February 2015 - Book Reviews
Written by CRM
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 01:58

Suffering In Silence; Creative Dressage Schooling

Suffering In Silence
Written by Jochen Schleese, Certified Master Saddler & Saddle Ergonomist
Reviewed by Sharma Lynn Gaponoff

I have been an endurance rider since the mid-1980s. Asking a horse to go 50, 75 or 100 miles in a day is asking a lot--of both horse and rider. It takes hundreds and hundreds of miles of preparation to get you both in shape to successfully compete in this sport.

A primary factor in this equation is a proper saddle fit for both you and your horse. I have struggled with how to accomplish this for 30 years, and it has never been explained so clearly as in this book. Jochen Schleese has put all the pieces of the puzzle together in this well-written and well-illustrated book.

You will learn that all saddles out there (with the exception of a side-seat saddle and a Schleese saddle) are made to fit a man’s pelvis. There is no way a woman can ever be comfortable or truly in balance in a saddle built for a man’s pelvis. The shape of a woman’s pelvis and her center of gravity are very different from a man’s.

You will also learn all the features of a saddle that can hurt a horse if the saddle is not built or adjusted correctly, and that many behavioral issues a horse exhibits are often a result of poor saddle fit. This book also highlights many chronic soft-tissue injuries that horses and riders can completely avoid by a saddle that fits both horse and rider properly.

In this book, Jochen Schleese explains in an easy to understand manner, all the steps necessary for determining whether or not a saddle fits you and your horse properly--both when the horse is standing still and when the horse is in motion and if it continues to fit over time as the horse changes shape from conditioning (or lack thereof).

I highly recommend this book. It will arm you with information that can save both you and your horse from unnecessary pain and make riding a much more enjoyable experience for both of you. Read this book and you will gain the knowledge that Jochen Schleese has so generously shared. If you apply this knowledge, it will definitely help you and your horse ride pain free for a lifetime.

Reviewer Sharma Lynn Gaponoff is author of the book Tevis, From the Back of My Horse.

Creative Dressage Schooling
Written by Julia Kroll
Reviewed by Gabrielle J. Forman


If you asked my two horses their opinion about our dressage work, they might respond that it is predictable. The dressage cafeteria serves up two basic programs that include about three basic figures through which we practice transitions and lateral work. Creativity is not my strength as a rider, and as a result I think all three of us give a little sigh as we approach the dressage arena.

Fortunately, Julia Kroll has written a book to address this dressage rut. Appropriately titled, Creative Dressage Schooling, Kroll’s book offers 55 progressive exercises that will shake up your dressage routine, while also building upon one another to lead you and your horse through the levels.

Kroll, a German FN trainer, begins the book with a brief overview of the German Scale of Training as well as correct use of the aids. Although many riders lack the solid foundation imparted by early training, the author reminds us that correct aids and a true understanding of progressive work for the horse make all the difference in results. Although other books are more comprehensive in covering these topics, Kroll’s writing is exceptionally clear and concise on these topics. This will be especially useful for newer riders who are using the book for self-study, as well as those working with a trainer but looking for further information.

The “creative” section begins with something that appears simple: correct corners. While seeming a no-brainer, something that the most beginning of riders does in their very first lesson, Kroll notes that riding corners correctly is actually done quite infrequently, even by upper level riders. She stresses that learning to ride them with precision will pay off in a number of ways: improving a horse’s balance, transitions, suppleness, and throughness. Kroll offers the following breakdown: a “where,” showing a diagram of the arena marked with the exercise; a “why,” explaining the reasons for and the benefits of the exercise; a “how,” with each step broken down for the rider, and a final section to address common problems.

This helpful format is repeated for each successive exercise, ending with work in the half-pass. In fact, if each exercise is mastered it should prepare horse and rider to move to the next one with skills in place to master that, as well. Theoretically, one might use this well-laid out book to move from basic corners to the zigzag, which is the point at which Kroll ends the exercises.

Her tone throughout the book is easy and accessible. Although prompting riders to check their own skill sets, she also encourages them to experiment with the exercises, even if a bit above their level. The photos are nice, and she notes places where her own riding might be improved in these, which is admirable.

As for me and my boys, we have already been inspired. As we went back to basics checking our corners, giggles arose. And they weren’t all coming from me.

Reviewer Gabrielle Forman lives in Los Angeles with her two geldings, a Paint and a Quarter Horse.