Saddlers from the length and breadth of the country travelled to London last night (Thursday 5 February) for the Society of Master Saddlers’ annual awards ceremony at the historic Saddlers’ Hall.

Master of the Worshipful Company of Saddlers, Jonathan Godrich, congratulated all the entrants, saying the quality of exhibits continued to increase, year on year.

“We really have a wonderful array today which fill the air with that most wonderful of scents, saddlery leather,” he said.

Work exhibited ranged from full-sized dressage saddles and miniature side-saddles made by master saddlers, to head collars, bridles and saddles produced by their trainees and apprentices.

Guest of honour was eventer Mary King, who took her judging role very seriously, reportedly climbing onto every entry in the cross-country/jumping saddle class to assess its comfort, before choosing Patrick Keane of Patrick Saddlery, Walsall’s offering (Patrick and Mary pictured above).

Mr Keane had an exceptionally good night, also claiming the top spot in the open saddle class for his dressage saddle which went on to win best in show and he won the prize for most commercially viable saddle in the trade saddle class.

He told H&H: “It’s very rare for a saddle to win the top prize because there is so much more to go wrong. And this is my second time winning best in show. I am delighted.”

Apprentice Jeannette Hutchinson, who divides her time between being a full-time groom for the Metropolitan Police Mounted Division and learning the trade from Berkshire-based master saddler Frances Kelly, also had a very successful night.

She won the master and apprentice class with Ms Kelly and the trainee bridle class, as well as coming second in the open harness and intermediate bridle classes, claimed two premium awards and got her name on the Les Coker Millennium Trophy, for best entry by an apprentice, for the second year running.

“I am so pleased,” she told H&H. “After four years’ training I am finally finishing my apprenticeship and this is a wonderful way to do it.”

A record number of apprentices — eight — signed up to the society’s Millennium Apprenticeship Scheme, this year.

The full list of winners was:

Class 1 Master & Apprentice: a snaffle bridle with raised / padded noseband and browband (by apprentice) and Laced Reins (by the Master).
Winners: Frances Kelly and her apprentice Jeanette Hutchinson

Class 2 President’s Choice: a leather waist belt.
First: Emily White, Stroud Saddlery, second : John Flavell, E Jeffries & Sons, third: Mark Buckfield, Lee Buckfield Master Saddler

Class 3 Open Saddle: any design of leather dressage saddle.
First: Patrick Keane, Patrick Saddlery, second: Lee Jones, Patrick Saddlery, third: Colin Potts, E Jeffries & Sons

Class 4A Trade Saddle: any style of leather single flap cross-country / jumping saddle.
First: Patrick Keane, Patrick Saddlery

Class 4B Apprentice or Trainee Trade Saddle: any style of leather astride saddle
First: Mark Vaughn, Ideal Saddle Company

Class 5 Small business saddle makers who manufacture no more than six saddles a year: any design of English astride leather saddle.
First: Laura Simpson, Saddlery Training Centre

Class 6 Miniature piece of leather riding or driving equipment:
First: Frances Kelly, individual member, second: Susan Elizabeth Slade, individual member, third: John Flavell, E Jeffries & Sons

Class 7 Open Bridle: a leather bridle suitable for cross-country
First: Isobel Russell, Stroud Saddlery, second: Lisa Holmes, individual member, third: Helen Reader, individual member.

Class 8 Open Harness: leather driving reins
First: Catrien Coppens, individual member, second: Jeanette Hutchinson, apprenticed to Frances Kelly, third : Iris Males, individual member

Class 9 Intermediate Bridle: a leather Lonsdale girth.
First: Helen Leedham, individual member, second: Jeanette Hutchinson, apprentice to Frances Kelly, third: Lynsey Ellis, individual member

Class 10 Trainee Saddle: any type or size of leather saddle (meeting City & Guilds Level 2 or 3 specification).
First: Zoe Smith, Saddlery Training Centre, second: Christer Dahlberg, Capel Manor College, third: Caroline Torr, Village Saddlery / Saddlery Training Centre

Class 11A Trainee Bridlework: headcollar (meeting City & Guilds Level 2 or 3 specification).
First: Myra Bee, Capel Manor College, second: Mary Wing To, Capel Manor College, third: Amanda Harris, Capel Manor College

Class 11B Trainee Bridle: show double bridle (meeting City & Guilds Level 2 or 3 specification).
First: Jeanette Hutchinson, apprentice to Frances Kelly, second: Christer Dahlberg, Capel Manor College, third: Sarah Stevens, individual member
The Side Saddle Association Trophy for the best side saddle was awarded to Susan Elizabeth Slade for her miniature side saddle.

The Tony Byrne Memorial Trophy for the best harness entry by an apprentice or trainee: Jeanette Hutchinson for her driving reins.

The Alf Batchelor Memorial Trophy for the best bridle work entry: Helen Reader for her endurance bridle.

The Tony Russell Memorial Trophy for the best harness entry: Catrien Coppens for her driving reins.

Alf Batchelor Memorial Trophy for the best bridlework entry: Isobel Russell for her Cross Country Bridle.

The Les Coker Millennium Trophy for the best entry by an apprentice: Jeanette Hutchinson for her driving reins.

The Neil McCarraher Trophy for the most attractive and commercially viable saddle in Class 4A: Patrick Keane of Patrick Saddlery.

The Bruce Emtage Memorial Plate for the Best in Show: Patrick Keane for his entry in the open saddle class.