Seasons on The Chase

by Lisa Gregory

Here at the trekking centre we are so lucky to have the glorious open countryside of Cannock Chase literally as our back garden.

Go through our gate and you will find yourself in thousands of acres of perfect riding country, with just the occasional road to cross.

The Chase is beautiful in all seasons, from the first touch of green in early spring to the blaze of purple heather on the moorlands in high summer and then the golds of the autumn forests.


cannock chase trekking centre cannock chase trekking centre cannock chase trekking centre











Riding on the Chase through the seasons is wonderful and at the moment we are looking forward to our spring and summer treks and lots of special activities (details on our events page).

We do of course become busier as the days get longer but some of those riders who enjoy visiting us during the summer will call a halt as the days shorten.

There are so many enjoyable reasons to keep on riding all year round. Spring is feeling as if it’s here for us now, but if you don’t normally ride when it’s chilly, start thinking now about joining us here when the autumn rolls round again.

Obviously it is still possible to come for a relaxing and low key outing but autumn and winter is a good time for people who want to learn more while on a trek and challenge themselves a little.

cannock chase trekking centre cannock chase trekking centre










Our groups in those seasons are often smaller, especially on week days, so myself and my staff can spend more one-on-one time with individual clients and help you while you are riding.

And because the ground is often soft with plenty of give for my horses’ legs we can sometimes have a much more energetic ride. The horses love that too because they are having less work and so are full of bounce and sparkle!

Even a frosty day when the ground is hard can be wonderful. The winter Chase looks stunning dressed in white and on a steady walk we can look out for our resident herds of fallow deer. They are easier to spot when the foliage dies down and are unafraid of the horses, so will often just quietly watch us go by.

cannock chase trekking centre






Clear days show the best of our panoramic views out to the Shropshire hills in the west and the Staffordshire Moorlands in the north.


cannock chase trekking centre










It is really only snow that puts paid to our winter riding when ground conditions become unsafe. But we have been known to get caught out by a snow shower while we are out on the Chase and that can be fun too!


cannock chase trekking centre










Returning to the centre is a real treat in winter. I always think that in summer our bistro has a ranch style atmosphere and we will all be enjoying that very soon. We will be making the most of the cowboy feeling with our Western themed party night on Saturday 25th May (tickets available at reception).










But in cold weather it is more like a ski lodge with the log fire blazing and a cup of hot chocolate to savour.

cannock chase trekking centre ranch bistro








And of course we have all our activities for both adults and children in the comfort of the indoor arena to enjoy. Full details of all our clinics and classes can be found on our events page

So if you are inclined to be a bit of a “fair weather rider” I hope I have convinced that the fun doesn’t stop when summer ends. Come and join us through all the seasons!

Herd Life – Part Two


One of the more unusual aspects of our happy herd is the number of family relationships we have.

It adds an extra dimension to the enjoyment of watching them out in the field. I love to see the whole herd interacting and at play and it is extra special when, for example, I see Atlantis hanging out with his dad Capulate or Nymeria playing with her brother Pele.

cannock chase trekking centre








I find it fascinating to see how much time the relations spend with each other. It is quite obvious that family bonds are never broken.

Of course, the biggest related group we have are my stallion Zidane and his children. Zidane is not turned out with the herd, but the six youngsters certainly know him and if he is an adjoining paddock they love to stand in a line and gaze at him. I think he is their hero!

And he does get time to spend with them now that three of them are grown up and out on the treks. It is so exciting to be leading a trek on Zidane and look behind to see Dakota, Oregon and Arizona following along behind him.

cannock chase trekking centre

Family Trek: Zidane and his babies Arizona, Dakota & Oregon










And to take the baby relationships a step further, Arizona and her brother Colorado are out with their mother Tia, while Montana has her mum Lola. Dakota and Indiana’s mother Nicoh sadly died but they have always had the “baby gang” for company and Auntie Lola keeps an eye on everyone.

cannock chase trekking centre






Oregon, meanwhile, is the third generation of his family in the trekking herd. His mother is Wispa, and she is the daughter of our little Highland pony Princess, Oregon’s grandmother!

Summer and Autumn are mother and daughter, while Welsh Section D’s Emrys, Gabriel and Capulate are from the same bloodline, and interestingly, all hang out together.

Another father and son are Pirate and Lightning. I have told their story before in an earlier blog but I think it is worth retelling for anyone who missed it.

I bought Pirate from a friend in Wales, and he was a stallion who had been used for breeding. I had him gelded and he soon became a perfect little trekking horse with a lovely temperament.

Some years later I found a nice little coloured Cob called Lightning and it turned out he was Pirate’s son. They had never met, as Pirate had come to the trekking centre before his son was born.

So imagine my amazement when I turned Lightning out with the herd and he immediately joined up with his daddy! The two of them have been inseparable ever since. Pirate loves to play and in Lightning he has the perfect partner in crime.

cannock chase trekking centre

Father & Son Pirate & Lightning

cannock chase trekking centre











The question clearly is, how did they recognise each other? (They didn’t even need Jeremy Kyle!!)

I have one more story that really made me understand the bonds of family and herd life and it is one that makes me emotional as soon as I think about it.

Years ago I bought two young horses called Tom and Hattie. Tom was only 18 months old and unknown to me he had already mated Hattie and she was in foal.

I called their baby Pemba and he grew up to be an important member of my trekking herd.  He and Hattie were inseparable, she always protected him out in the field, even keeping the rest of the herd away so Pemba could be first through the gate in a morning.  One day, he was returning from a trek ridden by my then yard manager and he tripped and fell. We didn’t know at the time what he had done but he was clearly injured.

The vet came and gave him pain relief and we agreed to see how he was through the night.  We did our very best to save him, he was sitting like a dog in the field and we supported him with bales and I borrowed a camper van to take up there and spend the night with him.

Pemba was becoming distressed so I took his mum Hattie to him to keep him calm. His father Tom had never shown much interest in his son before, but throughout the night he stood unmoving in a corner of the herd field, 3 fields away. He watched the whole time, never taking his eyes off Pemba and Hattie.

Tragically Pemba got no better and in the morning the vet put him to sleep.

We left Hattie with him for a while to accept his death and then put her back with the herd. Led by Tom, the whole herd surrounded her and huddled her. They stayed with her all day, supporting her. Another mystery, how did they know and understand what had happened?

But instead of ending on a sad note I will finish on a happy insight into herd life. When one of my mares is in foal I have noticed that the other girls will form a group to protect the mother-to-be. They will stay with her through the pregnancy until she has to come in for extra feeding in the final trimester.

Somehow from the day I mate them they know she is in foal and offer their support. There is so much we don’t know about horse’s minds but herd life teaches us every day.


cannock chase trekking centre cannock chase trekking centre











Herd Life – Part One

HERD LIFE – Part one

As I drive around the countryside and see horses living a solitary life in paddocks I feel a little sad that they have to be separated so they have less interaction with their own species.

I realise that some owners have no choice and are doing their very best to protect their beloved horses from injury.

But when I see our herd here at the trekking centre interacting and playing together I am certain that this natural way of life is best for them.

cannock chase trekking centre, herd






I realised quite early on after creating my trekking centre that the more turnout I could provide for my horses the better life would be for them.

At first they were stabled at night and out during the day  but when I turned them out round the clock I noticed the benefits immediately. I found there were huge improvements in their behavior.

Horses like Red, who had issues with stress when I first bought him, quickly became much more relaxed and that was enormously beneficial in training. Our lovely new boy Tyri, who came here from a stables environment, was simply energised by the companionship of the herd.

cannock chase trekking centre, herd

Red relaxing

cannock chase trekking centre, herd








Equally, a horse that is a little bit sharp or unruly often has his behavior sorted out by his herd mates. They learn from horse body language what the rules are and the older ones often put the youngsters in their place.

My vet always says that it is horse heaven here at the Trekking Centre. They have the perfect combination of herd life, lots of individual attention and exercise.

When I was growing up at my family home all our horses were kept stabled. They were often quite bad tempered and nippy but we don’t have any problems like that with our herd.

It is great to watch as the herd is turned out and as they make their way up to the winter field and the hay feeders.

Off they go, bucking and leaping and playing, happy to be in each other’s company and reinforcing relationships as they canter away. As I am writing this blog there are at least 15 of them enjoying a game of tag before they join their friends who are already eating.

cannock chase trekking centre, herd







One who is everybody’s playmate is Pirate. He loves a game and at this moment his partner in crime is Ross and they are nipping each other’s legs and bucking.

Observing herd life is endlessly fascinating and I think it is quite unusual these days to have such a large group – about 40 horses – living together. Many yards split the sexes, fearing fighting and injury.

But our boys and girls have a distinct pecking order and get on well together. It is interesting to see who is in the sub-herds and groups.

Buttons is the herd leader and has Capulate as his second in command. They lead the top group, made up of Melody, Paddy, Atlantis, Splash, Benson and Gabriel. Of course that group includes a love triangle! Paddy adores Melody,  but she has a crush on Buttons! (They’re like the cool kids)


Cannock Chase Trekking Centre, Herd

The Love Triangle – Buttons, Melody & Paddy


And interestingly, our bold and confident youngster Oregon, son of my stallion Zidane, has moved his way up the pecking order and has now joined that top group. I am sure that eventually he will challenge Buttons for the herd leadership.

The Welsh Section D’s, a group that includes Emrys, Gabriel, Spirit, Capulate and his son Atlantis, often like to spend part of the day hanging out together. (Like the football jocks)

There are lots of other close relationships. Alfie and Saffy are boyfriend and girlfriend and he always waits for her at turnout so they can wander off together. Her first love was Jake, but she has dumped him in favour of Alfie.

Alfie and Saffy are members of a sub-herd that also includes the jilted Jake, Lola and Montana. Sometimes Sahara and Dakota choose to spend time with them. Another devoted pair are our pretty little mare Autumn and our donkey Eeyore.

And then there are the loners. Connor and Zeus prefer to be solitary, although the herd is all around them. And the kind and gentle mare Tia is also aloof, although she does love her babies, Arizona and Colorado.

cannock chase trekking centre, herd

Tia and her babies, Arizona & Colorado








Our newest girls, Kitty and Nymeria, have both established their places in the herd. Kitty is comfortable in the middle with a whole group of friends, while Nymeria likes to spend time with her brother Pele, but has a special affinity with Nutmeg, one of our little ponies.

When a new horse comes we will first turn it out with a companion of its own age and then gradually add the others, starting with the stronger characters.

The new horse is often kept away from the main herd for a while, usually a few days. They will operate a shift system on guard duty until they decide it is time to accept the new arrival.  It is always different horses that take up this duty, it is fascinating that is usually a horse or pony of the same sex and similar age. It may be tough to watch but we have to let them sort it out themselves, although we keep a close watch and never let it get nasty.

cannock chase trekking centre, herd

cannock chase trekking centre, herd

Jake & Brodie take on ‘Guard Duty’ over newbie Tyri









And once the newbie is accepted it will be playtime again. I just love to see the fun and games – even if it does cost me a fortune in ripped rugs!

One aspect of our herd life that I have not mentioned is family relationships. Our group is also unusual that we have so many family partners and I will tell you about them all in my next blog.

Training Nymeria – Part Two

by Celia Holmes

Like most horse addicts I have always longed to be a much better rider than I am.

In my dreams I was always a sort of cross between Monty Roberts and Charlotte Dujardin, so both a horse whisperer and  an expert in the saddle.

But reality was a very different scenario and now retired I am simply grateful that I can continue to enjoy my riding and indulge my love of horses.

I do, however, really appreciate the privilege of watching an expert at work and I am sure you will agree that here at the trekking centre we are very lucky to have one in the form of owner Lisa Gregory.

Most of the horses here have been personally trained by Lisa from their youngest days and we all know what a pleasure they are to ride. Any new arrival is greeted with great excitement – we can’t wait to see them out on the Chase when training is complete.

One newbie that has generated more excitement than most is Nymeria, bought by Lisa last summer and the full sister of her spectacular Andalusian lead horse Pele.

Cannock Chase Trekking Centre, Nymeria







Nymeria is stunningly beautiful but quite sensitive and her training process has proved to be a real test of skill and patience for Lisa, so it was a real treat a few days ago to be invited, in the company of my friend Marie Twomey, to go down to the indoor arena and watch a training session.

And it was an eye-opener for both of us. I hadn’t really seen Nymeria up close since she first arrived as a nervous and flighty girl, clearly feeling overwhelmed by her move to a busy equestrian centre.

So Marie and I were expecting some fireworks! But what we saw instead was the reward for patience, kindness and regular training sessions. Nymeria is now a calm and intelligent young lady.

We were lucky to be witnessing training on a breakthrough day. Lisa had sat on Nymeria only four times up to then, but this was the first time she was able to ride her independently, applying pressure with her legs and taking up a light contact with the reins.

With yard manager Sonia Aston on hand to help from the ground Lisa began the session  by backing and turning Nymeria, all on voice command, and then Sonia helped to attatch the two long reins to her bridle.

Lisa began working her on the long reins, explaining that it had taken patience to persuade her to work calmly, as at first Nymeria was afraid and trying to run away.

The mare walked quietly on both reins, with plenty of encouragement and praise from Lisa, and was then confident enough to step up to a nice working trot and on into canter. She has beautiful paces!


Cannock chase trekking centre, nymeria








She cantered freely on both reins and then Lisa pulled her up and asked for rein back on a voice command. Nymeria obeyed immediately. The stirrups were anchored with a strap under her belly, so Lisa was working on her steering. If she applied pressure on the right rein, the left stirrup lay against Nymeria’s side and vice versa, getting her used to the feeling of future leg aids.

Lisa removed the long reins and training switched to natural horsemanship and the join-up technique. Nymeria was turned loose and willingly followed Lisa as she walked around the arena, stopping regularly to ask again for rein back on a voice command. All went according to plan and there was obviously a close bond between them.


cannock chase trekking centre, nymeria

Lisa using natural horsemanship during Nymeria’s training









They moved into the centre of the arena and Sonia stepped forward with lots of praise and cuddles for Nymeria  as Lisa climbed the mounting block and placed her foot in the stirrup. She leaned over before mounting and sitting sideways, always talking to and stroking the horse, before she dismounted. Then she mounted again with her feet only slightly in the stirrups and Sonia led them away.


Cannock Chase Trekking Centre, Nymeria cannock chase trekking centre, nymeria










Nymeria was clearly very trusting of Sonia and so the three of them walked around the school, circling and changing direction regularly. Lisa explained that she was not applying any leg pressure yet.

It all went so well that Lisa felt ready to push forward. She put her feet properly in the stirrups and began to use her legs to encourage Nymeria forward, although Sonia was still leading the horse.

The process was accompanied by praise and stroking from both Sonia and Lisa, who explained that the mare felt completely relaxed and at ease with the training so far.

Lisa then took over the steering with Sonia only lightly holding the lead rein for security before she dismounted and began lunging Nymeria. The stirrups were left loose so they could swing against her sides to get her used to the feeling.

This went so well that Lisa felt the time was right to remount and remove the lead rein. For the first time in her life Nymeria was being ridden independently. At first Sonia walked quite close as a security blanket, but was soon able to stand quietly in the centre as Nymeria was clearly so calm and confident.

Cannock chase trekking centre, Nymeria








Lisa was now able to use her legs and heels to urge the horse forward and was clearly delighted at the response she received, explaining that the whole process had been much calmer than when she first mounted Pele.

Nymeria took the whole process in her stride and Lisa was then able to start picking up a contact on the reins, which the mare accepted willingly. Lisa walked circles, changed the rein several times and even backed up before deciding to finish the training session on what was clearly a high note. It had been a fascinating process to witness.

Lisa’s verdict? Sheer delight at the progress she had made.

Mine and Marie’s verdict? We have always looked at Nymeria and thought “too much for us, we won’t be riding her.”

But having seen her calm and thoughtful attitude in training our “no” has become a “maybe”. If we can channel our inner Monty and Charlotte!

P.S: And the treats continue!  Marie and I had the pleasure and privilege of helping escort Nymeria on her first two hour trek.

What an experience!  Nymeria had only been out for a gentle Chase walk with Lisa the previous day, but she stepped up to the challenge.  Crossing the road, splashing through puddles and meeting mountain bikes with no fear at all.

We expected a steady walk but Lisa thought differently and soon we were bowling along on Nymeria’s first ever canter on Cannock Chase.  Several more followed with not a problem.  What an addition to the CCTC team she is going to be!

cannock chase trekking centre, nymeria

Nymeria’s comfort blanket, Chase, keeping close on her first 2 hour trek.

cannock chase trekking centre, nymeria

Confidently cantering alone on her first ever Cannock Chase canter!

Training Nymeria – Part One

By Lisa Gregory

Everyone knows that I train all the young horses here at the trekking centre myself, and people often ask me how long the training process takes.

My honest answer has to be “I haven’t got a clue!”

Because when I start working with an unbroken youngster I genuinely don’t know how long it will be before I can ride that horse out on Cannock Chase for the first time.

Some take months, others weeks and I have been lucky enough to have had a few that were so good I hopped on after a couple of hours and rode them away.

Training Nymeria is a case in point. In some ways I feel that she has taken quite a long time, but suddenly she has made such quick progress that she has had her first little outing on the Chase and I am delighted to report all went according to plan.

In case you have missed the story so far, Nymeria is a beautiful five-year-old PRE Andalusian, the full sister of my fabulous lead horse Pele. I bought her last summer to train as a trekking centre horse and she arrived here from the stud where she was born and the herd she had lived with all her life.

I said at the time that she was like a country girl transplanted to the big city. Everything was a shock to her senses. I needed the help of my trusted equine friend Chase to get her to load on the horse box and he ended up bodily pushing her into her stable.

cannock chase trekking centre, nymeria








She had never been stabled before and despite Chase’s calming presence next door she quickly became stressed. But that relationship with Chase proved invaluable later, as you will see.

So I turned Nymeria out into the field with her brother and the rest of the herd and that calming environment and the routine of life with our boys and girls meant I was soon able to begin the training process.

cannock chase trekking centre, nymeria

Pele greeting his sister

cannock chase trekking centre, nymeria

Pele & Nymeria enjoying her arrival at the trekking centre









I found immediately that she was quite sensitive and routine has been crucial. When I am getting her ready for a training session I always do things in the same order and that has reassured her and also disciplined her. The first thing I do in her stable is put on her training halter and everything else follows on.

The biggest issue has been putting her bridle on and I have no idea why it has been a problem. At first she was fine, but then she started backing into a corner and I knew that if I pushed her it would become a problem.

I had to think out of the box and I came up with the idea of doing it off Chase’s back while in the arena. I would be leaning down to her instead of reaching up and she would have the reassuring presence of a steady horse she knew and trusted to give her confidence.

cannock chase trekking centre, nymeria








It had to be worth a try – and I was right! Now I can stand on a small mounting block in the stable to put her bridle on – but she still likes to have lots of kisses and cuddles while we do it. Tacking up is done slowly and I always lower the saddle on to her back with my hand underneath so it never bangs on her.

Chase has given Nymeria such reassurance that when I started long reining her I did it from his back. I had never seen this done before but I had an instinct it would help her as she was very flighty and wanted to run away from the long reins.


cannock chase trekking centre, nymeria cannock chase trekking, nymeria








In fact, it proved to be such a successful and stress free way of doing it I think I will use Chase again to help me when I start training Montana.

Nymeria’s skittishness stopped as soon as I started training her from Chase and now she focuses in the school and is not easily distracted. She is very relaxed.

My yard manager Sonia Aston or another member of my staff is always with me in the arena and together we give her lots of praise and reassurance throughout the training sessions.

Our long reining work has meant Nymeria’s steering was eventually in place and her join up with me is perfect. Once those were there I knew it was time to start laying over her and getting her used to feeling my weight.

cannock chase trekking centre, nymeria cannock chase trekking centre, nymeria








The process of mounting her has been much easier than with her brother. She is a quick learner and very smart. Once I was on her I found her to be settled and relaxed and I stroke her and talk to her all the time. I always have my music playing and I think that keeps both of us relaxed.

Once I had sat on her several times, with Sonia leading her for just a few steps, I could feel that she was ready to step up to a higher level and the next training session was a breakthrough day.

We were able to walk circles around the school, with Sonia leading Nymeria, and it was not long before she was able to step further and further away. Nymeria remained calm and focused without her trusted friend alongside her and soon I was able to ride her independently for the first time.

I could use my legs – also for the first time – to gently urge her forward and then I picked up a gentle contact on the reins. The priority is always to prevent an explosion, but that never felt in the least bit possible.

I was so proud of her and so pleased with her progress. This was only the fourth time I had ridden her and what is really rewarding is seeing her now compared to the skittish young filly she used to be.

Long term it is better to take as much time as you need when training a young horse. You should never rush and I will always take as long as is necessary. I want Nymeria to be a lovely horse for my clients to ride.

cannock chase trekking centre, nymeria cannock chase trekking centre, nymeria