Saddler Training: The What, The Where and The How!

Since I started blogging (in 2016), about my journey to becoming a Saddler, I have been asked on many occasions how I found the saddler training; so I thought I’d write a post about it.

Firstly, I did what most people must do…I searched Google!

I don’t know about you but since the Internet has become THE place to be, whenever I need a question answering and I don’t have direct access to an expert, then I always look up Google.

So, I searched for ‘Saddler Training’ and the results gave me three options:

  1. Saddlery and Leatherwork @ Capel Manor College
  2. Saddlery Training Centre, and
  3. Training via the Society of Master Saddlers website.

Now, because I am a perfectionist and understand a ‘Society of’ anything must be THE place to start, I clicked on their website.

At first glance there is a list of saddlers you can become from a Registered Trainee, a Qualified Saddler to a Master Saddler in the three genres: Saddle, Bridle or Harness Making. There is also a pathway to becoming a Master Saddler diagram which was pretty useful to look at and helped me decide where to go next.

By looking at the pathway diagram I could see that because I had NO experience in making saddlery I had three options:

1) Get an Apprenticeship – which is usually the best option for school leavers but that’s only if you can find a Master Saddler who will take you on as an apprentice. Note: If you want to go down this route, you have to find your own placement with a Master Saddler then contact the Society of Master Saddlers.

2) Attend Capel Manor College, Enfield (London) – on a full time two year diploma course. Again this option is usually for school leavers but they do accept adult learners if capacity allows it, so if you can relocate, for two years, then this is the next best option, to an apprenticeship, in my opinion. Note: This course is normally free for school leavers but there may be a cost implication for adult learners.

3) Self Funded Training Courses/Workshops – are the most popular option adult learners have to take, usually due to working full time or have other commitments. This is the option I had to go with because I was working full time, had a young family, a husband and a house to look after.

What I did next you can emulate but if you want to find out what will be the best option for you I suggest you have a chat with Hazel Morley, at the Society of Master Saddlers who will be able to give you further guidance. Her contact details are available here.

If you want to follow in my footsteps then this is what I did next:

a) I contacted Chris Taylor, a Master Saddler who was listed under the ‘Alternative Training’ title here on the Society of Master Saddlers website. He runs workshops from his shop Saddlers Den in Southport for a small fee.

b) I attended a 5 day course with Chris to learn the basics of leather work. During this week I made a belt, a keyring and a snaffle bridle. Note: What and how much you make during the week will depend on the speed of the group picking up all the techniques.

c) After having a wonderful week of learning with Chris I asked for advice on doing the official qualifications. He advised me that they are only available by attending courses at Capel Manor College in Enfield or by getting onto a training scheme at the Saddlery Training Centre. However, you cannot attend the Saddlery Training Centre until you have completed a more advanced training course, and/or obtained some experience, with a Master Saddler. I decided to book onto Chris’ intermediate leather work course which was another 5 days long.

d) I attended the 5 day Intermediate course with Chris to learn more advanced leather work techniques. During this week we did a variety of stitching techniques and I made a plaited browband, a rolled dog collar and I prepared all the pieces for another bridle which included padding. Please be aware that what and how much you complete during this week will depend on the trainer and time available.

e) After completing the Intermediate course with Chris, he then advised me to contact Mark Romain at the Saddlery Training Centre to get myself onto the waiting list for the City and Guilds Level 2 course in Saddlery Making. I made the call. I was advised I may have to wait 12 months before I was able to start officially.

f) Thankfully I only waited 9 months before I was able to attend my first 5 day course at the Saddlery Training Centre. I had to pay for the course upfront as well as obtain a basic tool kit, provide evidence of leatherwork I had made and a further payment would need to be made at the end of the week for materials used, so I warn you, it is not cheap!

However, there are bursaries you can apply for. They are means tested individually case by case and the amount you get awarded will depend on how much your household brings in. I contacted local charities to where I lived also and was awarded some money towards training costs but this will depend on your area.

Alternatively, try the HMRC website here, they too have some information on grants and bursaries possibly available specifically for adult learners.

So, whatever, you decide, GOOD LUCK and feel free to comment below any questions you may have. I will do my best to answer them.

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