I founded Saddlefit 4 Life® a little over ten years ago with the tagline “a global network of equine professionals working together to protect horse and rider from long-term back damage resulting from poorly fitting saddles.” It’s a mouthful, but basically encompasses the philosophy behind what it is I have dedicated my life to – first as a saddler, then as a saddle fit technician, and now more and more as an educator. The point is that working together with other equine professionals in the ‘circle of influence’ around the horse is key to ensuring that the saddle can work optimally as the interface between two live beings and promoting optimum performance for both.
I enjoy very much working at the various equestrian trade shows that are held across North America over the course of the year – including Mane Events, Equine Affaires, Western/Midwest/Northwest Horse Expos, and soon again Equitana. Being a featured clinician at these types of events is always gratifying, especially since it gives me the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals with a view to a high-level wisdom exchange.
I am very thrilled to have been invited to lecture at the University of Frankfurt to the Faculty of Animal osteopathic medicine this May as part of a symposium entitled “Applied Chiropractic Meets Functional Anatomy – Focus: The thoraco-lumbar area: The Influence of Rider and Saddle on the Biomechanics of the Horse“. Along with Dr. Christian Peham, Professor of Biomechanics, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna I am the only other featured guest speaker. (More information is available here, but attendance is limited to veterinarians and doctors of chiropractic medicine (which is much more mainstream in Europe as far as medical credibility goes).
I am also excited to announce that I have recently decided to pursue getting my own doctorate in the field of equine biomechanics, as it relates to specifically saddle fitting (of course) with a view of the saddle as the interface between horse and rider and how the biomechanics of both are affected. I haven’t decided through which educational facility this will happen, but this is definitely on my radar to put into action by the end of this year! (So stay tuned…)
I had the opportunity to meet Jim Masterson of the Masterson Method at the Western States Horse Expo this winter, and we are meeting again in June after the second WSHE to further discuss how his methodology can tie in with my Saddlefit 4 Life® teachings. According to Jim’s website “The Masterson Method – Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork- is a unique interactive method of equine massage and bodywork in which you learn to recognize and use the responses of the horse to your touch to find and release accumulated tension in key junctions of the body that most affect performance. In contrast to most traditional modalities, it enables the horse to actively participate in the process of releasing tension. It is something you do with the horse, rather than to the horse. This participation and interaction is what makes the method fascinating for those who use it. In fact, if you do not allow the horse to participate, it does not work!” I think this would be a huge complementary fit to what we teach – and would be another great tool in our Saddle Ergonomist’s tool belt when dealing with equine issues that are caused by poor saddle fit. My Director of Education Murielle Richard-Price is a graduate and huge proponent of the Masterson Method – and this winter I had two more of his students participating in our one-week intensive equine ergonomics course.
The Emmett Technique is another great complementary method to S4L. It is a muscle release therapy, which is amazingly gentle, safe and simple to apply. It is used to address pain and discomfort, improve body movement, restore a positive emotional state and improve the quality of life. This internationally recognised technique, developed by Ross Emmett and taught in over 26 countries worldwide, is equally effective on both people and animals. I have met Gary Wells from Australia, who is one of the top trainers for ET, and does courses all over North America in this. I understand that Ross Emmett is in talks with the Society of Master Saddlers as well; it is great that this industry is slowly open to a common language, which is the ultimate goal for me and Saddlefit 4 Life®!
I am also going to be working with renowned biomechanics expert Jillian Kreinbring later in May to film an educational video with her in Austin, Texas. Recently, I was interviewed by a student doing her master’s degree in Switzerland, working on revising the basic requirements of ‘horsemanship’ for FEI officials – it is so exciting to be in on the ground floor of all of these innovative and ground-breaking paradigm shifts in this industry!
~ Jochen Schleese CMS, CSFT, CSE, courtesy of Saddlefit 4 Life