“Saddlefitting is such a fundamental part of the soundness and mental wellbeing of our horses that I strongly feel it should be regarded as a ‘profession’ like an equine dental technician, physiotherapist or chiropractor”, says Sue Carson, founder and Managing Director of Sue Carson Saddles.
“We’ve done a little research recently and in total we think there are no more than perhaps 400 people in the UK fitting saddles, quite a few of them only doing the odd one or two and I personally doubt whether they all have the required knowledge and experience. Looking at just those horses competing in the main affiliated disciplines and the ‘measurable’ unaffiliated sector gives a total of around 150,000 ridden horses. That works out at one saddlefitter for every 375 ridden horses.”
Sue Carson works with a network of franchisees selling the Sue Carson Saddles range of saddles and all are highly trained, alongside having successful affiliated competition experience as riders. “We have always insisted that our saddlefitters are riders”, confirms Sue, as otherwise how can they understand what a rider is ‘feeling’ from their horse and the fundamental importance of the harmony between horse and rider.”
“Too many riders still don’t have access to a good saddlefitter and many don’t understand how to find one, as not all skilled saddlefitters are amongst the 200-ish members of the Society of Master Saddlers, which for some is simply because they don’t fulfil all the membership criteria, examples of which currently include selling three or more different brands of saddles and having a shop or country store as a base.
“Currently in the UK, there is no requirement to have any qualification or experience to fit saddles and this has to be detrimental to the horse. Anyone can set up as a saddlefitter and work on what is a vital aspect of equine soundness, performance and wellbeing. I think that needs to change, as not only will it will help to attract more good people into what is a rewarding career in more ways than one, it will also make it much easier for riders to be confident that the saddlefitter they choose has the knowledge and experience to do the job competently.