Thirty Years of Saddle Fitting - How Did That Start?
Well, I guess the reason I ended up saddle fitting is the same reason you are reading this page and that's our affinity with the horse.
On my eighth birthday my Mum arranged for me and a few friends to go for a riding lesson and I guess that's where it all started for me and all ended for my younger sister as a pony stood on her foot, but I had got the bug!!!
I started riding lessons and had my first pony when I was twelve years old, I rode my pony for the first three weeks without a saddle and it felt like a lifetime............... so I know how a customer feels when they have just acquired a horse and want a saddle yesterday and I get a flashback of my own situation.
My first pony proved a little too much for me and we ended up exchanging him for a solid natured 13.2 pony called Penny, who was a excellent first pony that taught me so much and gave me so much confidence and enjoyment. Then one day whilst hacking her out we came across a 3 year old 14.2 pony that had just jumped out of his field called Brandy who followed us home and he ended being my next project I broke him to ride and drive.
I was lucky enough to attend the Newark College Horse Management Course and was taught by Anna Louise Day-bell, Cherry Elvin, and the lovely, very respected late Sue Fairburn and Jean Rogerson.
Show jumping has always been my passion and I worked doing just that from the age of 18 to 29 in three different yards, Roger Ginley's at Ruffoth Park in Yorkshire who bought and sold horses and ran the best B.S.J.A.Shows ever, I learned so much about show jumping, breaking and schooling, course building and producing horses for sale. I then worked for Mrs M.A. Burridge over at Sutton on Sea doing similar and had some stunning horses to ride, I then went to ride for the late Frank Hardy who was a pleasure to work for show jumping. I then worked freelance show jumping for different owners, breaking, schooling and selling horses and ponies and freelance teaching.
It was during this time that I discovered horses were much more sensitive than I originally thought in different saddles, I started to buy secondhand saddles and started to sell them though word of mouth and advertising in local new papers, at this time there was not many people offering this service, I was sourcing the saddles from local saddleries, the owner of one of the saddleries was wanting to sell the business and spent the last six months of her time at the shop teaching me to do saddle repairs and making up new saddlery items, the new owner of the shop asked me to run the shop for him, I started to do more saddle fitting and went full time into the shop .On his retirement 7 years later I carried on saddle fitting on my own.
I was on the first ever Master Saddlers' Qualified Saddle Fitting Course in 1997 and was one of the seven that passed out of fourteen. I carried on with the saddlery training and the making of new saddlery items and attended open saddlery courses at The Saddlery Training Centre based down in Salisbury where I was taught by the very respected Mark Romain. About a year later a place became available on a three year training course (The New Entrants Training Scheme) which I was very lucky to be offered. Some of the work on this course I had already covered on the open courses but it was a pleasure to repeat as I always learned so much from each course. I completed the three year training course which was 6 weeks out of the year and at the end of the course I was informed that The Worshipful Company of Saddlers had asked if I would like to put on permanent display an in-hand bridle that I had made during the course in The Saddlers' Hall at London which was a great honour.
I became a Qualified Saddler and then a Master Saddler after seven years and I have now been Saddle Fitting for thirty years ..... How time flies !!!
My past experience of breaking, schooling, teaching and competing horses has given me the knowledge in my daily work and the ability in the assessment of both the horse and rider as a combination to know if there could be a schooling, confidence or any other issues apart from the fit of the saddle that need to be addressed.