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Suffering in Silence: Saddle fit explored

This new book by master saddle and saddle ergonomist Jochen Schleese will have you heading for your tack room to inspect your saddles – and your horse.

suffering-silenceThere must be millions of horses around the world in abject misery because they are, literally, saddled with pain.

The author of this book, a former eventing rider, knows more than most about that. He suspects, with 99% certainty, that the diminishing performance and early retirement of his top-level eventing horse, Pirat, was all his own fault, and down to a poorly fitting saddle. “I am very ashamed for what I unknowingly caused my friend, my pet, my competitive partner – all because I didn’t know what I didn’t know and didn’t know any better,” he says.

Suffering in Silence – the saddle-fit link to physical and psychological trauma in the horse
by Jochen Schleese
Hardcover, 198pp
Trafalgar Square
ISBN: 1570766533 EAN: 9781570766534
RRP $US29.95 / $A45. Available from Amazon (US), Amazon (UK) and Fishpond (NZ).
Available from booksonhorses.com.au for $A32 + $10p&p

This led to an obsession with saddles and saddle fit, and Schleese has some startling revelations about the topic in his book.

Although these riders are similar in body shape on the outside, their "butt casts" below clearly show the differences in their pelvic points of reference.

Although these riders are similar in body shape on the outside, their “butt casts” below clearly show the differences in their pelvic points of reference. The male rider, right, has two points of contact on the saddle at the seat bones, which are closer together than those of the female (left). In addition, the female pelvis has a third point of contact at the front, the pubic symphysis. The male rider, right, has two points of contact on the saddle at the seat bones, which are closer together than those of the female (left). In addition, the female pelvis has a third point of contact at the front, the pubic symphysis.

One is the obvious differences in male and female pelvic anatomy, and how nearly all saddles made are created for men – because that’s how they’ve always been made. “No one had given any consideration to the female anatomy in saddle construction. As a matter of fact, these ‘male’ saddles could actually cause pain and harm to the female anatomy.”

So Schleese set out to make plaster “butt casts” of riders, to demonstrate the pelvic differences, and this, he said, pointed to a need for an individual saddle seat for both sexes.

He makes the point that a female rider has to work harder to be balanced in the saddle.

“The male saddle has a narrow seat width, a narrow waist, and wide twist [behind the waist]. When a female rides in a male saddle with the wide twist, that will cause the knee to turn out, the toes to turn out, the leg to go forward, with chronic hip and knee pain,” Schleese says.

This led to the author designing and building his own line of  saddles, and creating the Saddlefit 4 Life network, which is now taught world-wide.

Schleese goes on to talk about the history of saddles and saddle making, the saddlery trade, and tree angle and width, the horse’s anatomy, and much more.

Other points he makes include the fact that gullet channels are often too narrow. They should be the same width from front to end.

Included are lots of drawings and photographs showing the horse’s back and neck muscles, and how the saddle affects these.

Girth length can be another problem, as if it is too short the buckle will irritate the horse at the leg and elbow. And care should be taken for the buckle to be placed behind where the triceps and latissimus muscles cross.

Most horses are also naturally asymetrical in the shoulder area (because of “handedness”), leading to major issues when a gullet plate is not adjusted accordingly.

Schleese says after measuring more than 150,000 horses around the world, he found that more than 70% were more strongly muscled on the left, 10% were evenly muscled, and about 20% were larger on the right side.

He attributes this asymetry to the domestication of the horse and the conditions in which they are kept.

Schleese goes on to discuss the various fitting methods, different types of saddles and panels, and accessories.

More information on his philosophy and work is on the Schleese Youtube channel
Jochen-schleeseJochen Schleese was certified as the youngest Master Saddler ever in Europe in 1984, and in 1986 was asked to be the official saddler for the World Dressage Championship.

He received a patent for a revolutionary saddle design in 1996 and is recognized as an authority on horse saddles.

Horsetalk.co.nz

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Comments (2)

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  1. Lyn Marshall says:

    A most interesting read would like to see the whole book, saddle fitting is a very tricky business as horses are all different, some have short backs as opposed to horses with long backs I would be interested in Jochen”s comments, he appear’s to lean towards the dressage horse.

  2. Karen McCann says:

    I know how important it is for the saddle to fit the horse correctly.When I start my horseback riding again, do I ask for a dress as ge saddle that’s made for a women. Most places where you ride have you use whatever saddle they feel fits the horse. Now I know why I would end up with pain, especially in my pubic bone, due to an improper saddle. Poor horses.I also know now why somewhere of them act the way theydo under saddle.
    .

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