Starting Saffy Under Saddle: Lessons In How Fast To Take Things

This is Saffy. Some of you will have seen her pop up every now and then on my page, but for the most part, she’s been quietly busying away in the background doing what she does best- telling the other ponies of their rightful position in the paddock, eating grass and taking her position of Chief Manager Of The Feed Buckets at night extremely seriously.

Up until this point- namely the last three days- Saffy thought that maybe this whole riding palava was for the “other horses”. One of my funniest memories of her is as a two-year-old, grazing the paddock near my arena. She looked over to see me riding (I’m not sure she’d ever seen a human atop a horse) and proceeded to prance up and down the perimeter of the arena with a look of utter shock. Three years have since passed and now it’s her turn to strut her fancy trotters under saddle. We had our first rides yesterday and today was the first time I was going in alone, albeit with my husband watching from the wings, and adding some ground aids to clarify our go button. All in all, she’s had less than ten minutes under saddle.

Saffy is such an interesting horse and I feel fortunate to have enough horses with different personalities, degrees of motivation and type that I’m constantly required to adjust my energy, change my presentation and work faster, or slower, depending on who’s in front of me. It sounds logical in theory, but for those of us who don’t ride professionally and have only a couple of our horses that we work with, perhaps for many years, it’s easy to get into a singular mode of presentation that’s rarely challenged or updated. Getting to play with and observe as many different horses as you can is such a gift, and one we should seek out wherever possible.

I mentioned in a previous post that the fabulous Ben Longwell has been staying with us this past three days, and a big part of my desire to work together was to get to work with Saffy (who is now 5) and Ada (who is a yearling).

I cannot emphasize enough the value of mentorship; I consider Ben to be one of mine and am so fortunate to have had his help and expertise over the last little while. What we identified is that Saffy is very confident and clever, and consequently is easily bored. She needs short, efficient sessions where questions are asked then answered, and from that point, we move on.

Truth be known, had Ben not been here, I’m not sure I would be riding yet, for the simple reason as I like to take my time, and tend to check something is working, then improve it, check, and check again. In part, this is because of the desire for self-preservation; I mostly work and ride alone without help and I want to be as sure as possible that I’ve ticked all the boxes.

Ben, having started hundreds of horses over the years and also knowing me, thought it would be a good idea to move a little faster, and I agreed. There’s a big difference between rushing and moving at a pace that keeps things fresh and interesting; having things good enough to move on to the next thing in the knowledge that everything is in a constant process of refinement. Sometimes you need help from the outside to identify which is which.

With my other horses- Dee and Nadia spring to mind, both sensitive and naturally very forward- the slow and steady worked a treat. For Saffy, it is death, a fast route to disinterest and becoming less and less engaged.

Another lesson in adaptability and meeting each horse where they’re at.

Today, with Ben having left and back to the normal routine, I got on once again. I knew Saffy would be tired from a big few days but it was important for me to get on alone and to carry forward what we’d been practicing. The mental importance of continuing momentum and normalizing what will be normal moving forward.

So here is me and Saffy, number two times in the saddle.

And now, we ride.


❤️ Jane