For a nervous rider buying a first horse, a heavy probably isn't top of the wish list, but for Claire Kilburn her perfect equine partner came in the shape of Ernie, a 17HH Suffolk gelding.

Q: If riding made you nervous, why did you decide to buy a horse?
A: I've ridden since I was 10 and learned to ride at the Northern Riding Centre in Dewsbury. I even spent a couple of week's work experience working with heavy horses at Bradford Industrial Museum and have always enjoyed being around horses. I rode occasionally after university, but I was never confident about hacking - I just didn’t enjoy it. It got to the stage that I just decided I as too young to give up, so it was either that, or find a sensible cob of my own to build my confidence.

Q: What did you look for?
A: I decided on a native breed as it would be easier to look after, able to live out and not need lots of rugs. The main thing, though, was that I wasn't prepared to compromise on temperament. I started looking at Highland ponies but always felt too nervous to try them on a hack. I thought that a bigger horse might be less sharp, so I contacted the Suffolk Horse Society who put me in contact with Andrew Thompson at Gateridge Farm. He mostly produces Suffolk's for harness work, but he did have a 7-year old that he thought might suit me, so I went along to meet Gateridge Ernest - Ernie.

Q: What's Ernie's temperament like?
A: He is utterly trustworthy. He puts up with all sorts of traffic, including tractors and farm machinery, and if something does frighten him, he just stops and waits for me to tell him what to do. I tell him that he's okay and that it's safe to go forward and that's having the effect of making me more confident.

Q: What are your plans for Ernie?
A: I'm a happy hacker but I would like to do a bit of showing. Unfortunately (for me) Ernie is showing some interest in jumping, but I will use a test pilot for that.

You can find out more about the Suffolk Horse on our website or from the Suffolk Horse Society

Photo courtesy of the Suffolk Horse Society Facebook page