The Society of Master Saddlers has introduced a code of practice on selling and fitting saddles designed to protect both buyers and sellers.

It specifies that society members prime responsibility is the health and welfare of the horse and the safety of the rider and covers everything from charging advice to complaints.

For many people, buying a saddle is the second largest investment they make after buying a horse, says Paul Belton, president of the society and chairman of Albion Saddlemakers.

This is designed to make it easier and safer but, of course, only applies to SMS members.

Key points of the code are that members must:

  • Detail costs of ALL fitting services, including travel and consultancy, before starting.

  • Keep full records of the horse and saddle fitting.

  • Respond promptly and politely to complaints and in unresolved cases, provide details to the society so that the complaints procedure may be followed.

  • If a client asks for a second opinion on a saddle fitted by a member within the previous six months, he or she must first be referred back to the original fitter. If a second opinion is still required, it may only be given afterliaison with the original fitter and provision of original records.

  • The provider of the second opinion must have no other commercial involvement with the client immediately before, during or after the consultation.

    The code says that clients also have responsibilities. These include presenting the horse in suitable condition and in a suitable environment for the fitter to work and ensuring that any independent advisor such as a trainer is present at the fitting.

    For details of members in your area, contact the SMS at Kettles Farm, Mickfield, Stowmarket, Suffolk IP14 6NY, (tel: 01449 711642).