In a bid to constantly review and improve saddle fitting standards in the industry the Society of Masters Saddlers (SMS) recently undertook a review of its current training methods.
The SMS prides itself on its longstanding service to the equine industry and so constantly reviews policies, training, and standards to ensure best practices are in place within the industry worldwide.
They are mindful that traditional methods need to be questioned and in some cases updated in order to optimise the welfare of the horse and to provide sound, independent advice for the riding public which is based on experience and evidence.
Recently the SMS undertook a comprehensive internal review of its current training methods. Saddle Fitting Training has undergone a refresh, and plans are in place to expand both the courses and content.
A Saddle Fitting Training Manager has also been appointed to focus on all these aspects, ensuring up-to-date best practices are being taught and subsequently delivered within the industry.
Hazel Morley, Chief Executive of SMS commented: â€œWe welcome the findings of this review, which has encouraged our industry professionals to look at new training methods and ideas which will help to keep our standards the best they can be.
â€œOur qualification is accredited by City & Guilds which is recognised worldwide, something we are proud of and wish to improve upon constantly. We are always ready to evolve whilst taking pride in traditional methods.â€
In parallel to the Societyâ€™s review, another independent research study was carried out by Centaur Biomechanics. This study, to be published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, was looking at the agreement between SMS Qualified Saddle Fitters (SMS QSF) when statically fitting saddles.
This study found that whilst there was a fairly consistent agreement between the SMS QSFs in most areas of static fit, it also identified two areas with less agreement which need further evaluating which were tree width and tree length.
The SMS has a detailed training/qualification programme, which provides continual professional development for its saddle fitters and strives to ensure that all teaching is up to date. There is limited research relating to tree width and tree length and in light of this, the SMS will be commissioning two independent studies looking at how tree width and tree length impacts the locomotion of the horse, pressure distribution of the saddle and rider position.
The findings of these studies will be issued in early 2018 and will be used to provide an update on saddle fitting guidelines which will be given to all current and future SMS QSFâ€™s. To further cement the Societyâ€™s commitment to delivering the most effectual methods of saddle fitting, an additional independent study will be carried out in 2019 reviewing the guidelines and ensuring best practice.
Adds Hazel: â€œWe eagerly await the findings of these independent studies and will use them to provide an update on saddle fitting guidelines to ensure our methods and training are at the forefront of the industry practices.â€