I was going to write this week in response to a Q&A I read in a magazine recently “Can a Wide Backed Horse Hurt my Hips?” but I will leave that topic for a future blog, since I had to share with you the story my newest Client Success Manager Sarah Ellis (see pic!) from Texas enthusiastically told me about when she got back from her first clinic.
I myself have just returned from a two week trip to Europe where I spent a week training the professional trainers at the Berufsreiterverband (where they include our saddle fitting curriculum into their certification process!) and then an introductory two day course in the UK at Russell Guire’s Equine Biomechanics facility. We, unfortunately, had two days of blustery rainy (typically English!) November weather in a leaky shelter and lots of mud, but it was still a good course. To break into the extremely traditional English saddlery market where ‘this is the way we always done things and we are not open to change’ seems to be the rule of the day was a huge big step forward in increasing awareness of the issues. We look forward to many more visits ‘across the pond.’
So here now Sarah’s story:
“Normally when a person starts a new job there is a period of time where enjoyment and reward is delayed in lieu of getting to know new surroundings and familiarizing oneself with the work. When I recently boarded the plane from Texas to Canada on a new journey this is exactly what I expected. Two weeks later I am returning from my first clinic on the road. From the moment I walked into the first barn and helped to provide a saddle-fit solution to our first client of the trip, I knew the reward of this job would be that it wouldn’t feel like a job at all.
We met a horse named Porto Bello who winced at light finger pressure on is withers. However, he was so stoic that under saddle he would do his best to perform the tasks his owner requested and therefore, a lot of riding had passed before his owner realized the pain he was enduring and how much his saddle was limiting him. After our evaluation of her current saddle, we placed an adjusted Schleese saddle on Porto Bello and girthed him. His owner had her first moment of astonishment when he kept his head low and stayed relaxed. “He has never let me girth him without raising his head in protest! That’s amazing!” Under saddle this gelding now had such forward, collected movement. His shoulders were free and he was able to half-pass without pinning his ears. After crossing the arena in a long trot, which seemed like his stride had doubled, the rider stopped him and walked back to us on the side of the arena; a smile on all of our faces. She said “I not only have a new saddle, but a new horse.”
For the next seven days this happened over and over again. I met horses and their owners from all disciplines and levels of riding. One thing in common from the Grand Prix riders to the trail riders I met, they want the best for their horses. We finished the trip with a horse named Zorro. Zorro was a knock-out…a handsome, coal-black, Canadian-bred gelding with the shortest back I’d ever seen. His owner had started riding when she was 60 years old for pleasure and really enjoyed trail riding Zorro at the facility where he lives with about 15 other trail horses. Zorro and this woman had bonded so well over years of trail riding that he is now her horse and she recently realized that the borrowed western saddle she was using was not only too long for Zorro, but uncomfortable for her. We adjusted one of our demo saddles on-site so she could test it out and within minutes decided to custom order a new Obrigado for Zorro, her lovely little trail horse. He will now surely be the most well-fitted trail horse I know!
The most important thing I have learned thus far is that correct saddle fit is imperative to a happy horse and one should never ignore the biomechanics of the horse’s back for their own comfort. To see such an immediate and drastic relief of discomfort in a horse is undeniable. To watch their owner process this moment and realize the new milestones, goals and accomplishments they will now be able to achieve with their four-legged companion is beyond beautiful. The one who loves the horse does not have a choice; it is born in their DNA. Having a direct effect on the heart and mind of a horse owner, rider or enthusiast is more of a job reward than I could ask for. I can’t wait for the next clinic… and the next… and the next!”
Thank you for sharing this Sarah – I love your passion!
I would like to end this blog with a plug for a lovely Canadian artist and her new book – Jean Abernethy and “The Essential Fergus”. Her cartoons with this well-known and opinionated horse will tickle your funny bone and make a wonderful Christmas gift for every horse lover.
Available at Amazon and HorseandRiderbooks.com
~ Jochen Schleese CMS, CSFT, CSE, courtesy of Saddlefit 4 Life