Thursday 13th of May 2021

Busy Year for Society of Master Saddlers

THIS year’s Society of Master Saddlers’ AGM took place at York Racecourse and was very well attended with members travelling from all parts of the country.


As well as society business the day also provided the opportunity for members to gain a fascinating behind the scenes look at the immaculately kept racecourse thanks to the Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course William Darby, Assistant Clerk of the Course Anthea Morshead and former jockey and current groundsman John Murray.


© The York Racecourse Tour

The day started with AGM matters including reports from Officers and the Chief Executive, Hazel Morley who described a very busy 12 months full of variety and challenges that had seen the society in a very healthy position.

Said Hazel: “It has been a very busy and successful year for the society with a number of new developments.

“Over the last 12 months we have taken up the challenge from our craft members to help them to progress with their training and looked at our CPD programme, increasing the offering to include more training modules for saddlers.  

“Topics which were added were tool sharpening and maintenance, case restoration, sewing machine maintenance and competition tips.  These one day modules took place at various venues around the country from as far north as Manchester and as far south as Salisbury.  These were well supported and some had a waiting list so will be repeated next year.  

“We haven’t forgotten our saddle fitters, however, and have been running one-day Saddle Adjustment modules where fitters can discuss and compare fitting issues. Again, these have been spread around the country from Sussex to Lancashire giving a large proportion of members the chance to attend an event near to them.  On the business side we have held a very interesting and useful seminar on the subject of patents and intellectual property rights.

“We made an exciting appointment in December when Catherine Morris was taken on as the Society’s new Development Officer.  Catherine’s remit is, as the title suggests, to develop the Society to make it more widely known to the public and to forge closer links with other equestrian organisations to reach the grass roots rider thus improving welfare as well as bringing more riders through the doors of members.  

“Since she took up her position we are already working more closely with the BHS, British Show Jumping and the Pony Club and have interaction with BEVA and ACPAT with more alliances planned.  

“A second addition to the SMS team was made at the beginning of the year when Alastair Sutherland took on the role of Saddle Fitting Training Manager.

“Having Alastair in place to build on our courses and develop a clear training route for saddle fitters of the future will give the SMS the chance of staying at the forefront of this field.  We are also pleased to have the chance to be involved in the Saddle Fitting Steering Group, chaired by The Saddlers’ Company and so to work with other organisations for the good of the industry and we have very recently been involved in the Rider Weight Project, a study looking at appropriate horse and rider combinations.

“On the subject of saddle fitting and with the objective of staying at the forefront of saddle fitting expertise we have introduced compulsory CPD for saddle fitters.  SMS Registered Qualified Saddle Fitters are already required to attend the Refresher Day once every two years and now they will be expected to gain some further CPD points to ensure that they stay up-to-date and continue with their education.  

“Work is also currently being undertaken in developing a bridle fitting qualification.  The Society’s City & Guilds saddle fitting certificate is currently being reviewed and we plan to link both the bridle fitting and Flocking assessments as separate units.  This will give us a very strong suite of internationally recognised qualifications.

“I would like to finish with thanks to Sue Norton and Laura Dempsey for their help during the year. To the Executive committee for all their hard work and to those on the Management Group who have not already had a mention – Steve Marks, Mark Romain and Laurence Pearman for being an invaluable source of support and advice.”

The AGM saw the appointment of Sue Norton as new President of the SMS with Chris Taylor stepping into the Vice President’s role.

To find out more information on The Society of Master Saddlers visit

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