The way of it is, as most of you have noticed I’m sure, come September, the days are getting shorter.
But that’s just a matter of sunlit hours. The hard-working riders, trainers, and horse professionals we rely on at TSB to write our books and create our DVDs don’t experience shorter days in any way other than maybe slightly larger electricity bills (as the lights in the barn and indoor stay on longer!) They are still up early (in the dark, now) and in bed late (yes, dark again) and on the move every minute in between.
TSB author and Master Saddler and Saddle Ergonomist Jochen Schleese spends much of his year on the road helping clients with their and their horse’s saddle-fitting needs, giving lectures, and presenting about horse and rider anatomy, health, and the saddle-fit factor at clinics and expositions worldwide. In his book SUFFERING IN SILENCE: THE SADDLE-FIT LINK TO PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAUMA IN HORSES, Jochen delves into the issues horses—and their riders—have long dealt with due to poor saddle fit, including damaged muscles and nerves along the horse’s vertebrae; pain and impotence in male riders; and backaches, slipped discs, and bladder infections in women. Jochen has devoted his life to alleviating these problems so that horses and riders can perform their best—and enjoy it—over the long-term.
In this installment of TSB’s Horseworld by the Hour Series, we follow along (and try desperately to keep up) with Jochen as he strives to educate and ensure comfort for horses and riders.
A TYPICAL DAY ON THE ROAD WITH JOCHEN SCHLEESE: VISITING CLIENTS AND TEACHING LECTURES
5:00 a.m. At this point of the day I am usually still fast asleep (thank goodness!) especially when I have been shifted out of my usual EST time zone.
5:30 a.m. Okay, now I’m usually getting up because I like to exercise before heading out to visit clients and starting my day. I get dressed and go for a run, chanting my “gratefulness” mantra that I learned from working with Anthony Robbins. “I am grateful for the health of my children and my wife, I am grateful for the love of my wife and my children, I am grateful to have a job that fulfills my passion.” This I repeat for the next 20 minutes while I move—being able to keep saying it keeps me at a speed that allows me to still talk.
6:00 a.m. Quick shower and morning routine to get dressed and meet whichever associate I am working with for breakfast. I truly believe breakfast IS the most important meal of the day, especially since our days are usually filled with so many clients and appointments and squeeze-ins that there will be little time after to eat, pee, or even rest.
6:30 a.m. Breakfast—usually at whatever hotel we’re staying at, or occasionally we’ll splurge and go have a ‘real’ breakfast somewhere in a restaurant.
7:00 a.m. Last-minute check to make sure the car is packed with everything we need, and we’re on the road driving to the first appointment, which sometimes can be right next door, but more often entails a bit of a drive.
7:30 a.m. We have reached the first barn; time to set up and pull out the saddle “tree machine” and measuring tools, the sizing saddles for clients to try, and any wool we’ll need for reflocking, as well as our paperwork and pile of evaluation forms. The clients are already at the barn, and the horses are anxiously “chomping at the bit” (pun intended!)
8:00 a.m. First client has already warmed up her horse and is ready to be seen. I generally don’t like people to ride their horses “warm” because sometimes this warmup can hide saddle- fit issues: The back of the horse gets numb to any pain during this warmup. This one, though, is an old client who has been riding in our saddles for years, and she just wants me to check her saddle to make sure everything is working as it should. Needs a wee bit of reflocking, but other than that it’s fine.
8:30 a.m. The next client is a brand new boarder at the barn and comes to me with a horse that shows all sorts of symptomatic issues that immediately indicate to me the saddle she is using definitely does not fit. I watch as she rides, her horse stumbling, giving a couple of bucking kicks out the back, and seemingly lame on the right hind. I take the next 1½ hours to work with her and explain all of the problems that I see her saddle is causing, and we adjust one of our sizing saddles for her to try out. Immediately, her horse seems to become a whole different horse—everyone watching can see it!
9:30 a.m. By this point the client has tried out a couple of other saddles fitted to her horse and has now to make a decision: She realizes her current saddle absolutely won’t work for her horse—it’s too long for his back, it pinches him at the withers, and the gullet channel is barely an inch wide. She decides to buy one of the saddles she has tried out on him. It’s comfortable for her and fits her well, and with a few little tweaks to make it fit even better, both horse and rider are now happy and able to ride together in harmony. She gives me a hug, which to me is the biggest thank you of all.
10:00 a.m. Several boarders have come to watch “what’s going on” in our corner, especially since I have started to use our brand new “Horse Shape” Laser to determine the horse’s three-dimensional back shape. Two of them ask if we have time to see their horses. I ask my assistant to see if there’s room in the schedule—fortunately, this time we can squeeze them in just before we have to leave for the next barn, but it means we forego lunch (again). Oh well.
10:30 a.m. Between now and 1:30 we see another five people with appointments (and the two that were squeezed in) and things work like well-polished clockwork. While one of us watches the client ride, the other is taking measurements and making adjustments for another, and the next client in line is busy tacking up her horse. It becomes a very efficient “assembly line” so that at any given time we can actually work with two to three clients at once. This is especially important to be able to do for appointments, which can easily run into each other, but also to accommodate the “squeeze-ins,” which invariably happen when other riders become interested in seeing what’s going on!
1:30 p.m. We have finished our first stop for the day and managed to see a total of eight clients at this barn. We normally schedule 45 to 60 minutes for each client, but because some of them were simply “re-checks” and only two were new clients who were buying saddles, the timing worked out fairly well. So we pack up, munch on an apple and a granola bar, and head out for an hour’s drive to the next barn on the list. Thankfully, this barn will be the location for an evening lecture, and our hotel is just five minutes further down the road, so it will be our last stop for the day.
2:30 p.m. We have reached Barn Number Two where we again set up and see clients from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. This barn has four scheduled appointments; hopefully any interested parties will be able to stay for the evening lecture to learn more, as we absolutely cannot squeeze any more people in this afternoon. The afternoon’s appointments manage to go off without a hitch and we have four more happy riders.
6:00 p.m. We clean up and move our stuff to the viewing room, which is where our barn hostess is offering an evening educational lecture for her boarders and their friends. It’s going to be a good evening—26 people have signed up to attend, of which 17 are possible new clients and for whom we have actually left the morning of the next day open for any appointments they would like to schedule to have a personal evaluation for themselves and their horses. Our hostess feeds us sandwiches and water, and we feel a little better.
6:30 p.m. I set up my projector and organize my thoughts in preparation for the evening’s lecture, which is scheduled from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. My associate puts out my book and DVD, brochures and other materials. People start to come in; some of them already have my book and ask for my autograph. This is always a really cool feeling I have to admit! (It’s hard to get used to being “somewhat of an equestrian celebrity,” but it’s fun to hear them behind my back saying, “That’s Jochen Schleese. He wrote that book about saddle fitting, you know!”)
7:00 p.m. The seminar begins and the next two hours pass in a whirl. I love to teach, I love to bring across my points with humor, and I know that people appreciate what I have to offer.
9:00 p.m. I wind up the lecture (reluctantly I might add, because I could go on and on!) My associate compliments me on keeping focused (sometimes I do tend to get sidetracked and go off on tangents…) and the attendees come up to ask questions and wanting to hear more.
9:30 p.m. We are starting to clear up; six more people have signed up for appointments the next morning, which is great, and I am happy to be able to say, “See you tomorrow!” We leave the barn and head out to the nearest restaurant for a late, quick, light supper. Tomorrow will come early.
10:30 p.m. We finally reach the hotel and say goodnight. I know my assistant will head to her room and work on compiling the information from the day’s evaluation forms and lead cards into the computer while my associate puts together her saddle orders and information. I will spend the next hour catching up on emails and writing the sales report for the day, as well as forwarding any specific issues and observations to head office for follow up.
11:30 p.m. Okay, finally—lights out. This is a relatively early night for us on the road (I kid you not!); some days we literally work 14- to 16-hour days. It’s tough when there is longer distances to drive between appointments, but honestly—it’s always fun to meet new people and know that we’re making a difference in the lives and health of horse and rider.
Check out the other installments of TSB’s Horseworld by the Hour: