September 2018 - Saddle Fit and Industry Education
Written by by Sabine Schleese, B.Sc., MBA ©2018 Saddlefit 4 Life® All Rights Reserved
Saturday, 01 September 2018 00:00

by Sabine Schleese, B.Sc., MBA ©2018 Saddlefit 4 Life® All Rights Reserved

The focus of this month’s California Riding is on education in the equestrian industry, and there are a large number of possible career paths available that will allow you to pursue doing something with these animals we all love. Some directly, some more indirectly. It’s gratifying to see that more and more universities and colleges are offering degree and diploma courses in many different aspects of equine education.


Education is a significant concept – especially in our industry, which is still largely unregulated in many areas for a sport that is so inherently dangerous that this situation boggles the mind. Through public awareness in the last years, the demand has been raised by the consumer (i.e. riders) that their trainers have a certain accreditation; they know their farriers have been trained and certified, and they expect a certain base level of knowledge from their saddle fitters. However, people can still pretty much call themselves whatever they want; add the word ‘master’ whatever to their titles, and for the most part, people are still reluctant to question the credentials. It seems like there is still a certain fear in requiring standardized professional development and testing – especially from the people who have been working in a certain part of the industry for years and don’t want to be discredited or exposed.

A recent article in the Journal of Veterinary Science concerning the ‘repeatability of 20 Society of Master Saddlers (SMS) Qualified Saddle Fitters observations of static saddle fit’ outlines the lack of cohesiveness in the methodology of assessing saddle fit. The SMS has committed to overhauling their entire saddle fitting curriculum within the next year or two – recognizing the fact that a) saddle making does not equal saddle fitting and b) their saddle fitting training is somewhat remedial in its ramifications. Further work is definitely necessary to standardize the criteria of what is saddle fit and how should saddles be fitted – and perhaps to develop a common language that is accepted throughout the industry.

Chris Moloughney – Certified Saddle Ergonomist

We tried for years to establish a recognized and registered program in the trade of saddlery itself, and were successful at least in the province of Ontario, where it was added to the roster of official apprenticeships in 1990. However, even though we suggested a certain leniency of ‘grandfathering’ long time practitioners into the trade, the resistance lobby was too strong. It seems that (especially in this industry) tradespeople are very protective of what they know, being questioned on their expertise, and sharing their wisdom with other equine professionals. I have actually
been told that “oh no – we can’t ask so-and-so about their credentials. That would be rude!” Really? How else are you going to be able to ascertain the authority of the people who you entrust the care of your horse to if you are not even allowed to ask the basic questions?

Through Saddlefit 4 Life® we have now established training and certification programs in two brand new career paths – that of Equine Ergonomist and Saddle Ergonomist. The former involves a 7 day training course (which is offered several times a year in Europe, North America, and South Africa) which allows the successful candidate to work with a saddle fitter in analysing, diagnosing and measuring saddle fit. The Equine Ergonomist is not trained to actually make the adjustments, which is where the Saddle Ergonomist training then comes in. We feel the level of education for the Saddle Ergonomist goes above the Saddle Fitter training, as we focus more on equine and human anatomy and biomechanics and how these relate to saddle fit issues in both static and dynamic phases. In recent years there seems to have been a proliferation of agencies and societies offering saddle fit courses and certifications, but none are as intense or require constant recertification such as the S4L courses do.

The Equine Studies Diploma and Degree courses being offered all around USA and Canada for interested students wanting to work in the equestrian industry are a huge step forward, but the
potential lucrative job market for graduates is still disturbingly small. Our own Saddlefit 4 Life® curriculum has been somewhat integrated into the Bachelor of Bio-Resources Management program at the University of Guelph, and may soon be offered as an ongoing elective, but the path ahead is still very challenging. It is only with constant communication and continuing efforts in education that change will come. We truly hope that Saddlefit 4 Life® will be a key resource in the attempt to find a common ground which at the end of the day, is for the good of the horse that we all love!

ASIDE: There are many different career options for those who are interested in working with horses.

Here are a number of additional possibilities for those seeking an equine career – some of which are not necessarily mainstream so may not have even been a consideration (with thanks to Mary Hope Kramer of for these additional suggestions).

  1. Equine Veterinarians provide preventive health care for horses and treat their injuries. Becoming a licensed equine veterinarian involves a significant educational commitment. Board certified practitioners (also known as veterinary specialists) are the next step up.
  2. Equine Veterinary Technicians provide assistance to veterinarians as they complete exams and surgical procedures. Vet techs must complete a two-year degree and pass an exam to become licensed in the field.
  3. Riding Instructors supervise students and direct them in riding lessons and training sessions. They may also ride the student’s horse to demonstrate proper techniques. Instructors may specialize in a variety of riding disciplines such as hunt seat, saddle seat, dressage, reining, and show jumping.
  4. Farriers are responsible for trimming, maintaining, and balancing equine hooves. Farriers must attend to each equine client about 7 times per year on average. Most farriers are self-employed and can learn the trade via apprenticeship and certification courses.
  5. Mounted Police Officers use their horses to provide crowd control and deter crime. Mounted officers must first achieve regular police officer status via police academy training (which takes roughly six months) and then work for about 3 years on the regular force before becoming eligible to apply for specialty units like the mounted patrol.
  6. Broodmare Managers supervise the care of mares and foals. They are responsible for assisting with foaling, teasing mares, and keeping detailed veterinary and production records.
  7. Stallion Managers supervise the care and breeding of stallions. They are involved in scheduling breeding shed appointments, supervising daily care, and promoting stallions to the public.
  8. Jockeys ride racehorses in flat or steeplechase races according to the trainer’s instructions. Jockeys can ride multiple races each day, as well as working horses in the morning. Earnings  vary widely as the jockey earns a percentage of their horse’s winnings in each race, and race purses vary by track and level of competition.
  9. Grooms provide daily care for the horses under their supervision, taking care to notice any changes in a horse’s behavior or body that might signal a need for veterinary care. Although they have huge responsibilities, they generally are not paid very well.
  10. Exercise Riders work horses each morning on the racetrack, following the instructions given by trainers. Exercise riders are generally a bit taller and heavier than jockeys. Riders are usually paid by the mount.
  11. Barn Managers supervise the care of the horses in their stable. They may be involved with hands-on horse care, managing employees, and scheduling deliveries of feed and bedding.
  12. Bloodstock Agents evaluate horses at auction and bid on them on behalf of their clients. They may also arrange the purchase of stallion seasons, proven racehorses, or horses that are privately for sale. Most bloodstock agents are involved in the Thoroughbred industry and earn a commission for their services.
  13. Equine Dental Technicians remove sharp points from a horse’s teeth (in a procedure known as “floating” the teeth). Dental care ensures that the horse is able to eat and perform properly. Equine dental techs usually earn a set fee per horse treated.
  14. Racehorse Trainers condition their equine charges to compete in racing events. They must be well versed in all aspects of horsemanship and pass a licensing exam in each state where they intend to compete. Trainers earn a “day rate” for the horses under their care plus a percentage of their horses’ winnings.
  15. Horse Breeders arrange matings that result in foals of a certain breed or foals that are suited for a specific type of competition. The salary of a breeder can vary widely based upon what breed they produce and the quality of their breeding stock.