The definition of a Saddler is ‘
As well as making and repairing saddlery, some Saddlers will restore antique saddles, such as side saddles, although this is only possible if they have learned the correct skills required to restore such old saddles as there is an element of health and safety that has to be taken into consideration along with comfort both for the horse and rider.
Most work is done on an individual, custom-made/special order basis and involves expert craftsmanship. Some Saddlers are qualified as Saddle Fitters too but this is not a requirement.
Qualified Saddlers will often train for a minimum of three years as an individual and will sit level 2 and level 3 City and Guilds saddlery qualifications, or they will undertake a 4 year apprenticeship. Qualified Saddlers will only be able to class themselves as a ‘Master Saddler’ once they have been in the trade for a minimum of 7 years.
Saddle making is an ancient skill and although tools and techniques have advanced over the years the basics have remained the same. The best-made saddles are usually made to measure and for the comfort of both the horse and rider. Leather colour, softness and overall design of the saddle is often customised to suit the customers requirements.
Traditional Saddlers will tan the leather themselves but most will purchase ready-to-use leather from tanneries in large sized sheets, called hides. The leather is then cut and stitched by hand (or machine) to make the required item.
The price of custom made saddles simply does not compare with that of the cheaper manufactured saddles that are being made in bulk today, therefore modern day Saddlers have had to adapt their skills to repairing and making other items involving leather, such as boots, bags, belts, jackets etc to simply make a regular living.
It will never be a get rich quick sort of occupation but the freedom, flexibility and job satisfaction far out weighs this.