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Frances Roche

Executive Director

Frances started her saddlery journey in 1979 as a student at ‘Cordwainers College’ in Hackney, where she gained a diploma in Saddlery.  After leaving College she served a 7 year apprenticeship with Harness Makers and Royal Warrant holders ‘Turner Bridgar’ in Goring on Thames. Followed by 7 years at ‘Norton and Newby’ Saddlers in Beconsfield  where she began Saddle fitting and making bespoke bridles.

In 1992 Frances started her own business, mainly making bridles alongside working as a lecturer at Corwainers College, where she taught Harness and Bridle making skills to second year students.   She was offered a full-time job as Master Saddler/Harness Maker at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace in 1996 where she remained until July 2022.   It was in 1998 that Frances gained her saddle fitting qualification to make sure she was keeping her Majesty’s horses comfortable, alongside fitting Saddles on behalf of ‘Equestrian World’ in Henley.

The Society of Master Saddlers began running Bridle fitting courses in 2009 and Frances has been a lecturer and course leader on these courses ever since.  It wasn’t until 2019 when the bridle fitting team finally managed to complete development and begin delivery of the City and Guilds Qualification in Bridle Fitting and measuring.

Advanced bridle making skills are taught regularly by Frances to QEST scholars in her own workshop, and to qualified saddlers at the Saddlery Training centre.

Frances has been an assessor for C&G Saddlery Skills Tests for over 20 years and for C&G Bridle Fitting since its induction in 2019, she has also assessed for level 1 & 2 Bespoke Saddler and Leather Craftsperson qualifications alongside being a judge at the National Saddlery Competitions for over 25 yrs.

About her work Frances has said “Bridle making and fitting is a vast and complicated subject, but at the same time fascinating. It is wonderfully satisfying to be able to make a difference to a horse’s performance, but even more so to improve their comfort and well-being.  I am ever hopeful that by training equestrians about correct fit and design of the many and varied items of Saddlery, we can continue to improve the comfort and welfare of horses for the future and retain our social license in the process.  My happy place remains in my workshop where I still love to make and design new bridles. I am very proud of my successes over the years at the National Saddlery competition, Including Best in show 4 times.  However, I feel my greatest achievements will always be passing on skills to the next generation and seeing them gain success in the competitions and to pass their fitting qualifications.”


Committee & Other Roles

Course Leader Bridle Fitting

Trainer, Assessor officer