Former member of the German young rider’s 3-Day Event team, Jochen Schleese qualified for the European Championships in 1984. Unfortunately, he had to retire his horse due to lameness, which abruptly ended his riding career. Years later, through research Jochen discovered his horse’s lameness was caused by damage to the scapular cartilage from an ill-fitting saddle. This was the catalyst for Jochen’s life-long mission to prevent saddle related damage for all horses.
“Pirat was my partner in many successful three-day event competitions in Europe. By 1984, it was already too late, as signs of Pirat’s increasing lameness put an all too early end to his career – his eyes began to lose their shine. Though I was surrounded by German Team professionals, no one could pinpoint the source of the lameness. I searched for answers conferring with professionals to confirm the diagnosis — irreparable cartilage damage of his scapula.
Although at the time I was an apprentice saddler, I had no clue that it was the saddle that had caused him all this pain and lameness. Years later I later understood how the construction of his saddle caused the lameness. With every step, Pirat’s shoulders were hit by forward facing tree points, the too narrow gullet impacted the spinal processes, ligaments, and nerves along his back, with the gullet plate likely pinching and impeding his wither muscle as he tried to jump and move. I had followed the advice of experts, but the result was a ‘textbook case’ of torture for my poor horse. My horse had suffered from an ill-fitting saddle. I will never forget nor forgive myself for this. Because of him, I want to help as many horses as possible avoid the same fate.
I founded Saddlefit 4 Life and wrote “Suffering in Silence” – in dedication to my horse Pirat”.
Certified Master Saddler
Jochen graduated from Passier in 1985 as the youngest Certified Master Saddler in Germany at the time. He came to Canada as the Official Saddler for the 1986 World Dressage Championships. Jochen registered the trade of saddlery in North America in 1990, and operated the only authorized training facility for this trade in Ontario. He discovered that many female riders struggle with pain and health issues from riding in saddles designed for male riders (due to pelvic and anatomical differences).
Jochen established Saddlefit 4 Life® (2006) as an independent organization to teach saddle fit evaluation and analyses, and certify professionals in equine and saddle ergonomics. Jochen lectures at the German Professional Trainers Association in Warendorf Germany, at veterinary conferences in Brazil and is a frequent clinician at trade shows and equine forums worldwide. Saddlefit 4 Life® courses are accredited by the United States Dressage Federation, the Certified Horsemanship Association and Ontario Equestrian Federation. Jochen is on the advisory board of the Equine Sciences Academy and an education partner with the American Riding Instructor Association and Ontario Equestrian Federation.
Jochen is author of “The Silent Killer” – the Painful Truth of Saddle Fitting and Why it Doesn’t Work” (Wu Wei Germany 2012) and “Suffering in Silence – the Saddle Fit Link to Physical and Psychological Trauma in Horses” (Trafalgar 2013). Selected as the Official Saddler to the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas (2005, 2007, and 2009), Jochen has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal and Discovery Channel (“How it’s Made”) and has written articles for over 28 equine publications.
Graduating from Passier as the youngest ever Certified Master Saddler, Jochen came to Canada in 1986 as Official Saddler at the World Dressage Championships.
Jochen registered the trade of Saddlery in Ontario; the training facility is also the home of Schleese Saddlery Service. Having personally evaluated and fitted over 5000 saddles, Jochen teaches about the unique saddle requirements of the developing horse, and the importance of ensuring freedom of movement for both horse and rider. To address this ongoing saddle fitting requirement the AdapTree® was patented in 1996, designed to be adjusted to the horse’s changing conformation.
Jochen’s research (including rider ‘butt’ casts) revealed unique anatomical differences between male and female riders – leg length ratio, seat bones, curvature of spine, pubic symphysis etc.). Common issues among female riders – pelvic, back and hip discomfort and pain, result from riding in saddles designed for men and by men. Schleese Saddlery has evolved to become the world leader in saddle design for women by improving the comfort, position and back health for female riders.