harmful pressure on the reflex point in the loin area. Male riders saddle up despite riding-related pain and the potential for serious side effects, such as impotence; female riders endure backache, slipped discs, and bladder infections, to name just a few common issues.

We must ask ourselves: How much better could we ride and how much better could our horses perform if our saddles fit optimally? If they accommodated the horse’s unique conformation and natural asymmetry? If they were built for the differing anatomy of men and women? The answers to all these questions are right here, right now, in this book.


Recognizing the Horse in Pain and What You Can Do About It – Dr. Joanna Robson, DVM

Dr. Robson discusses basic anatomy, recognizing training and behavioral issues as signs of pain, saddle fitting and how to fit your own saddle, hoof basics, alternative medicine, oral and injectable supplements; includes stretching exercises, effects of training equipment, and full chiropractic and acupuncture cases.


The Horse’s Pain Free Back and Saddle Fitting Book – Dr. Joyce Harmann, DVM

In this highly illustrated, comprehensive book, Dr. Harman reveals that 75 percent of horses that are chronically stiff, crooked, resistant, or disagreeable are reacting to back pain caused by an ill-fitting saddle. It is made astoundingly clear that the results of conscientious saddle fitting are a horse that performs eagerly and moves freely, and a rider who finds it easy to correct her position, communicate her aids, and sit on her horse in a relaxed and balanced manner.


The Rider’s Pain Free Back – Dr. James Warson, MD

Over 90 percent of the US population seeks help for back pain at one point or another during the course of their life. If you’re a horseperson, back pain is of particular concern as it not only robs you of the joys of riding—it threatens your livelihood, as well. Dr. Jim Warson – a neurosurgeon who also happens to be a life-long horseman—provides all the practical information you need to understand the diagnosis and treatment of back pain.


The Rider Forms the Horse – Udo Buerger

One of the best books ever written on training of the horse from biomechanical/anatomical point of view.  Every equestrian should understand both human and equine anatomy. Following what this book says will enable your horse to remain sound and healthy and at the same time serve your needs – highly recommended for every equestrian.


Tug of War – Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, DVM

German rider and equine veterinarian Dr. Gerd Heuschmann is well-known in dressage circles—admired for his plain speaking regarding what he deems the incorrect and damaging training methods commonly employed by riders and trainers involved in competition today.


An Anatomy of Riding – Volker and Heinrich Schusdziarra, MDs

This very clinically descriptive book is about the anatomy of the human being as it affects riding. It requires a concentrated focus to understand the concepts described in the book, and is written at a highly technical level.


Anatomy of Dressage – Volker and Heinrich Schusdziarra, MDs

Only with a working knowledge of human anatomy can a rider fully understand the instructions given for correct position in the saddle and explanations of the movements. Originally published in Germany and previously published in English as Anatomy of Riding, Anatomy of Dressage presents a clear overview of anatomy as it relates to riding, written for the layman. Working from this anatomical perspective, the authors, who in addition to being father and son are also medical doctors, discuss the individual requirements of riding theory. Many of their conclusions may be surprising to readers, such as the notion that it is physically impossible to “brace the lower back” as we are so often advised by instructors.

An absolutely fascinating read, Anatomy of Dressage is required reading for the USDF’s Instructor Certification program.


Effective Teaching & Riding: Exploring Balance and Motion – Dr. Eckart Meyners

Helps the reader to develop the proper seat for classical dressage by teaching focused exercises to attain proper balance in motion, while discussing the psychology of the interaction between horse and rider.


Top Massage for Top Balance – Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt, LMT

A distinctive approach that combines the safest and most beneficial massage techniques to optimize horse health and fitness, using proven massage routines and stretching exercises in a specific sequence to benefit your horse. This is a great self-educating book that will assist in maintaining horse wellness and fitness.


Equine Behaviour – A Guide for Veterinarians & Equine Scientists – Dr. Paul McGreevy


Ridden – Dressage from the Horse’s Point of View – Ulrike Thiel
What goes through the horse’s mind when he is over-flexed and over-aided… when he is forced into biomechanically unsound positions? What happens when a prey animal (the horse) must learn to defeat his own preservation instinct and perform on cue with a predator (humankind) clinging to his back? In this important book, Dr. Ulrike Thiel-a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, sport psychologist, dressage rider, riding instructor, judge, and Xenophon Society classical trainer-examines these important questions, and others.


Balancing Act – Dr. Gerd Heuschmann

Exploring what it means to be a responsible rider, this book asks whether, in today’s society, it is indeed possible for riders in any horse sport to put the good of the horse first and foremost—most pointedly above ambition and fame.








Bareback Riding with Wendy Murdoch – CRK Training

Learn more about bareback riding and the dangers for horse and rider in this short video.

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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

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