Putting skills and passion to work

Susan Falconer has turned her life-long passion of working with horses into a business. PHOTO:...
Susan Falconer has turned her life-long passion of working with horses into a business. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Susan Falconer was raised with a set of reins in her hands and has realised working with horses and helping young riders is her calling.

After nearly two years of "horsing around" as a pastime, Ms Falconer has taken the plunge and turned her skills into a fully fledged business she has called Poniworks.

On the first day of Covid lockdown number one last year, Ms Falconer, who was born and raised on Clachanburn Station in the Maniototo, found herself moving to the Strath Taieri. Daughter Olivia came to stay for lockdown and they spent their days riding ponies.

Since then, Ms Falconer has taken over some old yards, stables and set up an arena, making a name for herself starting ponies and horses of her own and schooling troubled horses for other people; working out their issues to make them safe to be taken back or sold on.

"I have been schooling, starting and fixing horses for about 30 years and doing it for other people started through word-of-mouth. I am small enough to get on a pony and get to the bottom of their problems. I am also very blunt with people and will always tell them how it is with a horse. That kind of honesty is important for people if they are buying a horse. And it’s important to me as it’s my name that’s on the line."

It was during a visit home to her family farm in the Maniototo that Ms Falconer told her family she was thinking about getting a job at the nearby Macraes gold mine.

"My brother John said: ‘Do the horses. You’re good at it, get into it and make a business out of it’." It was the push Ms Falconer needed.

Seeing 10-year-old daughter Olivia excel at her own riding added to her newfound confidence. Olivia was placed third overall at the National Rising Stars Show Hunter competition in Christchurch earlier this year and she continues to have success in South Island circuits.

Ms Falconer has reflected on how she has coached Olivia over the years and what she has done right to help her grow in the sport.

"Until recently, she has only been able to ride every second weekend when she comes to stay with me, so it’s very much been about quality over quantity."

Ms Falconer could see a need for young riders to learn the fundamentals of owning their pony and how to be a safe rider who will enjoy their pony.

"Often, parents will spend thousands of dollars on a pony for their kids but lack the knowledge to properly look after them and teach the child how to get the most out of their investment.

"Ponies are like children. They need plenty of exercise and the right tucker if you want them to behave and be happy."

This weekend, Ms Falconer is running her first day camp for young riders.

"It will be about handling and caring for their ponies, some schooling in the arena and then a ride in the afternoon. Ultimately, it’s about learning how to be a safe rider. When children feel safe and confident on their pony, they will want to ride more and it will all grow from there," she said.

Ms Falconer has also been breeding ponies for the past 25 years and competed nationally from a young age.

"I breed my ponies to have temperament, trainability, and talent, you can’t have one without the others. All the talent in the world isn’t enough if you don’t have temperament and trainability,"

- By Alice Scott

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