Saddlery and Saddle Fitting Qualifications Explained
Saddlery qualifications are very poorly understood by the general riding public. Not surprisingly, as
the system is complicated. There are several different routes into saddlery that are available,
including full or part time courses and apprenticeships.
It must be remembered that saddler and saddle fitter are two separate jobs, although some people
do both roles and the roles do overlap.
To become a Qualified Saddler with the Society of Master Saddlers (SMS) it is necessary to pass City
and Guilds exams levels 1 2 and 3 in both bridle making and saddle making. This involves making 2 saddles from scratch, and various bridles and other items of different designs all to the required standards. Some of these items must be done as part of timed assessments, and there are also written theory papers. (There is also Harness Maker to levels 2 and 3)
To become a registered qualified member of the Society of Master Saddlers you
must also have full public liability and product liability insurance and agree to abide by the rules of
To become a Master Saddler you must also pass the reflocking exam and have at least 7 years in the
trade and be qualified for a minimum of 3 years. You must then present some items that you have
made such as bridle and saddle to be assessed by the SMS committee, or have premium awards
from the annual SMS saddlery competition.
To become an SMS Qualified Saddle Fitter you must first attend a two day introductory course,
which is only open to certain candidates such as qualified saddlers, riding instructors, vets and
physiotherapists. You must then do 3 years of working alongside a Qualified Saddle Fitter, after
which you attend another course and sit the exam. If you are not already a Master Saddler you must
also pass the reflocking exam.
To upgrade to Master Saddle Fitter, which was a brand new category introduced in 2018 you must have a minimum of 7 years experience of saddle fitting and have been qualified for a minimum of 3 years. You must also provide many references from clients and other saddle fitters.
To stay on the SMS register of Qualified or Master Saddle Fitters, you must attend the saddle fitting refresher course every two years, gain CPD points yearly and agree to abide by the code of conduct.
To become a Qualified Bridle Fitter which is a new SMS qualification opened in 2022 you must first attend the introductory course followed by at least two years of study and training, then attend a further course and sit the exam which includes an hour long written paper, and 3.5 hours of practical assessments.
The categories of Master Saddler and Master Saddle Fitter must not be confused with those who are
called Master Saddle Fitting Consultants. (MSFC.) This is a saddle fitting course and qualification
from the Netherlands which was originally set up by SMS members but which is not actually
overseen by the SMS or allied to the SMS. It is completely separate from the SMS.
Beware cheap imitations!
Unfortunately there is no law in the UK that says saddlers or saddle fitters must be qualified, and the
title of Master Saddler is not protected by law, so anyone can call themselves a master saddler even
if they hold no qualifications, and anyone can call themselves a saddle fitter, even with little or no training. So please beware!
If you are unsure what qualifications your saddler or saddle fitter holds, please check the website of the Society of Master Saddlers where all members and their qualifications are listed.