So you want to be a saddle fitter…
Tired of sitting at a desk 9 to 5? Have you always dreamed of working with horses but don’t want to be a groom or instructor? A career in saddle fitting could be just what you’re looking for… read on to find out more.
There are few such satisfying careers if you enjoy working with horses, riders and saddles.
Your first port of call should be the Society of Master Saddlers (SMS) website. Here you can look at the different options and opportunities available - especially if you are currently working outside the industry. The SMS organises a two-day Introductory Course in Saddle Fitting which is run in conjunction with BETA. The course is open to all those with an interest in entering the field of saddle fitting. It is also open to other equestrian professionals such as BHS instructors, chartered physiotherapists, vets etc, who want to enhance their equestrian knowledge in this area.
An ideal route into saddle fitting is to find employment with an SMS member who is willing to train you through an apprenticeship.
Another route could be to train as a saddler and join the SMS in your own right, before progressing into saddle fitting. There is a helpful page on the SMS website to help you find apprenticeships and courses currently available.
After initially attending the two-day introductory course - which will not only inspire you but give you plenty of knowledge to start your first steps to becoming an SMS Qualified Saddle Fitter (QSF) - you will need to complete three years’ experience working with and alongside a QSF.
This can be done on a part-time or full-time basis depending upon your circumstances and the availability of a tutor. You can join the Society’s Mentor Scheme as a trainee saddle fitter which is open to those who have attended the Introductory Course. This is an ideal way to develop your training and skills whilst working towards the five-day qualification course.
All of those training to become a saddle fitter and working towards the SMS City & Guilds Saddle Fitting course and assessment will need to undertake training in saddle flocking and attain the Society’s Saddle Flocking Qualification before attending the QSF course.
Full details of the requirements for the exam can be found on the SMS website under ‘Training’ then ‘Courses’. You can train for this where you wish or at one of the establishments listed.
Your final step to becoming a QSF on completing the five-day course is to complete a final assessment leading to your SMS Registered Qualified Saddler Fitter status. It really is that straight-forward.
Quality of work
The Society's aims are to safeguard the quality of work, services, training and qualifications of all those who work in the saddlery trade, from manufacturers and retailers through individual craftspeople and saddle fitters.
With this in mind, the SMS formulated the Qualified Saddle Fitters course. This advanced course is aimed at saddle fitters who have been fitting saddles for a number of years and who want to refine their saddle fitting to the standards promoted by the Society and approved by City & Guilds.
You will be required to pass an assessment, which will include a written paper and practical units in conformation and action in-hand, saddle assessment and fault identification, taking template measurements and a practical saddle fitting assessment.
Once a saddle fitter achieves their qualified status, they will need to attend a refresher day every two years to maintain their qualification. SMS Registered Qualified Saddle Fitters are also required to gain CPD points and attend additional training seminars when they can to maintain their knowledge to current standards. These days are also a great chance to meet and socialise with likeminded SMS members within the same industry and learn from each other.
Take time to do some research and feel filled with confidence to take the leap into your dream saddle fitting career.