It’s that time of year again! Last week I took a trip back to the NEC in Birmingham for the annual trade show BETA international. It was my 5th visit to the show but unlike previous years, this time I wasn’t there to compete in the trainee saddler competition, resulting in a much more relaxing day! This gave me the time to explore the show a bit and see some of the new exciting products that will be launched into the equestrian trade this year.
The highlight for me is always the equestrian fashion show. Being a horse owner and rider myself, it is always interesting to see some of the new styles in equestrian wear but really, it’s just fantastic entertainment watching a group of models performing dance routines in body protectors and riding hats!
I spent most of my time in the Saddlery area which was considerably larger than previous years. It was wonderful to see Saddlery Businesses from all areas of the Saddlery showcasing their skills. One saddler had gone all out to draw in the crowds and made a multi-coloured unicorn saddle, complete with horn! I think it goes without saying that it turned a few heads and showed some incredible creativity and skill.
I also volunteered to demonstrate some stitching skills at the Saddlery Training Centre stand for a few hours. It’s always nice to chat to people who are considering saddlery as a career option.
Last week I also collected my new splitter machine who I have affectionately named Stanley, or “flat Stanley”. For those who aren’t familiar with a splitting machine, the best way to describe it is like a pasta machine but instead of two rollers it has one roller and then a huge blade on top. When a strap of leather is pulled through it splits the substance down (making it flatter…hence the name.) I was lucky enough to get my hands on a really old machine, as a general rule with saddlery tools the older the better! The thing about old tools is the tend to have quirks so Stanley does have the habit of splitting more off the right-hand side than the left. I’ll just have to make some small adjustments but it’s quirks like this that make me love the craft even more. No two pieces are the same and every little piece of leather has had some time put into it!