Master Saddler and Registered Qualified Saddle Fitter, with the Society of Masters Saddlers’ Karen Lewis tells us about life in lockdown and how she’s looking to the future.
A Time to Look to the Future
Tell us a bit about daily life before Covid19?
Daily life pre Covid-19 was just starting to get busier after the wet winter with clients looking forward to warmer weather and more riding. My saddle fitting diary was booked from March until May with regular clients ready for saddle check and new horses purchased waiting for a fitted saddle.
I travel to clients four days a week and spend two days at the bench in my workshop carrying out repairs and made-to- measure bridlework and leathergoods. Spring is typically the time that clients start to order new show bridles or replace tack that has made it through the hard work of winter.
I had also been busy planning demos and lectures to be carried out later in the year with both private groups and public demonstrations. I work with other professionals to deliver these demos, vet physios, instructors and human physios.
How has routine changed and how do you now fill your time?
Due to the restrictions and warnings I chose to see my last client on March 20 just before we were advised to lockdown. I had some final repairs to finish in the workshop and posted them back to clients. The first week I spent mostly at home with my mum, contacting clients and making sure we had the food and medicines needed for the extended period of lockdown.
Luckily my workshop is on a private farm and under strict control measures with no contact and cleaning I have been able to get in most days. I have tried to keep a fairly regular routine of some days at work and the weekend at home.
The farm also has an allotment that I make use of in the summer for planting vegetables and over winter bedding plants in their poly-tunnel. I always plant baskets and pots outside the front of the farm each year – my landlord jokes it is like Chelsea Flower Show! I had not thought too much about the benefit of this but the gardening is a great stress buster and being able to get out and garden still has been of great benefit to my mental health.
I have managed to complete a few projects in the workshop that I never would have had time to do, making patterns for hunting canteens copying antique originals and just perfecting my box and case work! I have also made leather head collars, bridles and am more than halfway through restoring a Mayhew side-saddle.
I do not have horses anymore so have been missing the contact with them.
Moving forward I have re-arranged my workshop and created another work bench. My sister used to come in weekly to help me and of course I will need to ensure we can work whilst distancing. I have also been writing up some instructions for a pupil to home stitch a head collar as she cannot come to see me for tuition!
Let’s look at the positives – what, if anything will you be doing different in the future?
I am now preparing to go back to work with safety precautions in place – ensuring I have sufficient stocks of gloves and washing facilities, and sending clients a pre appointment risk assessment and information form so they are prepared and know what to expect.
I imagine that the way I visit clients will stay at the distancing method for some time yet to come and do not expect to be able to see so many clients in a day as I could before. I am looking to work in much closer arrangement with a local physio to prescribe exercise and posture improvement to a lot of horses who will have had a prolonged period away from regular work.
Will you change the way you work, or would you like to develop further skills?
I would like to spend more time at the bench going forward as I have enjoyed getting some more in-depth projects completed and I have a few clients who would love to be able to come and do some short leatherworking courses so that is something I am also planning for later in the year.
I would be keen to attend some harness making courses as this is something I have enjoyed making but have not done in recent years. I wish to spend some more time designing my own saddlery items and am looking at new saddle designs coming onto the market for my clients. I may also taking on an apprentice next year to share the skills I have.
I have enjoyed the time to be able to totally engross myself in the creative process without having to pick up and put down work so will be looking towards the possibility of having a day a week clients visiting me at the farm where I have a riding arena and parking.
For more information visit www.mastersaddlers.co.uk or contact The Society of Master Saddlers on 01449 711642.