Are Saddle Fitters Allowed To Work

Ellen Grant
• Thursday, 05 November, 2020
• 7 min read

The first point of call would be to visit the Society of Master Saddlers website to look at the different options and opportunities available to you, especially if you are currently working outside the industry. An ideal route into saddle fitting is to find employment with a Society member who is willing to train you through an apprenticeship.

saddle correctly fits horse tell fitting clearance withers properly schleese english does dressage points fingers three saddlery shoulder
(Source: www.horsejournals.com)


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 a Qualified Saddle Fitter recognized by the Society of Master Saddlers, you will need to complete three years’ experience working with and alongside a SF. You would be able to join the Society’s Mentor Scheme as a trainee saddle fitter which is open to those who have attended the Introductory Course.

Full details of the requirements for the exam can be found on the SMS website under ‘Training’ then ‘Courses’. With this in mind the SMS formulated the Qualified SaddleFitters course, a more advanced course 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.

Once a Saddle Fitter achieves their qualified status they will need to attend a refresher day every two years to maintain their qualification. Qualified saddle fitters should also 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 socialize with other like minded SMS members within the same industry and learn from each other. Saddle fitters who read the feature and submit correct answers to the quiz will be awarded one CPD point from the Society of Master Saddlers (SMS).

The SMS is a forward-thinking Society which encourages education, communication and co-operation between professionals attending horses and ponies. We consider all relevant aspects which may assist saddle fitting and acupuncture, as a recognized therapy, is in this category.

saddle roughout double running shipping sstack
(Source: www.sstack.com)

As acupuncture can help in the diagnosis and treatment of these presenting signs, I would encourage an increase in referrals from qualified saddle fitters to an acupuncturist for these ‘problem’/complex saddle fitting issues. Treatment involves the insertion of fine needles at precisely located acupuncture points.

From a TCM point of view, needle stimulation moves energy in the body and aims to resolve any blockages or ‘stagnation’ that can occur in the channels or ‘meridians’ that run over the whole body. As research into the mechanism of action of acupuncture has progressed, we are starting to realize that these channels correspond to facial planes that overlie muscles and nerves.

The GV runs directly along the spine at the midline and will be affected by a saddle with too narrow a gullet or one which shifts to one side when ridden. The CV runs along the midline along the belly of the horse and can be affected by a poorly fitted girth. The BL is the longest meridian in the body.

If you have seen physiotherapists using kinesthetic tape along the neck, spine and down the back legs, they are basically utilizing the pathway of the BL meridian. This is to avoid serious injury to underlying tissues, nerves, blood vessels, joints and even organs.

It is deemed so effective that it is actually classed as ‘doping’ in some countries and is not allowed to be performed within a number of days of a competition. I am often asked to examine and treat horses for low grade chronic lameness, and find there is also an issue with saddle fit.

saddle total girth horse pad half
(Source: coloradohorseforum.com)

Sometimes, after acupuncture treatment, the horse is sound but has marked muscle imbalance which needs to be built up slowly through exercise. April Senior BSC MA Moves Marva Midas is a qualified vet who now specializes in acupuncture for horses, dogs and cats.

She worked in first opinion vet practice and as a senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool School of Veterinary Science. Put simply, a saddler is someone who works at a bench, makes saddlery items and repairs and makes adjustments, while a saddle fitter is someone who works with horses and riders in the field, checking to ensure a good fit, and supplying new saddles where required.

Master Saddler, harness maker and saddle fitter Mark Fisher began his career with the King's Troop in 1982 and qualified as an RESF (Registered Qualified Saddle Fitter) in the early nineties, when the qualification was first introduced. Training costs around £2000, but you'll also face the initial outlay of buying 25 saddles, which is a requirement.

Once you've found a saddler to work with (who could be from a manufacturer), training qualifying as a saddle fitter takes between three and four years. A four-day course at the end of this period ensures you're doing the job the SMS way and then you're assessed while fitting a dressage and GP saddle.

Ex-racehorses can have additional back problems such as scoliosis or a kyphosis (spinal alignment issues) which require wider clearance of the spine. It would be normal practice for initial re-training to be purely groundwork prior to even contemplating a saddle fit, so that all issues can be minimized.

saddle hunter working fitting richardson debbie saddles
(Source: www.djrichardson.net)

Achieving a good fit may result in not having the commonly recognized full 3 to 4 fingers of space above the wither but if no contact is made and there is no interference then we can accept this ‘break from the norm’. On a rising top line (croup high) horse a deep rear gusset would drive the saddle into the muscles behind the shoulder.

As the back lifts the top line flattens reducing the exaggerated high wither increasing the space at the head of the saddle once the horse is in motion. We work with many horses that have been diagnosed with kissing spine to varying degrees from very mild through to surgery being recommended.

A wide gullet keeps the spine free, which is particularly important for ex-racehorses that have been subjected to traditional racing saddles that sit on the spine; whilst a deeper panel supports the saddle lower down and further back, enabling us to leave the points set a little wider. Higher up in the panel and along its length the saddle rests on the longissimus Doris muscle, transferring forces to the spine and the pelvis and so down through the legs.

A small cost for regular check-ups on your saddle is the route to savings worth hundreds of pounds in corrective treatments if you get it wrong. Using a Society of Master Saddlers' Registered Qualified Saddle Fitter assures knowledgeable and professional service of the highest standard.

The Society instituted and continues to operate and monitor their professional saddle fitting qualification which is available to UK and international candidates. The qualification has been approved by the City & Guilds London Institute / NPC, an internationally and UK government recognized awarding body.

saddle fitting equine puzzle anderson
(Source: andersonequine.wordpress.com)

Your Society of Master Saddlers' Qualified Saddle Fitter wants to provide a professional service based on knowledge and integrity. Why use a fitter Only a few years ago ‘ saddle fitting’ was something in which the vast majority of horse owners displayed little interest.

They must be able to age horses and describe them in detail, undertake back examinations and locate asymmetric development or sensitive or sore areas. In 2000 the Society took a further important step when, with a view to extending expertise in other countries and so improving equine welfare, it launched the Overseas Retailers Qualified SaddleFitters Course.

The Society has played the major role in educating horse owners and riders about the importance of correctly fitting saddles and is always willing to contribute editorials for any type of equestrian feature and to provide advice in response to readers’ questions. The recently qualified BHS assistant instructor, the horse owner’s best friend, the vet, the farrier, the physiotherapist... Uncle Tom Cobra and all.

SMS qualified saddle fitters are professionals who wish to offer the best possible services but this can only be achieved when they are allowed to employ their expertise to the full and without hindrance. As well as having in-depth knowledge of the NSC range, I can also advise on and fit all other brands and I am happy to recommend any suitable saddles within your budget.

I have all your saddlery and leather repairs covered, from intricate stitching work to heavy-duty items. For more involved or complex saddle repairs I work alongside a fully qualified Master Saddler.

saddle fitting brands
(Source: randrcountry.co.uk)

I have completed my three year (full time) Saddle Fitting apprenticeship under Society of Master Saddlers Qualified SaddleFitters, Josephine Dance and Christine Part, so will be traveling back to England again to sit my final exams. I have attended John Cheese's Saddle Fit For Life” course, and am I working toward finishing my externship to become a Certified Equine Economist.

When I schedule saddle fitting appointments, I attempt to book clients who are in the same area on the same day, which either reduces the travel fee or it is not required. If you are out of the immediate Shankara area or you require a specific appointment slot that involves a special call out, there will be a travel charge depending on the distance.

If you are out of the immediate Shankara area or you require a specific appointment slot that involves a special call out, there will be a travel charge depending on the distance. If you are out of the immediate Shankara area or you require a specific appointment slot that involves a special call out, there will be a travel charge depending on the distance.

If you are out of the immediate Shankara area or you require a specific appointment slot that involves a special call out, there will be a travel charge depending on the distance.

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