Scandinavian saddler who trained in UK wins award.

Signe Dreyer has been named ETN/SMS Bench Saddler of the Month for April.

Denmark based Signe Dreyer trained as a saddler in the UK.

The award, presented in conjunction with the Society of Master Saddlers (SMS), recognises those who uphold the highest standard of leathercraft skills.

Signe is based in Denmark but trained as a saddler in the UK. She returned to London earlier this year to collect her first prize in the Small Business Saddle-Makers class at the 2024 SMS National Saddlery Competition. 

Early days

Signe has always enjoyed making things with her hands. As a child, she made furniture for her dolls’ houses; when she was older, she started sewing her own clothes. 

Combine this creativity with a love of horses, and it’s no surprise that Signe was keen to become a saddler. 

“After I finished high school, I moved to the UK and attended Capel Manor College where I did my City & Guilds Level 1 and 2,” she says. “I then moved back to Denmark and started working as a bench saddler for a saddle fitting business.”

While at Capel Manor, Signe had attended the SMS Introduction to Saddle Fitting course enabling her to saddle fit alongside her boss.

During the time she was working, Signe returned regularly to the UK to train with Mark Romain at the Saddlery Training Centre. She gained her bridle and saddle qualifications, as well as the flocking qualification, plus her health and safety written test.

Starting her own business

Then, in 2021 Signe started her own business, Dreyers Sadelmageri, which she operates mainly from the back of her van. Last year, she qualified as an SMS Saddle Fitter. 

Signe Dreyer’s prize-winning jump saddle has a honey-bee theme. 

“My van is a fully functioning workshop,” she says, “so I am able to do all repairs and adjustments on site.” 

Signe admits that business ownership can be stressful - especially juggling being the proprietor, the office person, the saddler and saddle fitter. Therefore, she’s grateful that her dad helps her with the accounts and IT. 

However, there are lots of things that Signe loves about her job, including meeting all different kinds of riders. Her clients include dressage riders, show jumpers, leisure riders and some who compete at a high level in Icelandic horse competition.

Signe loves combining her craft and saddle fitting skills, and feels lucky to be able to do both. She enjoys being outdoors and working with the horses and their owners. 

“It’s very satisfying to improve the fit of a saddle and see the positive impact this has on both the horse and the rider,” she says. “It’s a great feeling to know that I have helped a horse to a better riding experience.”

Making ideas real

Saddle making is Signe’s favourite thing to do at the bench. She loves creating something unique and special, having spent hours doodling ideas on paper and then creating them for real. 

For the SMS National Competition, Signe made a cognac-coloured jump saddle with a honey-bee design. The saddle nails are hexagon shaped and there is a honeycomb pattern at the bottom of the flaps with dripping honey at the top. 

There’s a hidden surprise too. When you lift the saddle flap, the buckle guards have carved-out bees on them. They’re also shaped to look as though they are dripping honey.

“The saddle took me over six months to make,” Signe says. “Winning was absolutely amazing… I didn’t expect to win anything, so to take the first prize and a premium award was just incredible.”

It’s not the first time Signe has taken home a prize from the SMS National Competition. In 2021 she won the level 3 Trainee Saddle class. 

Imaginative saddlery: Signe’s Alice in Wonderland themed harness bridle. 

Alice in Wonderland themed bridle

One of the most unusual leather items Signe has made was an Alice in Wonderland themed harness bridle.  

She hand-tooled and painted Alice, the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit onto the leather. She used some old clocks bought on eBay for the rosettes; the gears from inside the clocks adorned the noseband. 

Instead of a clincher browband, she made one with little red roses on it. On the bit guards, there are the eyes of the Chesire Cat.

Away from the bench

Last year, Signe bought her first horse, a 17hh palomino called Amrillo. 

“I’ve part-loaned horses before, but he is the first horse I have owned,” she says. “We’re still getting to know one another. He is very sweet and loves people.

“He’s an all-rounder and I’m looking forward to going on many long hacks together and perhaps will do a bit of dressage too.”

Signe also volunteers as a scout leader in her spare time. “I love being outside in nature and enjoy teaching young kids how to cook on a fire, set up a tent and follow a map. 

“As a child and a teenager, I had wonderful experiences on scout camps in all weathers. Now being a role model and passing my experience to others is great. Scouting is a great way for kids to gain confidence and life skills.”

Signe has ambitions for her business too. “I hope to become a Master Saddler. I would also really like to expand my company and maybe hire another saddler and fitter.” 

Signe begins her unique creations by doodling designs on paper. This drawing for her honey-bee themed saddle illustrates its buckle guards ‘dripping with honey’. 

How to nominate a bench saddler:

Everyone is invited to nominate bench saddlers they feel deserve to be named ETN/SMS Bench Saddler of the Month. Candidates for the award must be a member of the SMS and can be based in the UK or overseas.

To nominate a bench saddler (or more than one), email editor@equestriantradenews.com and tell us why this person deserves to be put in the spotlight. Please include the bench saddler’s name and business name too.