On Monday last week (5th February ’18), my husband and I travelled down to London to attend the Society of Master Saddlers National Saddlery Competition evening presentation as earlier this year I had submitted an entry form.
It is one of the most anticipated events of a Saddler’s diary especially if they have entered one or more of the various classes that are suitable for varying skills from Trainee/Apprentice Saddler to Master Saddler.
I had originally entered three classes: Class 2b – double bridle made to Level 3 specification; Class 4 – Leather Girth and Class 5 – A monkey/grab (Oh Sh!t) strap.
When it came to the final day of packaging the items up, I had everything neatly packed away except for the monkey/grab (Oh Sh!t) strap. I had left this piece till the last minute and when it came to stitching it up it just wouldn’t tuck in at all the right places so I gave in and withdrew it from the event. I sent just my Level 2 Atherstone girth and my Level 3 double bridle.
I won’t say I wasn’t bothered about getting a prize of some sort because that’s why us human’s enter competition, for recognition, right? BUT there was another plausible reason as to why I had entered this year…
…I have a BIG passion for British history and in particular anything to do with the Victorian era. With that I also have a fascination of anything old within the towns, cities and the countryside of Britain. Having said all that you are probably wondering what all that has to do with a Saddlery competition, yes? Well, in London there is a place called Saddler Hall which is owned by the ancient livery company for equestrian saddlery. The Hall was built in a neo-classical style and impresses with bespoke period furniture, historical antiquities and paintings and they host the National Competition each year.
I had been told by my trainer and many other Saddlers what a wonderful place it was and that I really must visit in order to appreciate it. However, in order to visit you have to have a good reason and being a competition entrant was one of them, so I entered the competition on the basis that it would at least get me ( and hubby) into the building to admire it’s glory.
I wasn’t THAT bothered about where my entries came in the competition. The evening was destined to be a night of networking with other saddlers, judges and saddlery companies as well as a lovely finger buffet and plentiful of wine or soft drinks on tap.
We got to London in just under 3 hours by car, we parked at the Barbican carpark and walked it to Gutter Lane in Cheapside.
The area seemed to be popular for various livery Hall’s – Candle Chandaleir and Ironmongers were amongst them but we was looking for Saddlers Hall with it’s horse head bollards outside and it’s blue and yellow flag blowing in the wind.
We entered the building, took off our jackets and proceeded upstairs to the various open plan rooms where all the entries were laid out. The judging had all taken place the Friday before so we were just waiting to be ushered into the main hall for the presentation.
I went and looked at where my two entries were and to look at the other entries also. The standard of work was very impressive and some of the pieces made by Master Saddlers just blew your mind away. I saw that both of my entries had not been given a prize but there was an envelope of feedback available (which is just as important in my book).
We were ushered into the main hall and the presentation began. I was so pleased for everyone who got a prize and it was an honour to be there and very inspiring. I’d like to think I can enter something good enough to receive a prize of some sort next year. I cannot wait for the schedule to be released.
After all the presentations were made we were allowed to go back out into the main rooms and look at the entries again whilst the buffet was being put out. The wine started to flow but sadly we were driving back home after the event so just one glass of wine and then orange juice or coffee was order of the night. The buffet was scrumptious. I’ve never had such a small plate to contend with at a buffet table but alas I was able to try a little of everything lol.
At the end of the night we were able to collect our entries and feedback envelopes as we left. I opened my envelopes and was pleasantly surprised to have received 73/100 points for my double bridle entry. Had I received 75 points I would have won a Premium Award but never mind the feedback was very constructive and I could understand where and why I lost points on my piece; I can only get better from now on, right?
We were told that the event had been filmed by Horse and Country TV and was to be shown on Sky T.V sometime the week after. Sadly I don’t have access to either Horse and Country T.V or Sky so I missed out on seeing the report of the night but many other Saddlers have said it was well documented. You could view the post by clicking here.
What an amazing night; until next year…