Let me start this post by saying that one of the reasons I use Schleese to fit my saddle is because of how knowledgeable all the fitters are. I could easily get my saddle done by other fitters, and Schleese can fit other brands of saddles so it is not like I am locked in. The reason I use Schleese is because they really know what they are talking about and take the time to explain why they are doing what they are doing. Many saddle fitters just tell you that they will “fix it”. The difference from getting a saddle fit by Schleese and those from other companies is that Schleese is trying to educate their customers, a fact that I really appreciate.
So now let me explain the picture to you. Jochen Schleese drew on Phoenix’s back with chalk to show me the problems (which of course didn’t turn out in the picture), so I tried to do it in different colors in photo shop to explain my saddle fit issues to you all. The two blue lines are where my saddle sits when I first put it on Phoenix. The yellow lines are where my saddle ended up at the end of the fitting. Now normally it doesn’t get that far up, but Phoenix’s above ground escapades did not help matters. So what does that mean? That means when I start my ride I am putting a lot of pressure on Phoenix’s back on an area where the saddle should not be going because it is past the ribs. That is not only causing pain, but according to Jochen Schleese, that is also known to cause bucking behavior in horses. It makes sense because Phoenix normally bucks as soon as I get on him because I am putting pressure on an area that hurts him. The bucking is him trying to tell me that I am causing him pain. Jochen Schleese also showed me pictures of the horses skeletal system and my saddle was on the vertebra with no support underneath! It was a clear visual of how bad my saddle issue really was seeing that no ribs were supporting it.
Now, added to that is the green pressure point under his wither. There is no pressure there when I start my ride, but as the ride goes on the the pressure goes off his back it starts to go on the pressure point below his withers causing him pain again. Poor Phoenix. There is no point in the ride when he feels able to move pain free. Jochen Schleese pointed out that my horse was trying to tell me that he was hurting. The reason it was so much worse at the fitting was because he was scared, and because I was riding him without and saddle pads so he was getting the full brunt of the pain that day. I am not saying that it was okay for Phoenix to explode and be naughty, but I am saying that my anger melted away and I was feeling very badly for my baby horse because he has been trying to tell me he was in pain for months now.
Jochen Schleese told me that my saddle was fixable! Yay! I asked him what he needed to do and he answered “redo the whole bottom of the saddle” which flashed dollar signs above my eyes. Sure enough, when I asked the price I had a mini heart attack. That being said, my other two options were to do nothing (which is not an option when you know for a fact your saddle hurts your horse) or to buy a new saddle. Not only is a new saddle a good $5,000, but my saddle fits ME perfectly, and I wasn’t willing to give that up for Phoenix. So I didn’t really have any options but to get it done. I agreed to have my saddle fixed and was already planning on what I would need to cut out of my everyday budget in order to pay for it when Jochen Schleese started to poke around my bridle.
He was just going to show my a different way to put my throat latch on when he started to feel how not well my crappy bridle was fitting Phoenix. Poor Phoenix is still wearing my $30 bridle that does not fit him over a year later. As you all know, I tried a friends bridle which didn’t work, was going to buy one at Devon, but didn’t see any that I liked, and I also came home empty handed from the Equine Affaire. When Jochen Schleese brought out a Schleese bridle just to show me how a bridle should fit comfortably…well…I blame temporary insanity because I fell in love with the bridle on the spot. It is a masterpiece of tack with such soft, high quality leather and a comfort fit that included ear cut outs and lots of padding. With a discount because I was getting a repair done the bridle was even less than I had planned to spend on a bridle. Who could say no to that? I couldn’t!! I figured that I was already spending a butt load of money, what was a little more? Plus Jochen Schleese himself fitted it to Phoenix. You can’t get that kind of service anywhere!
As I put Phoenix away I was just really grateful to have the opportunity to have a master saddle fitter look at Phoenix and I. Yes, my baby horse was a total butt head (he was still having a hard time as I put him away. He even spooked at his stall door again) but I learned a lot about myself, Phoenix, and of course saddle fit! Sometimes I forget that Phoenix is still 5. Sometimes I forget that I can still loose my nerve. The saddle fitting challenged my horse and I in ways that I never expected. As I tucked Phoenix in for the night and walked to my car admiring my new bridle I looked up at the stars and it just hit me that I am so lucky to be able to do all this. If anyone ever gets the opportunity to get a Schleese saddle fitting I say go for it! Even on bad days it is still an amazing experience.
The End (finally :P)