On this first day of May and Easy's 21st birthday, I would like to share with you our story.
Easy Does It
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.
It Was 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.
Special thanks to
Dr. Michael Odian,
Micki Lentvorsky and
for all your help and support.
As always, thank you for reading and sharing the eNewsletters, all the referrals and all you do to help me help the horses. I sincerely appreciate each and every one.
Fit Right Saddle Solutions
Buck N Horse Hollow
6 Buck Dr.
Carlisle PA 17015
Terry Peiper has been "Helping Horses With Their People" in south central PA for over 30 years by training horses and riders. In addition to being an accredited Richard Shrake Resistance Free ® Trainer/Instructor, she is certified by the American Riding Instructors Association (ARIA) and the International Society of Rider Biomechanics. She has more than 45 years horse showing experience in several different disciplines, as well as several years of fox hunting and open show judging experience. You could say she has been there and done that.
Studying saddle ergonomics started out as just another way for Terry to help her students however, it quickly took over her life when she discovered that her own horse, Easy had a condition called kissing spine which was likely caused by many years of riding in poor fitting saddles. “I can’t go back and undo what I have done but I can spread the word about proper saddle fit to prevent other horses from needless suffering” says Terry.
Recognizing the huge need for proper saddle fit, Terry joined the Saddlefit 4 Life professionals and started the FIT RIGHT SADDLE SOLUTIONS. She passionately pursues her mission to educate as many riders as possible of the importance of proper saddle fit, how it affects the horse’s performance, behavior and ultimately the health of horse and rider.
For riders searching for solutions, she proudly offers Thin Line shimmable saddle pads, Schleese dressage and hunt seat saddles and Specialized endurance, trail and western saddles. All the saddles can be adapted to fit the horse as it develops or fitted to another horse by changing the tree width, angle and horizontal panel contact. Terry recommends saddle fit evaluations every 6 months.
Saddle fit evaluations/consultations, lectures, adjustable saddle sales/service and riding lessons are available at Buck N Horse Hollow in Carlisle PA or within a 120 mile radius (south central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland areas)