A couple of weeks ago it was that time of year, where all the introverted bench saddlers put on “normal” clothes and head into London for the National Saddlery Competition. Usually held in February, the annual competition was postponed this year due to obvious reasons. It’s so strange to think back to the 2020 competition, where we naively joked about the “coronavirus” that was just starting to appear in the news. Little did we know that a few weeks later we would be in a national lockdown.
Anyway, it was fantastic that the event was able to go ahead only a few months later than originally scheduled, and it was great to get back to a sense of normalcy. I did my classic thing of over anticipating how much I can do and entering more classes than I should have (will I ever learn?) I did however manage to complete two entries for the competition.
My first entry was for the President’s Choice Class. Most of the classes are for fairly standard saddler items but this class is a novelty class with a theme that is picked by the President of the Society of Master Saddlers. The other fun thing about this class is that it is displayed at BETA International, and part judged by members of the public. The theme this year was “For the Love of Dogs”. I decided to improve on my previous design of a poo bag holder, but this time I also added a little poo carrier attachment. I have found this is an incredibly difficult item to describe so I will insert the pictures of it in action to help you understand.
My second entry was in the Intermediate Bridle Class. This class is for members who have been in the trade for less than 7 years, so it was my last opportunity. This year the class requirement was to make “Any type of leather Headcollar or Halter for Horse or Livestock.” Conveniently I had a headcollar order placed a few months earlier and my customer very kindly agreed to a slightly longer wait time than usual. I made a simple headcollar design using an Australian Nut coloured leather with my signature stitch pattern in a gorgeous turquoise coloured thread. As those of you who follow my social media accounts will have seen, I was lucky enough to be awarded first place and a premium award for my entry.
One of my favourite things about entering the National Saddlery Competition, is receiving feedback on my work from some of the best saddlers in the country. Throughout my training, every piece of college work was assessed and every item I made as an apprentice was checked by my employer. Since completing my apprenticeship I have to assess my own work, and as my harshest critic that results in a lot of negative feedback! The feedback sheets at the competition are always so positive and encouraging, and that combined with some of the stunning pieces of work on display motivates me like nothing else. Remember, every day’s a school day and we can always strive to be better!