Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Saddle Fit Case Study: Endurance Horse

Schleese.com - Full Article

by Jochen Schleese CMS, CSFT, CSE

My interest in endurance riding has come through my association with some top US Endurance Riders – who I am happy to work with in keeping their horses sound over the long distances ridden in these races. I have seen this sport grow from its crazy first decades to the well regulated and exciting sport that it is today. Now, much more so than in the beginning of what has come to be known as “the modern sport of Endurance Riding”, the American Endurance Ride Council (AERC), the governing body of the sport here in the United States and Canada, has matured into an organization that definitely focuses on the well-being of the horses first, and I very much appreciate this as I have unfortunately been witness to how some riders in past years have treated their mounts. That type of abuse and disregard for our amazing equine athletes is a rare occurrence in the sport these days thanks in large part to the AERC.

I talked to a rider and the owner of her horse being ridden a few weeks ago in a 55 mile ride, who has a Schleese saddle, and who said that within a month after the last saddle fitting the horse completely lost its top line and was extremely sore-backed, both over both shoulders (white hair patches) and especially behind the 18th rib. Both claimed that the white hair patches arose because we apparently use synthetic wool to flock our saddles rather than real wool. They said that synthetic wool will eventually ball up and become hard, whereas real wool does not. It was these hard balls of synthetic wool that caused the white patches on the shoulders. A video of what was going on with the horse was included, of which I post a couple of stills (so please excuse the quality).

What endurance riders do on a weekly basis is the absolute extreme of riding. Maintaining the saddle fit of an endurance horse is so tricky because there are so many elements at work: fluid loss, caloric consumption, muscle stress, metabolic rate etc. It stands to reason that the physical changes the horse (and rider) undergo in a 55 mile ride are quite severe. We mustn’t forget that this level of exertion and athleticism is not necessarily a natural condition for the horse – and also that the horse was never meant to be ridden! It takes an extreme maintenance and training program for both horse and rider to be able to achieve these kinds of goals...

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