Carolyn Truss

2021 QEST Wheler Foundation Scholar - Saddle & Harness making

Carolyn is a master saddler and harness maker, with over 20 years’ experience in her craft, specialising in bridle and harness making. She started working with leather in her early 20s and it was whilst working for the National Trust that she developed a love of heavy horses and their harness, which inspired her to become a harness maker. She completed her first City & Guilds exams and shortly thereafter became a member of the Society of Master Saddlers. 

QEST funding will support Carolyn to deepen her harness making expertise and learn the rare skill of heavy horse harness making; in particular heavy horse collar making, through two courses with John McDonald, a harness and collar maker based in Somerset. She will learn the skills and techniques for making a traditional straw-filled collar, and she will learn to repair and make driving collars for ponies and horses and develop skills in heavy horse collars. 

There are very few heavy horse harness makers working today and even fewer with the skills to make traditional straw collars (about five specialists in the entire country). Horse collar making is listed as “critically endangered”, and heavy horse collar making is an even rarer skill. Carolyn plans to extend her workshop to provide room to take on an apprentice and ensure these skills are passed on to the next generation. 

I am so looking forward to learning collar making and developing my skills further with such a knowledgeable Master Harness Maker as John McDonald.  To learn to make collars will hopefully help to keep these skills alive and in time I hope I will master them and be able to pass them on.