To a non-horsey person that must sound like utter gibberish, but the horse lovers amongst us know that every item we purchase for our horse to wear (apart from rugs and saddles) tends to come in three sizes, “Pony”, “Cob” and “Full”. Now that’s perhaps a little brash, some places now offer “X-Full” or “Warmblood” as measurements or perhaps “Small Pony” but realistically there aren’t enough options given the range of horses we have.
Firstly, how many of you have a horse that fits one of these sizes perfectly? “She’s not quite a “Full” but too big for a “Cob!”” “The “Full” fits, I just need to punch some extra holes!” “I just bought the bridle in two sizes and use the “Cob” headpiece and the “Pony” cheekpieces.” Sound familiar? If you just think about it, there are so many different breeds and types of horses, how can we possibly think that 3 sizes will fit them all? Let’s use a bridle as an example. Is a 12hh show pony really going to fit the same size bridle as a 12hh Exmoor? Will a 16hh thoroughbred take the same bridle as a 16hh Irish draught? I think not.
But even two remarkably similar horses, say two 16.2hh ISH geldings, may have small differences that could result in their bridles fitting differently. One could have a slightly longer head, a narrower nose or longer cheek bones. Another factor to be considered is what type of bit are they ridden in. A bridle may fit a horse beautifully in his snaffle, but change to a leverage bit for cross country and suddenly the cheekpieces are far too long.
You may have read all of that and think, ok that makes sense, but I actually have a horse that genuinely does fit a “Full” size. Well, I hate to break it to you, but there is no consistency with sizing across brands (ladies I’m sure you can relate!) Just now I have googled “Full size bridle measurements” and for the cheekpieces alone, I found four different measurements: 9”, 9.5”, 10.5” and 11”. So, when someone asks me to make a “Full” sized product and I just stare blankly back, this is why, I don’t know what size that is?!
To summarise, I’m sorry if it’s a bit of a pain having to get actual measurements for me, but I promise that there is good reason for it and hopefully a better fit as a result.
Well it’s that time of year again; the days are shorter, the weather is horrible, and all the saddlers in the country flock to London for the annual National Saddlery Competition.
This year was another big year for me. After signing off from my apprenticeship in 2019, it was time for me to collect my completion certificate, officially marking the end of my training as a saddler. As some of you may remember, when I signed onto my apprenticeship back in 2017, I was presented with my portfolio by HRH The Princess Royal, master of the Worshipful Company of Saddlers. So, what better way to bring things to an end than being presented with my completion certificate by Her Royal Highness. It feels both sad and exciting, the end of an era but also the start of the next chapter.
I also chose to enter the competition itself. I decided to go a little wild this year and enter the President’s Choice class. This class is a little different to the other classes, which consist mainly of saddles and bridlework. This year the class was for any leather item with a nautical theme, in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers’ voyage on the Mayflower. The only other guidelines given were that it should be made using traditional hand skills. I “ummed and ahed” about what I could enter but by Christmas I had come to the decision of making a lighthouse! Giving myself a bit of time off over Christmas meant that I then had two weeks to create a lighthouse out of leather.
I tried to keep to a fairly simple design for my lighthouse, and luckily, I had both some red and some white leather left over from previous projects. This coupled with a lovely hexagonal marmalade jar made for a lovely traditional looking striped lighthouse. I added a few fun little details like windows, doors with little gold doorknobs and a little wind vane on the top. Thanks to a little help from Dad, I was able to run a light up the lighthouse into the jar which was switched on via a little switch hidden in some leather rocks.
When we attended the competition at Saddlers Hall, it was fantastic to see the huge number of entries across the classes. The standard of work was excellent, and it really is a wonderful showcase for the trade. I was absolutely thrilled to be given a premium award for my entry. These awards are given to entries that demonstrate excellent craftsmanship and to receive one on my first entry in an open class has given me a well needed boost for the start of the year!