Easy Does It - My Story by Terry Peiper, CSE
By Jochen Schleese|March 2nd, 2015
Terry is one of the first of our trained Saddle Ergonomists from 2011, working in Pennsylvania. She works mainly with western saddles, but has been trained in analysis and adjustment for English saddles as well. I have invited her to talk about her ‘epiphany’ for this week’s blog. In future blogs I will discuss some of the issues in more detail that she had experienced with Easy and how to avoid them. Terry can be reached at www.fitrightsaddlesolutions.com.
“I wish I would have known then what I know now. How many times have we heard or thought that? In this case, the real problem is, I am not the one that suffered because of my lack of knowledge. That guilt is what motivates me every day to spread the word about proper saddle fit and how it affects our horse’s behavior, performance and ultimately the health of the horse and rider.
Even with over 25 years of “Helping Horses with Their People” through training horses, lessons and clinics, being American Riding Instructor Association certified, International Society of Rider Biomechanics certified and Richard Shrake Resistance Free Accredited Trainer/Instructor, I did not know what I didn’t know.
Love at First Ride
It was January 25, 1998 in Lexington, Virginia at the Jennings Horse Sale. We had actually been looking for Easy’s stable mate as a barrel racing prospect when I first saw him. A few seconds later I was in the saddle trotting, loping, then stopped in the middle of the large warm up pen. I was in love in less than 5 minutes! There was no doubt about it, I was positive right from the start I wanted that horse.
Easy, also known as Terry’s favorite, is a dark chestnut by the NHRA Hall of Fame Reining Horse, Streetwisenterprise. His long stride and athletic ability made him an excellent barrel racing prospect. He ran barrels and poles successfully for several years and was also a favorite as a lesson horse. In 2000, he won his first NBHA championship saddle. In 2006, he won another NBHA championship saddle and also started doing dressage schooling shows, but he was diagnosed with ring bone and bog spavins. The usual recommended treatments of injections, Bute and Adequan did not really help, so Easy was retired and used as a beginner lesson horse from then on.
In November of 2009, I heard Jochen Schleese speak at the American Riding Instructors Convention in Naples, Florida and instantly became addicted to learning more about how the saddles were affecting my students and our horses. Over the next year, I witnessed numerous miraculous transformations. I saw horses that were lame become sound. I saw horses that were crazy out of control become rideable. I saw horses that are hollow backed, cranky and stiff become soft supple and round. I saw ‘girthy’, biting horses become calm and happy during saddling. The more I saw and learned the more I wanted to learn.
So in February 2011, when some friends suggested we go to the Saddlefit 4 Life training in Florida, I didn’t even hesitate. A few weeks later, I was sitting beside Jane Savoie in Jochen’s class in Florida, the topic was wither clearance and how triggering nerves on the sides of the withers causes a horse to involuntarily hollow the back, rotate the pelvis leaving haunches out behind and dragging the toes. I knew there had to be 3 fingers clearance on the top of the withers but I did not know that there also had to be clearance all the way around the withers and I was in very good company in this class.
Dragging the toes was like an alarm that kept going off in my head. Easy always had that problem and no one and nothing had ever been able to help it. I couldn’t stop thinking, what if Easy’s lameness was caused by his saddle? What if I could ride my horse again? When the haunches are out behind, it strains the hocks and stifles because they are not meant to work that way, the horse appears to be off or sore in the stifle or hock. This will eventually cause arthritis or bog spavins, inflammation and basically “hock issues.” There was another alarm going off. Then he said when the muscle tightens it causes the crowding dorsal spinous processes and/or transverse processes also known as, kissing spine and how closely related it is to hock lameness.
I couldn’t wait to get home, even though the temperature was 60 degrees colder, my focus was on getting Easy’s back x-rayed. I took him to a vet that did not know us or anything about my saddle fit training. The diagnosis was significant kissing spines. His back x-rays looked horrible. The prescribed treatment was to ride him lightly with a saddle that is not too long, ride long and low and canter to warm up. A month later, I had Jochen fit a saddle for him and a few months after that he went to a dressage schooling show. I had my favorite horse back!
Learning about saddle fit started out as just another way for me to help my students but because of Easy I joined the Saddlefit 4 Life network of professionals and founded Fit Right Saddle Solutions. I can’t go back and undo what has happened to Easy but I can do my very best to prevent other horses from needless suffering from poor fitting saddles.”
June 2011, 5 years since he had been sound enough to show.
Thank you Jochen Schleese, Larry Peiper, Dr. Michael Odian, Micki Lentvorsky, Colleen McCallus, Dorothy Laincz and Chasity Hartzell.