Industry body makes strides in a busy year. 

The promotion of well-fitting saddlery to improve horse welfare will help safeguard our industry for future generations. 

The topic was a prominent theme at the recent Society of Master Saddlers (SMS) AGM.

During the meeting, Chris Taylor was appointed as president for 2022/2023 with Karen Schlotter stepping into the vice president’s role.

The saddlery trade body also reported that its membership is at an all-time high of 572.

Training opportunities

Training and welfare have been high on the SMS’s agenda over the past 12 months. 

“Our revised Mentor Scheme, which helps our trainees move on through our fitting pathways towards qualification, is now up and running,” said chief executive Hazel Morley. 

At the Society of Master Saddlers’ AGM are new president Chris Taylor with vice president Karen Schlotter.

“On the subject of welfare, we’ve been pleased to work with The Horse Trust and Redwings who have helped us develop an online CPD module which gives training and advice on welfare issues, clarifying actions or decisions taken in the course of members’ professional duties.  

“Our veterinary consultant Dr Jane Nixon has also been very active in promoting and educating us and the wider equestrian community on the issues around social licence.”

Saddle and bridle fitting

Theory lectures for SMS fitting courses via webinar had worked well and will continue, members heard. 

Bridle and saddle fitting introductory courses now cover a full day, with the qualification courses also covering more practical training.  

Hazel thanked the bridle fitting team, led by Frances Roche, and the saddle fitting team, headed by Andy Milner.  

Generous support

The Worshipful Company of Saddlers has supported the SMS via its usual annual grant, providing prize money for the National Saddlery and BETA International competitions.

The Saddlers’ Company also funds an annual donation to The Saddlery & Leathergoods Benevolent Fund.

Grateful thanks

Hazel went on to thank outgoing president Helen Reader “for being very supportive and active”; SMS treasurer Bea Blakeman; Mark Romain for his work with the Ofqual application; Lizzy Freeman the society’s new marketing and partnerships co-ordinator plus all other officers and the executive committee.

Thanks also went to Ian Hastilow who has this year stood down from being the saddle fitting course co-ordinator and Kay Hastilow who has retired as leader of the qualification course. 

Well-fitting saddlery

Outgoing president Helen Reader told the SMS AGM: “2022 has seen the first Qualified Bridle Fitting Course and Assessments take place. 

“The message about the importance of using correctly fitted saddlery is certainly getting through to the majority of the equestrian world and there is now keenness to learn more and use qualified saddlery fitters. 

“The more the SMS can promote quality, well-fitting saddlery to improve horse welfare through education to other associated professionals and the wider public, the more likely we will be able to keep riding and therefore safeguard our industry for future generations.”