Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 7
Nora Batchelder made headlines last year for helping the U.S. team to a silver medal at the Pan American Games in Peru, on U.S.-bred Faro SQF, and she’s garnering more attention this weekend at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival aboard Sally Seaver’s striking pinto W Gangster Girl in the mare’s first CDI3* Grand Prix.
But it’s not just the chance to ride in the international ring that makes riding “Saffron” special to Batchelder.
Her father Verne Batchelder, who died unexpectedly in October 2019, was a fan of pintos and had hoped to see her compete the mare at the U.S. Dressage Finals (Kentucky) and in the international ring.
“My dad loved pintos for his whole lifetime, ever since he was a little kid,” said Nora. “He always dreamed of riding a pinto at the upper levels of dressage, and it never really happened for him, but he had a great client, Sally Seaver, who was looking for a horse. She didn’t care what color, but he said, ‘If we can find one that’s a pinto, that would be great!’ ”
Saffron competed to Prix St. Georges with California professional Michelle Reilly before Seaver bought her eight years ago. At first Saffron stayed at the Batchelders’ Williston, Florida, farm, and after Seaver brought her home to Massachusetts, Verne came up teach clinics frequently. Four years ago she sent her to Nora for full training, and Nora trained her to Grand Prix. Nora started showing her consistently last year.
Bred by Reta Connor, Saffron (Sieger—Sambuka, Inxcess), a 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood, has been a joy to work with according to Nora.
“She’s a total sweetheart under saddle and on the ground,” she said. “She’s the kind of horse that anyone would love to ride. She’s fun for a professional, and she’s fun for someone who’s just learning. She likes to take care of her rider. She likes to be here to show off. ‘Look at my spots!’ ”
Saffron came from California loving Gatorade, but if you try to switch from lemon-lime to another other flavor, and she’ll be on to you.
“After every ride she’s like, ‘Where’s my Gatorade?’ ” said Nora with a laugh.
Nora has been showing the mare in a snaffle bridle at Grand Prix, including at the U.S. Dressage Finals last year, but since a double is required in a CDI3*, she started playing around over the winter.
“She’s so easy going that she doesn’t really care. I feel like I’m sort of riding her on the snaffle anyways,” she said. “She’s really soft in her mouth and really refined in her neck. She’s just a light horse, so she doesn’t really need the curb to help her. We just haven’t really gone there because she doesn’t need it.”
Saffron may draw comparisons to Jim Koford’s Grand Prix partner Adiah HP, and the two went head to head at Finals last year with Adiah coming out on top.
“I do think that people watching like a horse of a different color,” said Nora. “She’s gotten some comments that she looks pretty—all positive! We had fun at Finals riding her and Adiah. It was pretty cute trying to get pictures of them together.”
Saffron requires a lot of Orvis shampoo, a trick Nora learned while showing cows with her sister in 4-H as a child.
“She has really sensitive skin,” she said. “Her skin is pink, so I try not to scrub her too much because she’s delicate. She loves to roll, but she’s not super dirty.”
Nora would like to qualify for the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions (Illinois) with Saffron, but she and Seaver are just enjoying the journey and riding in honor of Verne.
“I think he’d be so excited,” Nora said of Saffron’s first CDI. “He was really excited about her going to Regionals and trying to go to U.S. Dressage Finals. I remember when I was trying to go to Regionals, the other horse I was going to take ended up having a little fungus thing and couldn’t go, so I called him up and said, ‘Should I take Saffron?’ He was like, ‘Yes, definitely!’ I think he was really excited about it, especially the whole pinto thing, and he was really excited for Sally because she’s excited to see what she could do. Her success in the fall was really fun for everybody.
“She’s kind of getting to the game a little late, but she seems to like showing,” she continued. “She’s always up for getting in the trailer and the extra attention. Mostly it’s just about having fun and seeing what she can do.”
We’re on site at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival all week bringing you news, photos and stories. Check back at coth.com and look for more in the Feb. 24 print edition of the Chronicle.
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