Did you know . . .

  • A hide gets its “Englishness” from where itis finished, not from its origins, and it is the tanning that puts the strength and durability into leather. The process involves removing the proteins, fat and hair from the leather and then putting condition back. Old-fashioned Oak Bark tanning took up to 18 months. Nowadays, a hide can be tanned in six to eight weeks.
  • There are two butts or halves to each hide. Cutting the hide is a highly skilled job and each part of a saddle or bridle comes from a prescribed part of the butt. The strongest leather is located down the spine of the cow and it is from there that stirrup leathers are taken. For large items such as saddle flaps, the cutter has to consider shade and grain, so that each side matches.
  • Walsall is the centre of the English saddlery and tack industry, and has been for 200 years, with firms such as Cliff Barnsby – which holds a royal warrant -established as long ago as 1793.

    The area was primarily known for “lorinry” or “saddlers’ironmongery”, with leather workers moving in to be near the bucklemakers.

    Of the 24 trade members of the Society of Master Saddlers, all but two are based in Walsall, and nowhere else in Britain is there such a concentration of skilled leather workers, some of whom are the fifth generation in their family to be involved in the trade.

  • British Equestrian Trade Association’s statistics from 1999 show total domestic expenditure on saddlery and tack (discounting rugs but including repairs) as £105m. That works out as 5% of what every person spends on their horse each year. Some estimates put the export trade for saddlery and tack as high as 70%.
  • The most important part of owning a saddle is its fit. The Society of Master Saddlers has strict guidelines and runs courses for vets, physiotherapists and farriers to increase knowledge in this area. There is a society video available from its members. Priced at £10.95, it is called Saddle Fitting Explained. To find your local fitter and obtain a copy of the video, visit www.mastersaddlers.co.uk or (tel: 01449 711642).

Useful contacts

  • Society of Master Saddlers (tel: 01449 711642)
  • The Saddlery Training Centre (tel: 01722 341144)
  • The Worshipful Company of Saddlers (tel: 020 7726 8661)
  • Walsall Equestrian Society (tel: 01922 720966)

These interesting facts were taken from Horse & Hound’s saddlery & tack special (22 May). Other special features include a focus on the latest innovations in tack and saddlery.

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