Being in the Saddlery industry for over 10 years has given me an inside perspective of how many saddlery companies work, early in my career I gained valuable experience apprenticing in saddlery.
Through the years, I have worked with Master Saddlers throughout North America, Germany and England mastering the trade of saddle design and development. Incorporated into my job has always included working with leading veterinary professionals whether it may be on a client case or developing the next great product. I have also been fortunate to work with many saddlery companies, both large and small, providing my expertise through independent consulting work.
Working with both the adult amateur and the top Olympic rider, my career has provided me with some of the most amazing opportunities. Including front row seats at the Queen's Royal Windsor Horse Show watching Charlotte Dujardin riding Valegro.
I have definitey learned the tricks of the trade. How marketing and advertising works.
How to get YOU into the new and shiny saddle.
I have always believed that the adult amateurs are the ones who run the industry and support the trade. Lets face it, they are the ones who keep the business's alive! Keeping all of us professionals in business!
At the beginning of the year, many saddlery companies have budgets. As you may notice, over the past two years the name has slowly switched over to product "ambassadors" from "sponsors".
They target the professionals in order to get to the adult amateurs - your followers aka your "tribe". Through being paying clients, social media, watching you at horse shows, in articles and books, through friends and any other outlet that gets your name out there!
When you land a potential sponsorship package, depending on your status, your following and your results will depend on what you will receive in your package.
Let's say you ...
1. Won the Olympics, Have a great string of Current and Up and Coming horses, A strong following of students and clients and a strong following on social media.
- You will receive anywhere from 100,000.00 to 250,000.00 in Cash per year (this is Dressage - Show Jumping could definitely be much higher)
- You would receive new equipment for AT LEAST your competitive horses
- $5500.00 x 6 Competitive Horses = 33,000.00 in Product
- Each saddle that you sell to your client, you would receive a hefty commission
- 250 Clients sold saddles to in year @ $700.00 in commission = $175,000.00
- Usually the brand will make a saddle in your name, you would then make a percentage of the sales on this saddle.
- 3% Commission on 1500 Saddles sold in 1 Year = $315,000 ($7000.00 saddle)
- 3% Commission on 1500 Saddles sold in 1 Year = $157,275($3495.00 saddle)
I gave you a 3% Commission rate on both a $7000.00 and a $3495.00 Saddle depending on what price range the saddle company would be selling at. To understand what could be made.
2. Are an Up and Coming Rider, Have had good results, A good following of Students and are either Long Listed or Short Listed
- You could potentially receive anywhere from 20,000.00+ in Cash per year
- You would receive new equipment for your competitive horses
- $5500.00 in Product (one Horse)
- Each saddle that you sell to your client, you would receive a commission of usually between 250.00 to 500.00
- 50 Saddles sold to clients in year @ 500.00 = $25,000.00
3. Are a Riding Coach at a Local Riding Establishment with a good following of Students.
- The potential to receive equipment depending on the amount of sales/referrals made.
- $5500.00 in Product
- Each saddle sold to client, you would receive a commission of usually between 250.00 to 500.00
- 50 Saddles sold to clients in year @ 500 = $25,000.00
*Keep in mind every brand is different in what they offer and how they structure their program. - These Figures are approximate to give you an idea on what you could make and what certain professionals I know have and do currently make. *
Some companies do not offer any money, they only offer commission towards servicing and products. Some offer discounts. It all depends on what level you are at within the profession. Plus what level your following is at aka your tribe!
BACK IN THE DAY... OK NOT THAT LONG AGO...
One year at the Rolex Three Day Event, while attending the Rider's Dinner Party, I was speaking to one of the Competitors that I know. He mentioned that he was sponsored by a company that was providing him with $20,000.00 in cash per year plus $20,000.00 in product per year and a commission on per saddle sold to each client.
There are many companies who give out saddles for free (kinda like candy). I have never understood this tactic, how can they afford to give away $5000.00+ saddles away left right and center. I have learned where these saddles are truly made and it is not Europe, they may have head offices in Europe, but the manufacturing is actually in third world countries. All which makes it much easier to give products away for pennies. While increasing retail prices, bottom lines and commissions. But nobody seems to remember the product value anymore.
I absolutely agree that when you the rider, work hard toward something, you deserve to get paid for it. What I do not agree with is when you do not understand HOW a product works or HOW it is affecting you OR your animal, you represent it anyway because of the sponsorship. When you represent a product and promote anything to a client, you should fully understand how and why it works. Not just that it "works" for you because of the money or your horse "goes well" in it.
It is unfortunate but many of us do not ask why or how.
OUR HOMEWORK IS NOT DONE.
The English saddle homeland is England.
Walsall, England is where many English Saddlery companies are located. However they are suffering due to the fact that so many companies are relocating to India. Due to cheaper manufacturing costs, causing many master saddlers to loose their jobs and the trade to quickly dwindle. This is happening to other European brands as well outside of England. This effects much more than loss of Master Saddlers and greatly reduces product quality. This also supports unfair and unsafe working conditions in third world countries. Workers getting paid pennies, while saddle companies ask thousands at retail price for your saddle.
THE SADDLE TRADE IS SUFFERING IN SILENCE.
How many of you have asked your fitters their qualifications?
Well, you may get the answer..
"I am Qualified through the Society of Master Saddlers of England"
SOLD! Well that is a quality answer!
The Introductory Saddle Fitting Course is 2 Days.
Followed by the Qualified Saddle Fitters Course which is a whole 4 days.
SO IN 6 DAYS THEY HAVE PRODUCED A QUALIFIED SADDLE FITTER!
I would not even have someone give me a manicure, who did a 6 day crash course in beauty!
Forget analyze my horses back conformation & saddle fit, flock the panels, adjust the tree of the saddle and god forbid do it correctly!
Many of the reps for Saddle company's are representatives, they are trained how to sell. They are not trained as fitters, many saddle companies sell foam panels to eliminate the fitting portion to greatly reduce production costs. You may notice these "rep's" will focus mainly on rider fit and will not focus on the horse. Mostly they will up sell through padding. Padding is a no-no. Please don't get me started, this article is already getting long.
It is September 15th, 2015. I am still shocked that riders feel that they think that they can ride multiple horses in ONE saddle. This is NOT the case. YES your horse will go because they have a heart of GOLD. When you look over each horses back you will see the difference in the curvature (front to back) and the asymmetries (left to right). Every horse is different and requires their own fit, a pad will not fix this. A horses back in movement is completely different than a horses back standing still. A trained, Master Fitter would be able to show you the difference in how imperative this is to both you and your horse.
So in the perfect world, if right now I was sitting down for a Pumpkin Spice Latte with the Olympian, Up and Coming Rider and/Or the Coach, the advice I would give from all the experience I have learned through the years would be:
You have worked damn hard to get where you are. Good for you!
I encourage you to go towards this company if it feels right. But becoming a sponsored rider is more than just a title it is a responsibility towards your horses and most importantly your followers who cherish you. They work hard every day for their money to put towards their passion which is inspired by you. So when you put your name behind a brand, they will trust in it and immediately follow it because of you. So it is your job to understand the brand, trust the brands service, trust the manufacturing process (made in Europe or 3rd world) the fit. You will also need to consider that one day you may not be a part of the brand anymore and will your clients still be taken care of?
At the end of the day, before taking the first jump. I would do my homework. Because money is definitely not everything. Yes cash is great, however as an experienced rider and a Master Saddle Fit Specialist, I would much rather have a saddle that correctly fit my horse. Allowing optimal shoulder freedom, balanced absolutely correctly from front/middle/back, gave lower back freedom, cleared the spine/ ligaments running through the spine / sitting on the saddle support muscle, gave me the proper natural seat position through the correct seat and stirrup bar placement... I can keep going but wont.
What I am trying to say is, you can potentially earn $20,000.00 from "XYZ" saddle company. However the saddles potentially DO NOT fit. You when spend a fortune preparing and showing, to enter a class with intentions of a win. The class's purse would have surpassed the measly $20,000.00 you earned from your sponsorship. However, you didn't win because your saddle is restricting your horse.
OK, Dressage riders, you don't make the big cash prizes. But scores are your everything, which you need in order to qualify. Those scores also gain you more followers and clients. When you are loosing, you also loose out on the potential sales on your horses. Especially when we look to the collective marks (Riders Position and Seat; Correctness and Effect of the Aids) you can hit the jackpot here dressage riders!!!
Instead, the potential investment in a saddle that fits with a professional master fit specialist that cared for your horses back, could get you to the top of the leader board more often with consistent results.
A SADDLE THAT FITS IS THE SECRET WEAPON.
A few days ago I was looking at a very recent Olympian's Facebook Page, going through some cringe-worthy photos showing the way the saddles fit. Some included the rider in some very recent competitions. As well as one picture of this rider at the saddle company's booth that say's "So thrilled to meet everyone at XYZ Saddle Company's Booth today - They make my horses saddles!". Which is a great "plug" for advertising, however, to my trained eye all of these pictures are of a top professional in saddles that are too low front, twisting and sitting in a chair seat. But this riders following, who has a great social media/industry tribe that may run out and switch brands without understanding or doing their homework.
As professionals it is our job to educate and lead.
I know I have gone on about some pet peeves. But I DO NO agree with some coaches who switch brands every year or two and then ask their clients two make the switch with them. This is something that some may be able to do, as money is definitely growing on the money tree. But this is definitely because the new shiny rep walked into the barn and offered a new awesome deal.
WE NEED TO LOOK AT THE WELFARE OF THE HORSES.
HALF PADS AND SHIMS ETC.... DO NOT MAKE SADDLES FIT~
IF you want to make a Master Saddle Fit Specialist have an aneurysm ... Make her talk about this subject more!