Do you know the difference between an SMS Qualified Saddler and Qualified Saddle Fitter? Or an SMS Master Saddler and Master Saddle Fitter?
When the SMS was formed in the 60’s a saddler was a person who was able to make, repair and fit horse tack. Saddlery items were usually made in the individual saddlers’ workshop or in shop premises on the high street where a number of saddlers were employed, and the apprentice would learn the skills of the trade from their Master. Qualifications were developed for the making of saddlery first – craft skills – whilst the saddle fitting qualification, which solely assessed the skill of fitting saddles to horses, was introduced in 1995.
Today, the SMS have a suite of City & Guilds qualifications covering the making of saddles, bridles and harness, the fitting of bridles and saddles, and saddle flocking. These qualifications have made it possible for the saddler to focus only on craft, whilst allowing the rise of the saddlery fitter who focuses purely on the fitting of saddles or bridles. In brief – a Saddler is qualified to make saddlery; a Fitter is qualified to fit it. There are, however, some who are multiskilled and gain both the craft and the fitting qualifications and there are also a very small number of unqualified but vastly experienced saddlers who have been in the trade since before the advent of the qualifications.
All Individual members of the Society are considered to be a Trainee or Intermediate member until they have passed the C&G qualifications in their chosen field, at which point they become a Qualified member. The Society also has businesses who are trade or retail members and they may employ Qualified Saddlers and Fitters who have undergone the same rigorous training and assessment as the Individual member.
Master is a title which is earned by the Qualified Saddler or Fitter who has in excess of 7 years’ experience and who has proven their skill is of a consistently outstanding level. A Master Saddler excels in the craft – the making of saddles, bridle, or harness – whilst a Master Saddle Fitter is considered to be a highly experienced saddle fitter. Whichever SMS category they fall into, you can be assured that they have received the most comprehensive education and have a vast wealth of knowledge and experience.
Research into saddlery manufacture and its fit is continually evolving and the SMS City & Guilds qualifications undergo regular review to ensure that they keep up with these advances. All SMS members are expected to undertake Continuous Professional Development regardless of whether they are a Saddler or a Fitter. With our lecturers incorporating current learning, this guarantees that our members can provide the best possible service to the riding public whilst ensuring the welfare of the horse is paramount.