Lance Bombadier Christie Farren, 27, from Harrogate has just been awarded the Abbey England Scholarship for 2021 for Saddlery and Leatherwork. Her work in the army helps keep Royal Horse Artillery soldiers safe while carrying out some of the Army Ceremonial’s most dangerous manoeuvres, but the prize was awarded for her ambitions to make life more comfortable for every horse on parade.
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery soldier is in the midst of studying for an apprenticeship as one day she wants to be a Master Saddler in the Army. She’s just completed Level 2 and when she finishes the next stage, Level 3, she will be a fully qualified Saddler. Then it’s a further three years of training to get the Master Saddler status but Christie has proved she’s up for the challenge.
Christie grew up with a passion for horses, working in British Eventing and Show jumping before she joined the Army seven years ago. But she realised that an Army career would offer her more experience of equestrian world. In The King’s Troop she has almost 200 military horses to work on and practise her skills, plus there’s endless opportunities to do what she loves best, competing. Before the Pandemic and lockdown, she was taking part in show jumping competitions most weekends across the UK competing for the unit and the Army.
That competitive streak is what spurred Christie to apply for the Abbey England Scholarship. A top award in the Saddlers world it is fiercely fought over and highly respected. Christie specialises in making military head collars and bridles for the horses and while everyone in The King’s Troop is bespoke to each horse, Christie is keen to take that element even further.
Every horse is an individual; each has a different shaped face and so each bridle fits in a unique way. If the bridle is made to measure it won’t just be comfortable, but the horse will perform better too.
I’m really interested in how small adjustments that can make the horse feel more relaxed can make a significant difference to the way they behave. Bridlework is often overlooked when people are considering biomechanics especially at competitive equine levels, but it can make a huge difference at elite levels.
It was that perfectionism and the passion to improve conditions for the horse that won her the scholarship which will provide financial and practical support for her professional development through 2021. Although all her training is paid for by the Army the scholarship will allow her to explore more commercial applications for her work. The Army apprenticeship is carried out at the Saddlery Training Centre in Salisbury and the soldiers train alongside civilians, each learning from the other. The Army encourages you to widen your skills by trying new areas within your field, and I’d like to see if I can bring some of the attention to detail and bespoke saddlery we have here at The King’s Troop into making bridles for elite competitors, to give them more of an edge.
Although based far from home – The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery provides ceremonial salutes for Royal and state occasions and anniversaries so is stabled in Woolwich, SE London – Christie counts herself very lucky. While many of my civilian colleagues found themselves furloughed during lockdown, I’ve been able to carry on concentrating on my studies and practise. The lack of ceremonial duties over the last year has also meant I’ve been able to devote every waking hour to my studies and fast track my apprenticeship, so I’ve managed to pass my qualifications a year early, which is amazing.
Christie’s mum is into arts and crafts and got Christie interested in sewing and making things when she was a little girl, but horses were always Christie’s first love.
My mum’s always suggesting new ideas for my leatherwork, and checking my handiwork, but she’s so proud of all I’ve achieved. She’s my biggest fan!
Another fan is Equinox, one of the Troop horses in B Sub that Christie rode at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2019. Christie is hoping to ride him competitively again when the show returns later this Summer.
He’s such a kind, gentle horse, very forgiving. And I can’t wait to take him show jumping again.