My Passion - Helping Horses Worldwide!

In 1984 after qualifying for the European Championships I had to retire my beautiful Hanoverian gelding for lameness, and my riding career came abruptly to an end. I wish I knew then what I have learned in the past 24+ years as a Certified Master Saddler consulting with equine professionals around the world. At very least I know Pirat would have been sound a lot longer, at best my riding career would have gone much farther.

At the time I was riding with the likes of Bettina Overesch-Hoy and other very talented German young riders. After placing in German nationals in 1982 Pirat began showing signs of lameness – which at the time I did not attribute to the saddle, since I was surrounded by experts – vets, trainers, farriers who all had a job of keeping us fit for the team. When I think of the remedial applications we used in an attempt to ward off the lameness with, including blocking, blistering, re-shoeing and all sorts of pharmaceuticals, I could cry. I know now it was simply the fact that the construction of my saddle was not in keeping with the requirements of the horse – with every step his shoulders were hit by forward facing tree points, the too narrow gullet impacted his spinal processes, ligaments, and nerves along his back, and the gullet plate likely pinched him and impeded his wither muscle as he tried to jump and move. I had followed the advice of the experts, but the result was a ‘textbook case’ of torture for my poor horse.

As my horse had suffered from an ill fitting saddle, I am very determined to alleviate this consequence for other horses. It is my life goal and my passion to make a difference by educating riders to help them find optimal saddle solutions for comfort, performance and equine development. Anyone can fit to a horse standing still, but the saddle must work with the biomechanics of the horse in motion for complete back freedom. For me – the biggest thank you is when a horse begins to move freely, happily, and well in a properly fitted saddle! Often clients throw their arms around me, crying with joy, because the difference is that visible and they realize how much harm they had unknowingly done riding in an ill-fitting saddle.

I continually work with other equine professionals in many disciplines to increase knowledge and understanding of making horses more comfortable and protecting their backs. In 2005 I founded the Saddlefit 4 Life® global network with top trainers, physiotherapists, veterinarians, chiropractors, massage therapists, farriers and saddle fitters. Through sharing of expertise and knowledge on products, systems, training methods, we work together to protect the horse’s (and rider’s) back from long term damage. Our Principles are taught in lectures, seminars, demonstrations, symposiums and in one-on-one client sessions in Australia, North America, Asia, Germany, Holland and other parts of Europe. Saddlefit 4 Life® is taught at the German National Riding School as part of the certification program, so that trainers, bereiters and reitlehrers can recognize and diagnose suspected saddle fit issues.

Never again should any horse have to suffer for the ignorance of his rider, nor will a once sound horse have to be farmed out, or put down because the damage is so severe that nothing more can be done to help or change the situation. For me, it’s about helping the horse and the comfort of the horse and rider. I made this my calling and that is why I teach worldwide.
I am excited to join the Barnmice expert forum to share with you the latest information on Principles of Saddle Fit for horse and rider. Through education, together we can improve the well-being of horses and riders worldwide!

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Comment by Patti Schofler on October 17, 2009 at 11:50am
Hi Jochen. I just joined Barnmice. Nice to see you there and loved your post and love how my saddle fits after last week.
Comment by Susan Deakin on October 17, 2009 at 10:41am
Hello, I must have been very busy and missed your reply...thank you! I agree with you completely about the saddle situation...I've even been thinking lately of getting out of the business because you are so right about it! Unfortunately, horses are becoming more and more "a sport for kings"...or lottery winners!
Comment by Jochen Schleese on September 15, 2009 at 5:05pm
Reply to Susan:
I hear your pain and I have often been challenged by my business advisors because of my altruistic vein - I would love to be able to help as many horses as possible but I recognize that sometimes $ are an issue. (and being a businessperson I do have ensure that I bring in enough to be able to pay our 30 employeese!)

However - please recognize that if you do buy a "disposable" (ie. non-adjustable) saddle it will likely end up costing you more in the end. More because you have to keep buying new saddles as your horse changes, and more because you will be dealing with the possible fallout to your horse's health caused by a poorly fitting saddle. (vets, chiropractors, etc. etc.) So these are things that do need to be considered. One of our saddles may cost you $3500 + to start with, but isn't your horse worth $2.00/day? (based on keeping it at least 5 years!)
Comment by Jochen Schleese on September 15, 2009 at 5:01pm
Hi Gail of course we remember you! How nice to hear from you - it would be a pleasure to be of service to you again!
Comment by Gail Morse on September 15, 2009 at 12:38pm
Hi Jochen: I wonder if you remember me from Eglinton Equestrian from a long time ago, Gail Morse, with a son Bryce Phillips. You had your shop there. I have a Rocky Mountain Pleasure Horse now and as he got wider from working long and low I was advised to buy a custom saddle for him. I did that and it was the best buy I ever made. It came from your place. He has changed sizes over the years and with different disciplines but I know that when your saddler comes out to adjust it I do not need another saddle or do not have to be without it as it can be worked on right then and there. Just saw your blog and wanted to let you know I am still riding at 2 weeks away from 65 and Bryce is out west, with almost 5 kids, is an electrician and leaves the riding to his mother. Let me know if you remember us and I think I am about due for another saddle fitting. Moving from a trail place to Ridgeview Stables. I think they are one of your best customers in the Port Perry area. Cheers! Gail Morse.
Comment by Susan Deakin on September 14, 2009 at 12:39pm
Your insight on saddle fit should really help a lot of people. I had the opportunity to hear you speak at the Equine Affaire a few years ago and I was very impressed with your saddles. Unfortunately, the price holds me back from buying one!

I hate to sound cheap, but there are many horse owners out there (like me) who absolutely love their horses but don't have the funds to spend thousands of dollars on saddles. I myself employ an equine chiropractor when I suspect back problems in any of my horses. She is adamant about saddle fit and has helped me to fit pre-owned saddles to each horse (I have 10 horses). Even low budgeted horses deserve good fitting saddles....what can people on a budget do to help their precious horses?
Comment by Stefanie Reinhold on September 14, 2009 at 12:17pm
Very much looking forward to reading more on your blog. As an equine massage and ctfd. Masterson Method(TM) practitioner, I often encounter horses that have, imo, saddle fit related problems. In cases where I suggest the owner should follow up with a qualified saddle fitter and make some changes, the improvements can be dramatic. An ill fitting saddle is - according to my experience - the number one reason for back soreness and even a slew of behavior and performance issues in horses. I've touched on this topic in an article on my website. Can't wait to learn more!
Comment by Gimme A Dream on September 14, 2009 at 11:38am
I am so pleased that you wrote this post. I recently bought a saddle, which I feared was a poor fit. It has become seldom used for that reason. Now I know what I must do to remedy the situation - return it. Thanks.
Comment by Sarah at on September 4, 2009 at 12:04am
Great Post Jochen = Thank you. May your passion live forever! I'm looking forward to reading your NEXT post! :)
Comment by Jochen Schleese on August 31, 2009 at 4:19pm
Thank you - if you have any questions you would like me to address, please send them to me c/o my wife Sabine at She'll see that I get them, since I am more often than not travelling!

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