Building saddles for females

A saddle maker keeps women in mind when designing his creations

RED DEER — Men and women do not generally wear each others’ trousers or shoes, so there may be a case for different saddles too.

“There is no guy wearing girl’s breeches and then try riding in them. Something doesn’t feel right,” said Jochen Schleese at the Mane Event, an equestrian weekend in Red Deer April 21-24.

Schleese Saddlery makes saddles for women. The saddles are made to fit and can be adjusted for the horse’s growth and development.

A lot of it comes down to ergonomics and with a properly fitted saddle it should be a pain-free ride for the person and the horse, he said.

“I don’t want anyone to hurt their horse,” he said. “If it doesn’t fit me, it never fits the horse,” he said.

Balance is key to riding and when the saddle does not fit, the harmony between horse and rider is affected.

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The act of riding was developed largely by the military thousands of years ago. Balance was essential in mounted warfare, in which the rider used his pelvis to control the horse’s movements.

Today, most riders are women who have different skeletal structures than men.

The male pelvis is balanced in the centre with a long tailbone and no birth canal, while women have more curvature in the lower spine and the buttock muscles are higher. Women also have a different femur position, so riding in the wrong saddle can lead to knee and hip discomfort. The wrong saddle can lead to soft tissue injuries, sciatica and collapsed disks in the lower spine.

When fitting a saddle, the upper and lower legs, hip circumference and thighs should be measured regardless of whether it is an English or western saddle, said Schleese.

Contact barbara.duckworth@producer.com

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