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Saddle Fitting and Clinics

Updated: Dec 8, 2018

We all wish for unity with our horse. That feeling of oneness that takes us beyond this world into another realm of timelessness and flow.

From the trails to the show ring we look to be balanced on our horse, and with our horse, so that the horse too can be balanced and therefore a happy partner.

But more often than not we find ourselves stuck: uncomfortable, maybe scared, unable to move forward in our skill level and with a horse that seems unhappy or maybe even being labeled as a problem horse.

True balance on a horse means that we are not working against the forces of gravity and motion: we keep ourselves positioned on the horse so as to not put any pressure whatsoever on the horse’s mouth or rib cage other than the weight of the reins and the weight of our draped legs.

Yet this can only occur if we have made certain that the 5 pillars of balance that are essential for the horse’s well-being are present.

These are:

  1. The saddle. It is the adapter, and a most important means of communication, between the rider and the horse and must fit both.

  2. The rider.  The rider must be able to have full independent control of his/her body while on a moving horse. That is:

  • Body Alignment according to the laws of physics (if someone took the horse out from underneath the rider, would they land on their feet?)

  • Inward rotation of the thighs

  • Neutral spine (must have an “s” shape)

  • Core Stability

  • Independent use of legs, arms and hands

3. The horse’s pelvis. The horse’s pelvis must be in alignment with its spine in order to

function correctly.

4. Hooves. The horse can NOT function/move in balance if it’s feet are notanatomically


5. Teeth. The horse’s teeth not only affects its eating and digesting but also how it moves

its body. The teeth affect the temporomandibular joint which in turn affects the poll,

jaw, neck and as a result the entire rest of the horse’s musculature.

Then, and only then, can both rider and horse begin to move towards a true partnership.

“Dear Zsuzsu, I’ve written this recommendation of your work to share with other LinkedIn users. Details of the Recommendation: “There are plenty of saddle fitters who will check to see if your saddle fits your horse, and there are plenty of riding instructors who look at your riding to offer help, and there are lots of trainers to help you train your horse, but Zsuzsu offers expertise and guidance on all of these vital areas of horse owning and riding in one package. If you want a clinic that really works on all the aspects of, rider, and equipment…call her. She’s worth every penny!” Maryanne Gabbani

“I recently purchased a new synthetic western saddle for my granddaughter to use on my horse during lessons as mine is too big for her. The first time we used it he suffered a girth sore which he had never had before with my saddle.

I did not know what the problem was so I consulted Zsuzsu Illes as I know her to be educated in saddle fitting.

After looking at my horse, who is swaybacked, and looking at all my saddles on and off my horse, with and without saddle pads, she came up with a diagnosis. She was able to determine that the new saddle would not work at all as he is short backed. The new saddle’s square skirt was interfering with his hip, forcing the saddle to shift with each step which created enough girth movement to cause a girth sore.

She also found that my regular saddle is slightly tweaked in it’s construction. By using towels to fill in the bridging caused by the swayback she was able to show how we could distribute the saddle weight better and thereby minimize pressure points on his back, thus allowing the saddle to fit better overall. She also found a company that sells shims that will work to fill in the bridging area. I was very impressed with her knowledge in this area and how she was able to determine just exactly what was wrong and how it could be rectified.” V.H. – client

“Zsuzsu Illes is an educator in the equine industry, encouraging the positive development of the mind, body and spirit through holistic training methods for all horses and riders. Her natural connection to both offers a quietness to help the students to listen and learn from her rich insight and understanding. Her love for the horse, the equestrian sport and her students is boundless.” K.F. – client

“I trust her ability to speak to the horse as well as the rider, given her calm and common sense approach to training.” J.S. – client

“Zsuzsu Illes is a superb teacher and horsewoman. She understands how to motivate a student to strive to be the best in their equine discipline both in their riding and in their relationship with the horse. Patient, hardworking and thorough in her approach the student is able to acquire knowledge in a very methodical and organic way. She is very organized and dedicated in her craft.” J.L. – client

“Thanks to your good basic training I can now ride like the wind.” E.F. – client

“I enjoyed meeting you today and was so thankful for your thorough and expert insights into my saddle problems and riding seat. I can’t wait to learn dressage from you as well. I know you will be a very articulate and knowledgeable teacher……… I just thought you would like to hear how my first trail ride went after our lesson today. We went up and down a mountain where normally my horse tries to race back home and can get worked up some. Today, (we)……..walked calmly up and down that mountain which has never happened before…. It was a miracle! ………. I followed his motion and we were both very happy together. I never had to tug on the reins to slow him down and I didn’t even use the reins for guidance but used my hips like you showed me. I loved what I learned today. Thank you so much” – . D.Z.

“How can we ever thank you? I am one lucky lady. There is so much to learn but you and Pashe are master teachers. I am very excited. Hopefully Pashe will be patient with me (you seem to have the patience of a saint).” L.F.

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