Introducing Your Guides – by Lisa Gregory

I am very lucky here at the trekking centre to have a dedicated yard team who really love all my horses and always have their best interests at heart.

My yard manager, Sonia Aston, heads the team, and working with her are Bethan Gould, Leah Dodd and Ellie Jones.

We have already heard from Sonia in an earlier blog, so now it is the turn of the others, who began their equestrian careers here on trekking centre apprenticeships. They are responsible for the care and welfare of all the horses.

Training young people, developing their skill sets and allowing their love of horses to blossom is a passion of mine. When you have a connection with horses, it is always with you, and I love to nurture that so it will be theirs for life.

These three all have relaxed and calm personalities, which are perfect for working with horses and communicating with clients. They work really well together and the dynamics between the four full-time yard staff are brilliant.

All three of my girls worked among my weekend volunteer team, and all of them caught my eye with their hard work and dedication.

First to join the team was Bethan. She came for a paddock ride when she was just a little girl, and, although she had her own ponies, she always came to ride here as well and had a special interest in my young or new horses.

Next to arrive was Leah – another who had graduated from my paddock rides when she was a little girl! Leah was 16 when she started an equine course at Rodbaston College. She did a work experience placement here and I then offered her a full-time apprenticeship under the assessment of Reaceheath College.

Ellie is the newest member of our team. I had already spotted her potential during her volunteer work on the yard. When a vacancy arrived, she was the obvious candidate for an apprenticeship.

Now let’s hear from the girls.

Bethan Gould

My mum has always had horses, and when I was a baby, she used to sit me on an old Welsh Section A pony she had.

I was four when I was taken to the trekking centre for the first time to have a paddock ride. Then I got my first pony, Mowgli. He is 20 now, and I still have him. I have had Solo, my Connemara, for seven years. Despite having my own ponies, I still liked coming to the trekking centre to ride. In fact, I had my first canter here, on Dolly, because Mowgli was a little bit sharp for a beginner to canter.

As I got older, I really used to enjoy it when Lisa had a new horse or was training a youngster. I was always asking her if I could ride them, and she would often let me be one of the first.

I started volunteering at the trekking centre when I was 15, and after I did my A Levels I started at university with the aim of becoming a veterinary nurse. But it didn’t really suit me, and I wasn’t enjoying it. When a vacancy came up at the trekking centre in November 2018, Lisa offered me an apprenticeship. My mum could see that I wasn’t happy at university, so it was decided that I could give it a chance.

I am so happy that I took that chance – I love it here. Since then, Lisa has given me a more senior role and extra responsibilities. At first, I found that a bit daunting, but I am really enjoying my new duties now and I love the variety. I am so happy spending time with the horses, grooming them and taking care of all their health checks.

I love them all, but I do have a few favourites. My favourites for my role as a trek guide are Oregon and Atlantis, and my number-one girl is Nymeria, our beautiful, young Andalusian mare.
I have spent a lot of time with her because Lisa allowed me to help in training her. I have a real love for Nymeria, and she gives it back to me.

We have a wonderful summer of events planned here at the trekking centre, and I am really looking forward to all of them, especially when we can repeat the Western riding display we learned last year. I loved that and can’t wait to do it again!

Leah Dodd

The first time I ever sat on a pony was here at the trekking centre, when I had a paddock ride on Lady. I rode here some more to pick up the basics and continued to go on treks, and then I had lessons at a riding school (this was before the trekking centre did lessons).

My dad had booked my paddock ride for me. He had shares in race horses, and I always used to go to the races with him.

When I was 14, I had my loan pony, Sparky, but I always kept on riding here as well. Sparky had been retired when he passed away last year and coming here really helped me at that time.

I became a weekend volunteer at the trekking centre, and then decided to go down the equine route when I left school, so I started at Rodbaston College. I was coming here once a week on work placement, and then Lisa offered me a full-time apprenticeship, which I was really delighted to accept.

I have nearly finished my apprenticeship now, and I am so happy that I will be staying on. I love my job – I really don’t know what else I would want to do.

The highlight of my time here so far has been helping Lisa to train Lola’s daughter Montana. Lisa allocated us all a project horse to work with to improve our skills and knowledge, and mine was Montana. She was only two when I first met her, and I have learned so much because of her.

I have a few other favourites too! I just love Princess because she is such a personality and full of character. At one stage, Lisa did consider selling her, but, luckily, she changed her mind. I have done lots of work with Princess, and she is a great little all-rounder. I did the Lichfield Sheriff’s Ride on her, and it was such a fun and memorable day.

I also love Pirate because he is a brilliant cob, so safe for a beginner and a fun ride for someone experienced. And Lola is my perfect guide horse.

I am really looking forward to helping Lisa when she starts training Colorado, the youngest of her stallion Zidane’s offspring.

And we have a special day to look forward to on June 20th, when we will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the start of the trekking centre. I can’t wait to find out all the exciting things we will be doing!

Ellie Jones

I have ridden since I was three. My grandmother has horses, and I always used to ride hers and I also had riding lessons for a while.

But the first time I came to the trekking centre was as a weekend volunteer when I was 13. I had emailed Lisa to ask if she would take me on. Lisa said I could come, and so I started working at weekends and I really enjoyed it. I began doing more and more in the holidays, and I also started helping to look after the small animals as well.

I started my A Levels in the sixth form at school, doing health and child development – nothing to do with horses at all! And then a full-time vacancy came up on the yard. Lisa asked me if I would be interested in an apprenticeship. My mum and dad approved, and the more I thought about it the more it made sense, so I jumped at the chance to join the team. Of course, I knew them all already, so that made life much easier.

I am so pleased I made that decision. I am learning so much and I am loving being with all the horses. My clear favourite is Autumn – I love everything about her.

The summer events look so exciting. I am looking forward to getting a chance to take part in the Western riding display team. I filled in a couple of times for missing people during rehearsals last year, and I would love to do it for real.

But I think the highlight for me will be the Lichfield Sheriff’s Ride in September. I have heard so much about it and I will be doing it for the first time this year.