Ever since I started my journey back in 2015, my desire has always been to become a Master Saddler. Not just any Master Saddler; one that makes a difference and contributes to the future of saddlery and leatherwork.
Since then my goal has been to gain as much knowledge, experience and qualifications along the way. This has consequently led me to become a fully-fledged City and Guilds (Level 3) qualified Saddle and Bridle Maker.
My Student Years
During my student years, I was adamant to find the very best support, guidance and knowledge I could find.
Being an adult trainee saddler without an apprenticeship or placement with a Master Saddler was always going to be a difficult road to follow. Nevertheless, I was determined to succeed.
Becoming A Member Of The Society
From the start I was determined to become a member of the Society of Master Saddlers (or the SMS as they are commonly known).
They provide advice and guidance, support and training opportunities to Saddlers and Saddle Fitters. They are the ‘go-to’ professional organisation when dealing with saddlery and saddlery fitting in the UK and abroad.
Whilst in training you are can first register with the SMS as a Student member. Upon completing your City & Guilds training and assessments, but not yet reached ‘four years of experience’, you are able to register as an Intermediate Saddler.
When you reach your fourth year in the industry and have the relevant qualifications, you can apply to become a Qualified Saddler and/or Harness Maker.
Finally, once you have reached seven years in the industry and have ticked all the remaining SMS criteria, you can then apply to become a Master Saddler. (I have to wait a further three years before I can achieve this status 🙂 )
A Global Pandemic
As of April of this year , I was finally able to apply to the SMS to upgrade my membership from Intermediate Saddler to Qualified Saddler.
Due to the ensuing global pandemic of Covid-19, things like upgrading my membership status were low on my agenda.
First and foremost, the new situation we found ourselves in as a family had to come first [obviously].
Fast forward a few months and with the pandemic under some sort of control, I applied for the change of status.
This change in status won’t change the world (sadly) but it does change things slightly.
What Does This Change Mean For Me?
This change means to me that I am now officially recognised as a fully qualified Saddler. Having gone through extensive training and assessment, gained several nationally recognised (City & Guilds) qualifications and undertaken Health & Safety assessment to ensure that I design, prepare and make only the very best saddlery.
Most importantly, I have insurance in place which allows me to make and sell saddlery to the general public. A very important document, which some ‘hobby’ makers fail to obtain. So be sure to check who is making your leatherwork.
Having all this means I tick all the boxes on the SMS criteria. It, therefore, allows me to trade as a Qualified Saddler and display the official ‘Qualified Saddler’ badge. (See above).
What Does This Change Mean For You?
This change should give you peace of mind that you are to receive a quality product from a professionally qualified Saddler. After all, isn’t that what you pay your hard-earned cash for?!
How To Search For An SMS Registered Saddler (or Saddle Fitter)
If you are keen to employ the service of a Saddler, Harness Maker, Bridle Fitter and/or Saddle Fitter, and not necessarily me, then all you have to do is click on the following link for the SMS website: www.mastersaddlers.co.uk and complete the details to ‘search for a member’ in your area. It’s as simple as that.
Remember, when looking for a competent saddle or bridle fitter and/or a bench saddler that you look for the SMS badge. As they are guaranteed to be a fully competent, qualified and insured professional.
What Are My Plans Moving Forward?
So, now that I have gained qualified status, I feel a little more confident to start moving away from certain areas of the industry and niche down into a particular area.
The SMS currently have the following mantra: ‘Our Members – For you, for the horse’. To me, this opens up an opportunity to make a difference. (Remember back at the start of this blog post? I said I wanted to make a difference and contributes to the future of saddlery and leatherwork? Well, here is my chance).
When you look at some horses and ponies, you very often see that their saddlery is not correctly fitted.
I want to help rectify this problem by educating the owners and/or riders, particularly in the correct fit of their equine’s bridles.
Once that is achieved I will then provide the opportunity to purchase bespoke bridles components (such as cheek pieces) and complete bridles.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not a complete expert, and there is still a lot I need to learn. In the meantime, if I can help just 1% of equine owners then I’m doing a good service.
Finally, if you have any questions about the content of this blog or you simply want to have a chat then contact me here.
Until next time, take care. Clair x