Our Qualified Instructors
The North American Saddlery School provides education from instructors certified by the academically rigorous and internationally recognized qualification standards of the Society of Master Saddlers. We only work with highly qualified and dedicated crafts persons to ensure our students are provided a quality education.
Rachael Argo is a Society of Master Saddlers (UK) Master Saddler and Qualified Saddle Fitter. She trained with SMS Master Saddler Andre Bubear, previously a saddler with the Queen's Household Cavalry and then Master Saddler for the Metropolitan Police's mounted branch.
Andre and Rachael both worked for the International League for the Protection of Horses and it was through the ILPH that Rachael was offered a chance to apprentice with Andre. The ILPH is dedicated to improving Equine Welfare the world over and having safe, comfortable and well fitted tack plays an important part in equine welfare. Saddle fitting is a major issue in welfare and Rachael specialized in this area from early on in her training and this is still the biggest part of her work.
Rachael was head groom at the Scottish Equine Rehabilitation Centre where the team specialized in rehabilitation of all types of equines with all manner of issues. Along with a team of experts, including vets, orthopedic surgeons, farriers and physiotherapists, who visited the farm regularly the small team of grooms were responsible for rehabilitating a variety of injured and feral horses and then rehoming them to approved homes. This gave Rachael a unique insight into equine anatomy and movement and the potential damage that can be done with poorly fitted tack.
Rachael moved to Portugal in 2021 along with her dogs and owns Callan Saddlery. She fits and sells saddles, repairs all types of leather work and manufactures high quality bridle work and leather items. In her spare time, she rides and breeds her Andalusian horses and teaches Classical Dressage
Andrew Hastilow is the Owner of Hastilow & Sons, having been the Senior Master Saddler at Hastilow Competition Saddles where he was the designer and developer of the new saddle lines. He completed his apprenticeship with his father in his Walsall company, then joined the Parkes Group as a Master Saddler. Andrew went to Australia working for a Saddlery Co then returned to join Hastilow team. He has had many wins in the Society of Master Saddlers Saddlery Competition and has been designing and producing saddles for 30 yrs, he is a Master Saddler and a Qualified Saddle Fitter.
Hastilow & Sons was launched on January 19, 2019,and the company has gone from strength to strength. The client base covers the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand a& Australia. Andrew prides himself on his eye for detail & is continually looking at ways to further develop saddle construction.
He is an avid cricket player with Haslemere Cricket Club for the last 32 years. He is a level two cricket coach for under 21's as well as a qualified Welfare Officer and First Aider. He is married to Karen and they have two sons. Tom is currently studying for a masters degree at Newcastle University & James is currently working with his father in the workshop.
Ian Hastilow is the owner of Hastilow Competition Saddles. He became a Master Saddler after apprenticing with his father. He is currently the Course Co-ordinator for the Society of Master Saddlers teaching and exams, he was President of the Society in 2005 and has been awarded a Freeman of the City of London and Worshipful Company of Saddlers. Ian is an SMS award winner and an apprentice master, as well as being a Qualified Saddle fitter.
He lives in west Wales with his wife, two children and two boxers. He enjoys bell ringing and helps to arrange sessions in his local church.
Annette Gavin is the owner of HCS, USA Saddlery and the founder of the North American Saddlery School. She is an SMS Master Saddle Fitter with over 25 years of experience. Annette is also a certified British Horse Society Instructor (BHSI) and has her Stable Manager Certificate as well (BHS SM). She has experience competing through CCI** eventing, as well as Intermediate dressage. Her dream is to improve the lives of our equine friends by training the next generation of saddle and bridle fitters.
She lives in the mountains in Pennsylvania with her husband and two cats. She owes three horses Luke who competes dressage, Bridget who competes eventing and Lip who is currently training us. Her hobbies include swimming, cooking and gardening.
Kay trained as a bench saddler in the late 1960s and worked as such until she noticed how much her own horses improved once modifications were made to her own saddles. This led to a lifelong passion for saddle fitting, seeing horses totally transformed in their way of going, gaining success in their field and an improvement in their attitude to life.
From 1975 this became her main work and so, when The Society of Master Saddlers decided in 1995 that a course in saddle fitting was necessary it was natural that they turned to her to be one of the lecturers on this course. It was Kay that wrote all of the original notes for this, and she that has updated them since this time. She has lectured on these courses from the start of the course in 1995 until the present day.
She has been much involved in design and development of saddles, being in the happy position of understanding what will be good for the horse and rider whilst being able to explain and demonstrate to the manufacturers exactly what is required. Many of the features included in today’s saddles come initially from work that she has done.
With her horses Kay concentrated on arena jumping but also took part in dressage competitions and one day events. Although now semi-retired from saddle fitting she continues to lecture, teach and train those wishing to become saddle fitters, veterinarians and the general riding public as she loves sharing her knowledge and experience with those interested in this subject. She has taught for the North American Saddlery School on several occasions and finds the interest and enthusiasm from the candidates and the attitude of the organisers, refreshing and pleasing.
Amber Markley is the operations manager at HCS, USA Saddlery, co-owner of the North American Saddlery School and a Society of Master Saddlers Registered and Qualified Saddle Fitter. She recently became one of six SMS Qualified Bridle Fitters and the only one in North America. She is also a Qualified Vet Tech, avid Dressage & Event rider, and HCS, USA Saddlery team rider. She is the owner of her own boarding, training, and rehabilitation business, Stoneleigh Equine (stoneleighequine.com). She is seen here competing HCS Raptures Night Breeze one of the young sport horses being brought on by HCS, USA Saddlery.
She lives on her horse farm in Maryland with several horses, dog and cats. She recently began involvement with the Retired Racehorse Project program and has been retraining OTTBs for successful second careers.