Fit is Everything - Infinitely Adjustable for Optimal Comfort & Performance!

“I followed the advice of experts, but the result was a ‘textbook case’ of torture for my poor horse!”

Argentina was the first place I saw gauchos in my youth. I was born in Germany, but spent my first 7 years in South America. Here I found my love for horses. I watched the gauchos galloping alongside our car, chasing a rhea while swinging a bolo. The magic was feeling that horse and rider were one. From then on I wanted to capture this same magic. Back in Germany my wish came true – I got my first horse.

I fell into the money, medals, and fame trap – it became about the horse as machine. I lost touch with everything I was drawn to in the first place. My calling gave me opportunity to reconnect and recapture the original magic. I can now share this worldwide with people who search for the same miracle where man and horse as one.

After the 1982 German nationals my Hanoverian gelding began showing lameness – not attributed to the saddle, since the experts – vets, trainers, farriers – kept us fit for the team. I think of what we did to ward off the lameness: blocking, blistering, re-shoeing and pharmaceuticals – makes me cry. I know now it was my saddle not made for the horse’s requirements – with every step his shoulders were hit by forward facing tree points; the narrow gullet impacted his spinal processes, back ligaments and nerves, and the gullet plate pinched his wither muscle as he move. I followed the advice of experts, but the result was a ‘textbook case’ of torture for my horse.

In 1984 after qualifying for the Europeans I retired ‘Pirat’ for lameness, effectively ending my riding career. I wish I had known then what I have learned in the past 30+ years. I am very determined to alleviate this consequence for other horses.

Studying the effects of poor saddle fit, the horse in motion, and equine development led to founding Saddlefit 4 Life® in 2005 – a global network of equine professionals dedicated to protecting horse and rider from long term damage. Saddlefit 4 Life®  principles and system are taught so that saddle fit issues can be recognized.

No horse should suffer for the ignorance of his rider, nor should a sound horse have to be farmed out or put down from damage so severe that nothing more can be done. We need to help the horse by improving back health and comfort.

The biggest reward is when a horse begins to move freely and well in a properly fitted saddle. Often riders throw their arms around me crying with joy, because the difference is that visible. They realize how much harm they had unknowingly done riding in an ill-fitting saddle. This is my calling – teaching professionals around the world so together we can improve the well-being of horses and riders worldwide.



“This is my calling – teaching professionals around the world so together we can improve the well-being of horses and riders worldwide.”

Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CSE

Saddlefit 4 Life® seminars and certification courses are offered at locations throughout North America (also qualifying as USDF credits) and at select equine schools around the world (the German National Riding School and the German School of Osteopathic Medicine in Germany).

Saddlefit 4 Life® professionals include Dr. Gerd Heuschmann DVM (author of ‘Tug of War’ and ‘If Horses Could Speak’), Hannes Mueller (Head Instructor at the German National Riding School), Dr. Joanna Robson DVM (Recognizing the Horse in Pain and What you Can Do About It), Barbara Welter-Boeller – Director of the German Osteopathic School, and Dr. James Warson (MD specializing in riders’ health issues; author of ‘The Rider’s Pain Free Back’).

A former member of the German young rider’s Three-day Event team, Jochen Schleese graduated from Passier Saddlery in 1985 as the youngest-ever Certified Master Saddler in Germany at age 22. He came to Canada in 1986 as the Official Saddler for the World Dressage Championships. Realizing that Saddlery was not an established trade in North America, Schleese registered the trade, and operates the only authorized training facility for Saddlery in Ontario. Recognizing that many female riders are plagued with pain and health issues simply from riding in a male saddle (due to anatomical differences between women and men) Schleese (the manufacturing company) developed and specializes in saddle design for women. With the highest level of training, Saddlefit 4 Life® Certified Saddle Ergonomists and Independent Saddle Fitters provide on-site diagnostic saddle fit analysis, solving horse and rider issues for clients worldwide.
Jochen is a guest speaker at horse shows, trade shows and veterinary colleges. Schleese is the recipient of numerous business and trade achievement awards, and has been profiled in prestigious media including the Wall Street Journal and the Discovery Channel (“How It’s Made”). In 2005, 2007 and 2009 Schleese was the Official Saddler to the World Cup Finals in Las Vegas, and is part of the educational roster at 2010 WEG.

Jochen Schleese now focuses his efforts teaching Saddlefit 4 Life® principles to educate and certify equine professionals around the world. Jochen is presently working on his first book entitled “The Silent Killer – The Painful Truth of Saddle Fitting and “Why it Doesn’t Work”.

Find an event near you


Although I had never owned a Schleese, I have always recommended them to my clients based on the quality, commitment to horse and rider fit and the professionalism and knowledge of their fitters.  As soon as I saw the Schleese Western Saddle I knew I had to own one and once I tried it, I was in love.  The availability of movement for the horse without interference is incredible and having the peace of mind that the saddle fits my horse perfectly and will continue to do so because of its adjustability, gives me the ability to focus on my riding and communication.  I can’t say enough about the features and benefits of this saddle not to mention the incredible ongoing support provided by our saddle fitter, Heather Doig, the fact that an equine body worker stands behind this brand speaks volumes to it’s quality!  

— Andrea Pease - Melancthon, ON

Recent Posts

Recent Comments