By Rosemary on Friday, the 13th of April, 2018
Martin Wilkinson Saddlers
Martin was one of the first group of Saddlers to achieve the saddle fitting qualification offered by the Society of Master Saddlers, a qualification which is now recognised world-wide. Martin went on to be an assessor for the SMS saddle fitting qualification and is now a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Saddlers. Supporting Martin, the business has two other fully qualified saddle fitters, Kate Watson and Nicole Louer, both of whom are also Master Saddlers. There is a common misconception that a qualified saddle fitter and a master saddler are one and the same thing but in fact they are two entirely separate qualifications - having both means that you are fully qualified to work on and adjust saddles, an important consideration when choosing a saddle fitter.
The saddle fitters are ably supported by Szylvia Komondi in the saddle workshop, who is herself advanced in her training to be a saddle fitter and is also a Master Saddler.
At Martin Wilkinson,
the horses' welfare is always the most important consideration together with
the riders' needs in all the various disciplines and equestrian sports so that
individual horse and rider combinations can achieve optimum comfort and
There can be few horse owners who now fail to recognize that the saddle, and the way in which it fits, is fundamentally important to the welfare, comfort and success of both horse and rider and at Martin Wilkinson the staff are actively involved in research into the effect of various types of saddle on the horses’ movement and comfort.
So why should you get your saddle checked and why, if a saddle has been made specifically for your horse should it need checking again? Well, fortunately, there is now a greater understanding that horses 'change shape' for a variety of reasons (growth, changes in work, diet, fitness, illness,) and so the saddle which fitted when it was purchased may require adjustment, alteration and even , in some cases, exchange at a later date. This means that it is vital that your saddle is checked regularly and that the horse owner keeps a watchful eye out for signs of discomfort or distress. Bear in mind however that you see your horse every day and gradual changes are hard to spot unless you regularly use a weigh tape to monitor your horses’ condition. Just like us, those few extra calories can make a big difference over time and you yourself don’t notice those extra pounds until you come to try on your holiday clothes! Also you must remember that the flocking in the saddle panel is natural wool, an organic material, and so will move and flatten over time and will need to be realigned and rebalanced.
So what should you look out for when checking the saddle yourself? Well, a very rough guide to signs that your saddle may need some attention are a feeling of being tipped forward or backwards, causing lower back pain for the rider, legs being pushed forwards or backwards and not sitting in the centre of the saddle seat. From the ground, you should be able to look to check that your saddle is in balance.
You should have approximately two fingers’ width clearance between the front arch and the horses’ wither. But this is only a very rough guide – a qualified saddle fitter will have spent at least four years studying conformation, gait, equine anatomy, saddle and tree design and fit to be able to give you an expert opinion on not just the fit of your saddle but whether or not it is the right saddle for your horse.
So what can you expect when you have an appointment with Martin Wilkinson Saddlers? Firstly the saddle fitter will take a template of your horses’ back and a photograph of the horse in profile. He or she will then check the fit of the saddle and may ask you to ride – if they feel the saddle is a bad fit and is causing the horse discomfort, they will not ask you to ride for obvious reasons! If your saddle is a good fit then they will congratulate you and go merrily on their way but if not, then they will advise you as to whether your saddle can be adjusted to fit – some saddles can be reflocked and rebalanced, others may need to be retreed or you may be fortunate to have a fully adjustable saddle. We always try the cheapest option for the customer first but on some occasions there is no option but to replace the saddle and if that is the case then we will search our range of second hand saddles first.
What sets Martin Wilkinson Saddlers apart from others is the level and depth of experience and expertise within the business – we are probably the most experienced team of saddlers and saddle fitters in the South East and so you know when you contact us that you will be offered an extensive range of saddles if you are buying new or second hand and that the advice you will receive is the most up to date and knowledgeable possible