Letters from Zoë: March 2020

Letters from Zoë: March 2020

Letters from Zoë: March 2020

This month has been extremely hard for many professions, and with no one being able to predict what's going to happen over the next few weeks it’s essential we keep our distance and help out those in need.


I’m fortunate to have the space to work from home but I know there are so many people who have much uncertainty about their jobs and their income.
I’m extremely lucky to be able to have help from so many different people and places. Not only in a time of crisis like now but with every piece of work and every step I’ve made in the saddlery trade. In the last couple of blogs, I have mentioned the three different Apprenticeships I am completing and thought it would be key to explain who all these people are who are helping me so much with pursuing my dream of being a Master Saddler and Harness Maker as well as for people looking to get into the trade.


Let’s begin at Capel Manor College, this is where a lot of us start our journey. At Capel Manor, we train full time, four days a week for two years at competition standard. We cover almost every aspect of Saddle, Bridle and Harness making including Box Work and Accessories. While studying at Capel Manor we enter all local and National Competitions such as The National Saddlery Competition and complete all the required coursework and Level 1 in Saddlery and City & Guilds Level 2 Skill Assessments in Saddle, Bridle and Harness making which are key to enter either a Level 3 apprenticeship or mentoring programme.


From Capel Manor, I was one of the few to get a Government apprenticeship, I am enrolled on the Level 3 Bespoke Saddler as part of my full-time job. I have a week’s intensive training every two months at The Saddlery Training Centre in Salisbury with Mark Romain MBE. During this time I work towards completing the rest of my City & Guilds Skill assessments at Level 3 in Saddle, Bridle and Harness making and produce a portfolio filled with all of the necessary knowledge and information to show my development. This apprenticeship is one of the main sources of funding for many apprenticeships, the scheme provides funding for all of the off the job training weeks.


The government apprenticeship is examined by City and Guilds and the End Point Assessment Organisation is The Society of Master Saddlers. The Training Provider is Haddon Training who sub-contract the practical delivery to The Saddlery Training Centre.


The Level 3 Bespoke Saddler covers all basic exam and units as well as coursework explaining how to make each item as well as the applications and uses of different items of tack and types of leather as well as covering political, social and economic topics.


The Millennium Apprenticeship is offered by The Saddlers’ Company, they also offer funding towards the materials for items made for skill assessments, assistance with B&B costs whilst attending off the job training weeks and bursaries towards extra training when required. Upon joining the Millennium apprenticeship scheme, we are allocated places on the Introduction to Saddle Fitting Course as well as the Bridle Fitting Course.


The Government and Millennium Apprenticeship follow very similar paths, both include building a portfolio of the work during training weeks as well as off the job hours, building up over three years of experience and necessary qualifications to be put forward to certify me as a Qualified Saddler.


I have also been given the unique opportunity to be one of the first, along with Hannah O’Neill who I work alongside, to be an apprentice for the Friends of the Cotswolds. This is a charity based in The Old Prison, Northleach, which aims at preserving heritage craft in the surrounding Cotswold area. They supply us with funding and support as well as teaching a complete Business Unit which will give us the necessary information and support to set up our own business once our apprenticeships are completed.


Abbey England plays a huge part in all of our training, I work with the material and tools they supply every day I’m at the workbench and their scholarship will be used to help cover some of my material costs. There is an assumption that saddlers and leatherworkers earn good money because our products are often considered high value and expensive, when the reality is that good quality and British made fittings and leather are expensive, before starting any work to make them into a finished product. The funding and bursaries we can get through all these schemes and scholarships are key to keeping apprenticeships alive and having proper training so there is always the upmost knowledge and welfare education towards the effect on the horses and quality of work in the trade.


Til next time,


Stay safe,



1 year ago
Posted in: Saddlery blog