The general riding public doesn’t properly understand saddlery qualifications. It’s not surprising since the system is quite complicated, and there are several different courses into saddlery, including part-time courses, full-time courses, and apprenticeships. In fact, saddle fitter and saddler are two separate jobs though most people perform both roles and the roles overlap at times.
If you want to become a highly qualified Saddler with the Society of Master Saddlers (SMS), you should first pass City & Guilds exam levels 1, 2, and 3 in both saddle making and bridle making. In fact, you can also do harness making to level 3. On the other hand, if you want to become a highly qualified member of the Society of Master Saddlers, you should get full public liability and product liability insurance while agreeing to abide by the rules of conduct.
You need to get through the reflocking examination and have 7 years of experience in the trade and be qualified for a minimum of 3 years to qualify as a Master Saddler. You should then present some items that you have made (bridle and saddle) to be assessed by the SMS committee. If not, you should have premium awards from the annual SMS saddlery competition.
On the other hand, if you want to become an SMS-qualified saddle fitter, you should attend the 2-day introductory course. This course is available to qualified saddles, vets, riding instructors, and physiotherapists. You should then work with a qualified Saddle Fitter for at least 3 years before you should attend another course & sit an examination. In case you are not a Master Saddler already, you should also get through the reflocking examination. The Master Saddler Fitter is a brand new category introduced in 2018. If you want to become a master saddler fitter, you should have at least 7 years of experience in saddle fitting and be qualified for at least 3 years. You should provide references from other saddle fitters and clients.
Master saddler fitter and master saddler categories should not be confused with MSFC or Master Saddle Fitting Consultants, which is a saddle fitting course from the Netherlands. This was originally set up by the SMS members but is not overseen by them. In fact, it’s entirely separate from the SMS.
There is no law in the United Kingdom to say that saddle fitters and saddlers must be qualified. On the other hand, the job position of Master Saddler isn’t protected by law. In fact, anyone can call himself a master saddler even if he has nothing to do with the SMS. You should beware of the qualifications for the posts of saddler and saddle fitter. In case you are not sure of the qualifications, check the website of the Society of Master Saddlers.