Ken's diary

Suffolk punches and essex girls

My work as a saddle fitter inevitably involves me dealing with horses of every breed and type but I have to admit that my introduction to the Suffolk Horse occurred recently. Previously my knowledge of the breed was confined to photographs and I was vaguely aware that the Suffolks had diminished in number, were under threat and now regarded as an endangered species.

My appointment involved a mare who turned out to be a Jill of all trades. Some work on the land yes, the Suffolk is re-emerging as a working animal, some ploughing demonstrations, the odd show class and even a little bit of riding. I have to say how very impressed I was with the Suffolk mare. A bright shining chesnut (I'm reliably informed the central 't' is omitted in describing the colour of the Suffolk horse), she was well proportioned with a wonderfully set on head and neck, an intelligent eye and a kindly disposition. Although only backed very recently, she was taking the new job very much in her calm and confident stride. Also talking of 'stride', the mare demonstrated a walk that would be envied by many owners of dressage horses, rhythmic, regular and ground covering. I came away from the appointment feeling well pleased with my introduction to this most charming breed. I hope their numbers increase and their worthiness gains them the respect and appreciation they deserve.

And now I'd like to talk about girls in Essex, so frequently called 'Essex Girls', not all of whom are called Tracey and Sharon!

Although my work demands my travelling literally thousands of miles each year, it is only relatively recently that I have spent a great deal of time saddle fitting in Essex. We've all heard the 'Essex girl' legends. Shallow, good-time girls displaying a distinct lack of taste . . . generally cavorting in white stilettos and (very) low cut tops . . . forever giggling . . . and remarkably stupid.

I'd like to record that it isn't true!  it just isn't true!

I now do an enormous amount of work in Essex and I can say, as one who's job causes me to travel to many countries in the world, that Essex girls are simply wonderful. Their horses are looked after nonpareil, they are enthusiastic, open minded and interested to hear and discuss professional opinions no matter how much they themselves know. Their horses are well turned out and I see more smartly and correctly dressed riders in Essex than in practically any other county in England!

. . . well turned out ponies, horses and riders . . .

Maggie Raynor
Essex horse owners and I have to be fair and include the men in this comment are also remarkably honourable. Several times I have fitted saddles and, when it came to finalising the transaction, the rider had insufficient money. They have suggested forwarding the money at the end of the month and, in each and every instance, this has happened. This degree of honesty is noteworthy and sadly rare.

I also admire the Essex riders for their open minded approach. They always want what is best for their horse and buying a saddle is no exception. They may have set their hearts on a Pessoa close contact jumping saddle a Keiffer, an Albion or another saddle of an equally illustrious make but they are perfectly willing to adjust their thinking if it is pointed out that the saddle in question, however intrinsically excellent, is not the best design for their particular horse. The Essex reader will be surprised to know that, in some parts of the country, the needs of the horse are not the first priority with horse owners, making my job difficult
in the extreme.

I'd like to conclude by saying how much I enjoy fitting saddles when the riders are committed, fun, honest, competent, hardworking, welcoming and very nice. But when, oh when, am I going to meet the girls with the white stilettos, sheer stockings and low cut tops?

Adapted from articles recently published in The Essex Rider magazine
(Alec Wynn editor tel: 01268 871603) April 2001.

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