Master Saddler and Society of Master Saddlers’ Registered Qualified Saddle Fitter, Kay Hastilow answers:
What is the best way to find a Qualified Saddle Fitter? Are there any qualifications I can look for?
There are many people out there claiming to be saddle fitters but in my opinion there is only one qualifying association that you should turn to for a properly qualified saddle fitter and that’s The Society of Master Saddlers.
The qualification was started in 1995, so they have 25 years’ experience in training, bringing on and assessing fitters under the auspices of the City of Guilds qualification board.
Having attended the Introductory course run by the Society, trainees (known as trainee saddle fitters) will continue fitting under the watchful eye of their Mentor for a total of three years, at which time they can attend the Qualified Saddle Fitter’s course. This is followed by a stiff assessment that includes a written paper, completely re-flocking a saddle, adjusting the flock in a saddle, assessing conformation and movement, back assessment, templating, identifying materials used in the manufacture of saddles, checking saddles for safety and soundness and then fitting two saddles, including ridden assessment of suitability for both the horse and rider – one a dressage saddle and the second (on a different horse) a GP or jumping saddle. Most certainly not everyone passes, many achieving their qualification on the second attempt.
Once qualified, SMS RQSFs have to achieve CPD points through the year to keep their registration (that’s the R in the title) so that standards are kept high and new information can be shared.
In addition to the RQSF Qualification there are Registered Master Saddle Fitters – those that have practiced in this field for many years to a very high standard and undertaken further confirmation as to their abilities.
Please do not confuse a Master Saddle Fitter or Qualified Saddle Fitter) with a Master Saddler or Qualified Saddler. These qualification holders are highly skilled at making saddles, bridles and leatherwork but are not necessarily saddle fitters. Each is a separate skill set and, whilst some QSFs or MSFs are also Qualified or Master Saddlers this is not a given. Please choose the skill that you need.
To find your nearest qualified saddle fitter visit The Society of Master Saddlers’ web site, www.mastersaddlers.co.uk where you will be able to see those in your area and their qualifications. I am sure that you will find someone good near to you who can help you with all of your saddle fitting needs.