Episode 19: On Saddle Fit, Being a CEO and Ghostwriting with Sabine Schleese (Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast)
Episode 19: Welcome to the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast! In each episode, you’ll hear inspirational stories from horse book authors including writing advice and marketing tips to help you write your own horse book. If you are an author, aspire to be an author, or simply love horse books then you are in the right place!
In this week's episode, you'll meet Equine Author & Schleese Saddlery Executive Sabine Schleese. You'll learn ...
Watch Sabine Schleese's Interview on YouTube!
Or listen to the audio only version
About Sabine Schleese
Sabine Schleese has been involved with Schleese Saddlery Service Ltd. since its inception in 1986, together with her husband Jochen and since 1996 the addition of their former banker and now partner Earl Rothery. Earl’s son Jordan recently married Sabine’s daughter Samantha, after having been together since they were 13! (Succession planning at its finest except that neither is interested in the business.)
Sabine’s job description involved a little of everything – marketing/PR, administration, operations, and client services in her role as Director of Corporate Affairs. In 2000, Sabine completed her Executive MBA at Queen’s University. Sabine attends various association meetings on behalf of the shareholders to keep abreast of what’s new and exciting in the industry itself, and was a Director on the board of the local Chamber of Commerce. She writes regular educational articles for several trade publications under the expertise of her well-known husband, Certified Master Saddler Jochen Schleese.
Sabine has been the recipient of many business awards over the years on behalf of the company, including an Award of Merit from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, a Global Trader’s Award, “Woman of the Year” in York Region in the entrepreneurial category in 2000, and “Exporter of the Year” in 2008 from the Organization of Women in International Trade. Most recently she was awarded Female CEO of the Year for Women in Business from the International Trade Council in Chicago. She has been on Profit Magazine’s List of Top 100 Women Business Owners in Canada for the past 11 years.
Sabine Schleese Interview Excerpt
Carly: How did you get into horses?
Sabine: I had to learn to ride pretty fast if I ever wanted to see my boyfriend. Jochen at the time was competing internationally and spent most of his free time either in his workshop or on his horse.
Carly: Do you have any stories that people would find interesting or entertaining about your writing or your horse background?
Sabine: I used to ski competitively, so I was pretty fearless. When Jochen asked if I wanted to ride his 17’3 hand horse I said, “suuuurrre… I know how to ride!" (previous experience – the odd trail ride!). So I got on and started trotting, then cantering, then galloping around the arena. It was exhilarating. Not great form, but I held on and it was fun. When I got off my knees pretty much buckled and I said “well – how was I? not bad for the first time, eh?”
Then he started training me in earnest for my first local jumping show. His mother said to me – you better not fall off and embarrass the family! (no pressure). Well I didn’t fall off, but I did pretty much do my own jump sequence. After the first refusal in a triple, I decided to take some of the other jumps instead and made it through without falling off. First and last horse show!
Carly: You and your husband work together at Schleese Saddlery. All of your products and services ensure optimal well-being and comfort for both horse and rider and help to protect both from long-term back damage. Tell us about Schleese and why you decided to focus on products for female equestrians?
Sabine: Jochen was asked to come to Canada to be the Official Saddler for the World Dressage championships in 1986. From there we decided to stay and build up our company, since there was no one around with his level of training – he was certified at age 22 as the youngest Master Saddler in Germany at the time. Most of our clients were female – and they would confide in him about their ‘female problems’. So he decided to build a saddle to accommodate the female pelvis – and that’s how we became the female specialist!
Carly: Your company is recognized as the Female Saddle Specialist. Tell us about your primary focus, which are saddles. What type of saddles do you offer?
Sabine: We started off with mainly dressage, but are now entering the jumper market, the Western pleasure market, and have just come up with a revolutionary racing exercise saddle that is being tested by our rep in South Africa as we speak! Our saddle panels have been tested and are showing the lowest pressure distribution per square inch in the industry. Our Western saddles are actually adjustable with interchangeable male and female ground seats.
Carly: Your husband spends time traveling to various corners of the world to teach his Saddlefit 4 Life curriculum in various certification courses, or working with our clients in onsite evaluations of their saddles. Tell us about the Saddlefit 4 Life curriculum and the saddle fittings you offer.
Sabine: Eventually we would like to see a common language in saddle fit – there are too many discrepancies in the industry with various saddle fitting schools. Our curriculum is based on the laws of nature, scientific research, and common sense.
The SMS is revising its saddle fit curriculum in recognition that (finally!) something needs to change in the ‘traditional way we’ve always done things!’ Our curriculum is being taught to veterinarians all over the world (since they don’t get any saddle fitting insights in their training and are often presented with horses with symptomatic lameness that may have been caused by poor saddle fit).
The University of Guelph has Jochen as a guest speaker every year for its BBRM degree (Bachelor of Bioresource management) and is considering offering the curriculum as an elective for this course. We cover much more than the ‘normal’ saddle fit education and call it equine ergonomics or saddle ergonomics, depending on how far the student wants to go. They will learn human and equine anatomy (we are even offering a dissection course next summer); biomechanics, technology, and also basic business – we want them to become successful independent business people in their own right!
Carly: You recently won “female CEO of the year” for women in business from the International Trade Council at their conference in Chicago. What an honor! Tell us about the experience. How did it make you feel?
Sabine: It is always fun to go to events such as this, and this one was truly international, with participants from over 37 countries! I see these awards as recognition that we are on the right path to make a difference, not only in business but especially in the equestrian industry. Of course, none of these awards would have been presented without the support of the wonderful group of managers, administrators, and craftsmen we have.
Carly: What is the best part of being a CEO? What is the hardest part?
Sabine: I am not CEO any longer – we have a new Managing Director (politically correct name now – no more “Chiefs” allowed in Canada!) Who has been with us for almost 15 years. Miriam Boutros-Dale is doing a wonderful job working with her team – she sees the company almost as hers, and we couldn’t be in better hands for the next generation of innovations. But she will also tell you – it’s lonely at the top. Nobody tells you how good you are, praises you, compliments you, etc. That’s what these awards do – give recognition and justification for the hard work and long hours you put in!
Carly: Tell us about your book Suffering in Silence which you co-write with your husband.
Sabine: Humans and horses have been joined for thousands of years, and for much of that time, one thing has served as the primary point of physical contact between them: the saddle.
However, for many horses and many riders, the saddle has been no less than a refined means of torture. Horses have long suffered from tree points impeding the movement of their shoulder blades; too narrow gullet channels damaging the muscles and nerves along the vertebrae; and too long panels putting harmful pressure on the reflex point in the loin area. Male riders saddle up despite riding-related pain and the potential for serious side effects, such as impotence, while female riders endure backache, slipped discs, and bladder infections, to name just a few common issues.
We must ask ourselves: How much better could we ride and how much better could our horses perform if our saddles fit optimally? If they accommodated the horse’s unique conformation and natural asymmetry? If they were built for the differing anatomy of men and women?
The answers to all these questions are right here, right now, in this book.
Carly: Why did you choose to write this particular horse book? What was the inspiration behind it?
Sabine: It began in 2011 when I thought it might be a good idea to consolidate some of the articles we had written about saddle fit issues for various magazines. We approached Trafalgar Sqaure Books, who initially turned it down.
So when Jochen was in Germany later that summer, the executive director of WuWei publishing happened to attend one of his sessions. (They also published a number of Dr. Gerd Heuschmann’s books, who was a good friend of Jochen’s through their work at the German National Riding School). So she commissioned the book, and had us work with a ghostwriter in Germany, because neither of us (though fluent) can write “literary” German.
It was truly a difficult birth that took many months longer than we thought it would – conferences late at night when Jochen was on the road ‘somewhere in the world’ and me at home. Editing, rewriting, restrategizing… Difficult.
Then when Trafalgar Square Books (their North American Partner) bought the rights, I was commissioned to translate. It is now in its 3rd printing in North America as Suffering in Silence (they didn’t like the German title The Silent Killer) and every edition has several new chapters and augmented information.
Carly: Is there a message in the book that you hope readers will grasp?
Sabine: Yes – listen to your horse. The eyes, the ears, the tail – they don’t lie! These animals are so forgiving, so tolerant – yet as riders we are often ignorant to what we do to them. It breaks my heart sometimes…
Carly: You translated the book from German to English. Tell us about the process. Was it difficult to do the translation?
Sabine: It was easy and fun. Better than the other way round, although I think the book could have been written first in English much more easily! It’s amazing how much detail the publisher wants; every scientific statement needs corroboration, every picture permission and credit, etc.
Carly: How do you reach your readers?
Sabine: Originally we sent a copy of the book to every single equestrian magazine I had already written for (and some I hadn’t) and asked them to review it. That was good. Also, we sent it to various veterinarians and other equine bodyworkers. Anyone with any circle/network of riders who could potentially be interested. Instead of getting paid, I got several cases of free books, which was more valuable to us than money as they could be given away as goodwill gestures.
Schleese offers a free Saddle Fitting Expert Guide where people can read up on saddle fit tips and valuable knowledge from your saddle fitting experts. Download your free copy by clicking the button below.
Carly: Schleese has an excellent and informational YouTube channel with thousands and thousands of subscribers. That’s a lot of followers! Tell us about the channel and your strategy for it.
Sabine: And over 1 million views! That’s even more important. Education is the key – the videos are not promotion for Schleese; they are generic education that anyone can benefit from and have, in the end, brought us many more new clients.
Carly: You also have a Schleese Saddlery podcast! Tell us about the podcast. What can listeners expect to learn or hear?
Sabine: We will be doing regular interviews with various equine professionals from all areas. We’ll be talking to vets, physiotherapists, saddle fitters, riders, trainers, etc.
Carly: You and I first met at the American Horse Publications conference. Tell us about how the organization has been beneficial for you in your career.
Sabine: Again – networking is the key to learning about ‘next steps’. For me it was important to put faces to the names I had been dealing with on the phone or via email for years. There are still many I haven’t met but hope to in the future. I also think that I have made some new friends; especially young authors and up-and-coming equine entrepreneurs such as yourself, and several others you will have on your show! Plus – it’s always fun to get away and explore new places, and AHP always offers a good show!
Carly: Rumor has it that you are planning to writing a novel! Can you give us a sneak peek on what you are thinking about writing about? Will there be horses in your story?
Sabine: My novel will be about my family history – going back to about the mid 1840s and the CA gold rush up to and including WWII and the Holocaust. I haven’t decided how to write it yet and whether it will become more historical fiction in the 3rd person or as a 1st person narrative type of thing. No horses in my family , sorry! The other book I am working on is about mistakes I’ve made in business and things I’ve learned!
Carly: What else are you curious about right now?
Sabine: I think that the world is changing so quickly, it’s hard to make 5 and 10 year plans anymore. Right now I am living day to day and enjoying my life. My husband and I have started to compete in ballroom dancing again and we’re enjoying the challenges this brings. Both of our daughters are also dancing (one is actually a professional dancer) and the other is a certified professional vegan make-up artist who is working on completing her 9th year of undergrad at the Ontario College of Art and Design University. Yes, she’s taking it slow because she doesn’t really find a need for the degree, but this is our wish…
Connect with Sabine & Schleese Saddlery
View articles Sabine Schleese has ghostwritten written under Jochen’s name here: https://schleese.com/saddlefit4life-articles/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/schleese (@schleese)
Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Suffering-Silence
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Thank you for tuning in to the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast. See you next time! I'm your host Carly Kade. Creative writing makes my spurs jingle!
About Your Host and Equine Author Carly Kade
Carly Kade is an award-winning equestrian author and the host of the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle! She writes fiction about horses, horse shows, Western pleasure and a handsome cowboy or two. Her books are for people just like her — crazy about reading, horses and cute cowboys!
In the Reins, the first in Carly's series of novels inspired by the equestrian lifestyle, has been an Amazon best seller for more than 10 weeks, is an EQUUS Film Festival Literary Award Winner for Best Western Fiction and has earned two Feathered Quill Book Awards in the Romance and Adult Book featuring Animals categories. The In the Reins equestrian romance series is available now in Audiobook, Paperback and eBook on Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks and Kobo.
Books by Carly Kade
Carly Kade writes for anyone who loves horses, handsome cowboys and a great romance. Creative writing about horses makes her spurs jingle!