Outgoing leader on why saddlery must attract youngsters into the trade.

Experienced saddler Karen Schlotter has taken up the role of Society of Master Saddlers (SMS) President for the next 12 months. 

She succeeded outgoing President Chris Taylor at the society’s AGM last month (September). 

Karen has been in the saddlery trade for more than 40 years. She has taught the subject at Cordwainers College and Capel Manor. Nowadays, most of her time is spent saddle and bridle fitting. 

Karen Schlotter, new Society of Master Saddlers’ president

A lifelong rider and competitor, she currently has two horses.

Karen helped develop the SMS bridle fitting courses with Frances Roche and Catherine Baker, and is one of the lecturers on the course. She is also a City and Guilds assessor and visitor to saddlery apprentices. 

Highlights and achievements

Among the highlights of Chris Taylor’s busy year as SMS President were meeting Princess Anne and working with the Welfare Unit at Appleby Horse Fair. 

During Chris’s tenure, the SMS also gained Ofqual recognition as an End Point Assessment Organisation, a significant qualification milestone. 

“This is a huge accolade for the society, and I feel privileged to be part of the team that put together the application,” he said. 

Encouraging young people

Looking to the future, Chris stresses the importance of maintaining the society’s grass roots. “Young people need to be encouraged to take up the craft,” he says. “Without them, traditional skills will be lost.”

Karen emphasised that the saddlery industry is constantly evolving. 

“The importance of correct saddlery and its fit is becoming better understood by the equestrian world,” she said. 

“Working with other equine professionals is crucial to continue to improve understanding and raise standards for the welfare of the horse.”