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Thoughts on the Certified Horsemanship Association Conference, Amarillo TX

ByJochen Schleese|October 26th, 2015

I just recently came off of a ‘killer trip’ again with my most long term agent, Christiane Noelting of the Christiane Noelting Dressage Center in Vacaville CA, where I saw 150 of our valued California clients in less than two weeks.  It was – as always – wonderfully gratifying to see how well everyone is doing, but I have to admit that it is getting harder and harder to work these long days with so much driving and so little sleep. So to have to go directly from there to Amarillo TX to the CHA conference this past weekend where I was speaking again was quite difficult – but the response from the attendees was extremely uplifting and made it all worthwhile. And now I actually get to spend a week in Florida – on vacation! – with two of our best friends. So this blog may be a bit shorter than usual because the beach calls….

What I love about the CHA is their inclusiveness. It doesn’t matter what breed, what discipline, what level – everyone is welcome and very welcoming. The choice of conference site is linked to the home bases of the board members, so this year it was Amarillo, and next year it will be Nashville TN. The presentations all have to do with the welfare of the horse, which is entirely in alignment with my own passion. The level of clinicians such as Julie Goodnight (who is also a CHA board member) makes this a truly worthwhile investment for the attendees – who come from every corner of North America including Canada!  Everyone comes away with a new insight at some level. The Executive Director Christy Landwehr is a powerhouse of organizational talents and I give her great credit for pulling these annual events together with her excellent team. But what I particularly like is the fact that their certification process requires RE-certification and ongoing educational development. This is very much in line with how trainers are qualified and certified in Europe; it is also the model upon which we have create the Saddlefit4Life training curriculum and (re)-certification process. We were lucky enough to speak with a couple of the attendees who are considering joining S4L in the future and training to become Equine Ergonomists.

When I was doing my master’s certification in saddlery under Max Hoepfner in Germany he once said to me “when you stop learning you die. You think you have achieved the height of your ability now as a Master Saddler? Think again – your journey is only beginning!”  (How right he was – my biggest enjoyment comes from meetings with other equine professionals in a true wisdom exchange and discussion of new ideas).All of these have somehow contributed to where I am today; I am sure that all of you as riders have worked with mentors in every area to shape you into the person you have become.

Cathy and Tuff - Checking out afternoon program

Cathy Rothery and ‘Tuff’ – Checking out the afternoon’s program.

We worked together with some great demo horses – attached you will see my model “Tuff” who has just been painted on in preparation for my presentation checking out the program over our marketing director Cathy Rothery’s shoulder (it was really a cute moment). The conference took place at West Texas A&M University which was a wonderful facility with really good horses who were patient and tolerant of the many riders who partnered them for the various demos.

Cathy with Pioneer at Palo Duro CanyonWe were also hosted one evening at the AQHA headquarters which housed an amazing museum on the history of quarter horses over the years. For me of particular interest was of course the saddles used over the year since so much of the design in our saddles is based on the functionality of both the military and the western saddles. The AQHA has been a supportive partner of the CHA for many years.



Amarillo itself was interesting – the landscape reminds of Saskatchewan in being entirely flat and straight as far as the eye can see. However – not 20 miles north of Amarillo (which is in itself almost at the northern part of the Texas panhandle) is the Palo Duro Canyon, which is the second largest Canyon after the Grand Canyon. Truly spectacular – and we spent a couple of hours driving through and down it. At one point we saw a pioneer camp set up where volunteers dressed up in old time clothing and explained the history of the area. Again of major interest to me was the McClellan saddle display, with saddles from 1874. (I am the proud owner of a 1924 McClellan saddle, which was around the last year they were actually produced).

McClellan Saddles from 1874

McClellan Saddles from 1874



Saddlefit 4 Life® has just become a lifetime member of the CHA and we look forward to many years of working together on continuing education for their membership.








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A couple of years ago, a friend offered to let me ride her mare. She rides in a Schleese saddle. From the moment I sat in her beautiful saddle, I knew that I had to have one for myself. A Schleese saddle then became my dream saddle. I finally found THE ONE after a year and a half. I dabble in dressage as a hobby but do not currently compete. I also participate in mounted archery with my horse Reagan. Yes, you read that right, I shoot bows and arrows off of the back of a horse. A lot like the Native Americans used to do on the American Plains - except that I ride in a Schleese Wave. I love my saddle so much as does my horse. From the first ride wearing it, he moved out so freely. It was almost like riding a completely different horse. His trot became less choppy and restrictive. He is also more willing to pick up the canter for me without tossing his head. I feel that he is able to extend his shoulder without the saddle tree jamming into his shoulder blade. This is something I never realized was a common issue with other saddle trees on the market today. Because of our Schleese saddle, when we head down the lane to shoot, I can feel nearly every muscle of his back and am able to connect with my horse. We are able to move together as a unit. It takes an enormous amount of trust for me to drop the reins entirely and trust my horse to run steady while I shoot. In turn, he trusts me to use equipment that is comfortable to him in order to allow him to do his job effectively. I feel that it helps him to enjoy his work and build a positive relationship between not only he and I but also between himself and his “work.” I adore the quality craftsmanship of my Schleese. I know that it is well made and will last us for many years to come. I have five saddles in my tack room and my Wave is now the ONLY saddle that I use. I can ride for hours in my Schleese and don’t get sore. Thank you so much for making a top of the line product that is multi-faceted to fit my varied riding styles. Reagan appreciates your fabulous products too as we have the 8” anatomical girth and stirrup leathers also. I am now a hopeless Schleese addict!

— Jaderian Johnson-Stanfield, Tennessee, USA

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