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

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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