The Montana Diaries

Part One – by Lisa Gregory

Of all the blogs I have written over the last couple of years one of the most popular has been my insight into how I trained our lovely young Andalusian mare Nymeria.

I have trained many horses over the years – I hate the expression ‘breaking’, I like to call it ‘training’ –  but Nymeria proved quite challenging and I had to think out of the box, adapt and try new ideas.

My methods worked beautifully and Nymeria is doing fantastically well in her ridden work. I am riding her out on Cannock Chase regularly and it won’t be too long before she is ready for experienced clients.

The interest sparked by Nymeria’s story gave me the idea of taking you all along with me on my next training journey.

As you all know, we have some beautiful young horses here sired by my Dutch Warmblood stallion Zidane. Three of them – Dakota, Oregon and Arizona – are already regularly ridden by clients and Indiana is not far away with her training progressing very well. She is proving both calm and confident out on the Chase.

The next in line for training is the gorgeous Montana. I am just starting the training process and I will be sharing the experience with you step by step in a regular blog I am calling The Montana Diaries. I hope you will find it interesting.

Montana is also by Zidane and her mother is our super registered Welsh Section D mare Larosa – known to us all as Lola. This pretty bay mare is hugely popular for her willing nature and speedy paces.







Her foal was born on May 12th, 2015, so is four this spring and currently stands at 15.2 hands but I am sure she has a lot of growing still to do.

The tri-coloured Montana has been a good girl since the night I delivered her. She has never been the slightest trouble and I am very much hoping that happy nature will indicate how she is going to be during training. Of course, all our babies are very well handled from the day of their birth and that proves invaluable.

She comes in and out from the field regularly wearing a head collar so on Day One of training it is time to get her used to wearing a bridle.

I always give a little bit of feed to encourage taking the bit and Montana is no trouble at all as I gently put the bridle over her ears and do up the buckles. She looks as if she does this every day!

cannock chase trekking centre










She is soon yawning and playing with her tongue as she gets used to the feeling of the bit in her mouth. I always put the bit a little bit higher in the mouth than it will be when they are ridden so that I avoid the problem of them learning to get their tongue over it. If they learn that habit they just mess about.

I like to leave the bridle on for about half a hour to give a baby time to settle and Montana is very calm and quiet. She is just loving the attention and having me to herself!

I am looking for Montana to be completely quiet and relaxed and really happy with it and I am pleased that she has not been worried at all.


Cannock Chase Trekking Centre










Now I am going to quietly try her with her saddle. If she is upset I will remove it straight away. Sometimes I start with just a soft numnah but Montana is so relaxed I think she will be fine.

I lower it gently on to her back and she is rewarded with lots of kisses and cuddles before I gently do the girth up one hole at a time. This has to be done very kindly as she has never had anything under her belly before.

What a good girl Montana is! I move around the stable with her so she can understand how the saddle feels on her back and I spend time grooming and stroking to reassure her.

At first she doesn’t want to move because she can feel something on her back but she soon follows me. I will leave the saddle on for about half an hour.

Montana takes the whole process in her stride and is still chilled out and happy as I remove the saddle and bridle.

The next step will be to attach the reins loosely and then to venture into the arena. I am so proud of her and looking forward to our next training session, which I will tell you about in part two of The Montana Diaries.


By Lisa Gregory
One of the most sensitive and controversial subject being talked about in the equestrian world at the moment is rider weight and its possible damaging effect on horses.  Without doubt people have got bigger over the years and as the owner of a busy equestrian centre this weighty issue is something I have to address.

I have noticed more and more articles in the equestrian press about current research and I know many riding schools have already reduced their weight limits.

Here at the trekking centre our weight limit is currently 16st, and on the recommendation of our vet I have to think about reducing that. I must put the welfare and wellbeing of my horses first, but I love my customers and I don’t want to deter people from coming here to enjoy our wonderful centre.

What I would like to do is to highlight the extra riding enjoyment that can come from weight loss, even if it is just a few pounds. And I will do that by asking one of my long serving clients, Debbie Butcher, to tell her inspirational story.

Debbie has ridden here for 18 years and is the devoted fan of Brodie, a much-loved horse who has been with me for many years.

She decided to lose weight to make Brodie’s life easier and has been so successful that she is now a Slimming World consultant. I find it inspirational that she did this out of love for one of my horses.

Now she wants to help fellow riders do the same, and I would like people to start thinking about this process. She is passionate about her message and I am passionate about my horses, which is why we are collaborating.

By Debbie Butcher

I have ridden my beloved friend Brodie for over 16 years and my weight has yo-yo’d up and down in all that time. I think I have done pretty much every diet that exists!

At my heaviest I was 13st 8lb, which was Christmas of 2017.  That was a wake-up call and I decided it had to stop.









One of the highlights of the year here at the trekking centre is our annual day out at the Sheriff of Lichfield’s Ride. It is a long and challenging day for the horses, with a route of over 20 miles, and I knew that I needed to be under 12st, as with any of the five rides that I had by then completed on Brodie.

My best boy is not getting any younger and I decided that I owed it to him to make changes.








I lost some weight on my own and then I joined Slimming World because I saw it creeping up again and I knew I had to do this properly and for the long term.

By the 2018 Sheriff’s Ride I was under 11st 7lb and earned a hugely emotional reward when Brodie and I were awarded the Best Turned Out prize. It was the most fantastic day.

cannock chase trekking centre








Now I am 10st 4lb and at my ideal BMI. I so loved the ethos and healthy approach of Slimming World that last October I became a Slimming World Consultant.

Of course, vanity and health played a part in my decision to take control of my weight. But without reservation Brodie was, and still is, my inspiration. Because he is a big boy I knew he could always carry me, which is why I had never really got to grips with it until then.

Now, a year on, the difference riding him is amazing. He is flying every time we go out on a trek and it really feels as if he is saying “thanks for doing that”!

And a whole new world of trekking has opened up to me! Brodie will always be my number one, but I can now ride horses that I was too heavy for. I am even riding the gorgeous Capulate, whose limit is way below my previous weight.

Cannock Chase Trekking Centre








There is an unexpected benefit too. I am 56 and I have degenerative knee problems, which have improved massively as a result of my weight loss and improved fitness.

Everybody has to find their own motivation for losing weight. Brodie was mine, and I like to think other riders might be motivated by their feelings for a favourite horse.

I am somebody that understands this from a rider’s perspective. The worst thing you can do is “go on a diet”. This is a holistic approach, all about mind set, eating the right foods, and exercise. And of course, riding is a fantastic form of exercise.

I have become a Slimming World consultant because I believe in this absolutely. We are totally non-judgmental, there is no humiliation. Everything is discreet. This is not about dieting; it is all about changing our relationship with food.   If I can inspire other people I will be delighted. My Slimming World classes are Tuesdays (5.30pm) at St Joseph’s RC Primary School, Hednesford, and Wednesdays (5.30pm and 7.30pm) at Heath Hayes Constitutional Club, from Wednesday 5th June I will be moving my class to The Victoria Club, Norton Canes.  Have a look at my Facebook Page for further information.
Slimming World Heath Hayes

P.S from Lisa: Debbie is already proving an inspiration!  Many of our riders have joined her and their weight loss is incredible.  They say their favourite horses are flying under a lighter rider, and they have so much more choice of horses to ride as I am not now limited to who I can put them on.  I am so proud of them all!

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!



I can’t believe we are already into 2019 and in June it will be 24 years since I achieved my dream and opened my own trekking centre.

It has been a long and interesting journey, with many ups and downs along the road, and one person has been with me every step of the way.

Many of you know him, my longest standing client, and were delighted when he celebrated his 77th birthday last year with a trek on his beloved Brodie. So this week I thought it would be fascinating to hear from him about his journey alongside me at the trekking centre.  It’s over to you JOHN BROOKS.

by John Brooks

Years ago, when I was first learning to ride, I used to enjoy a trek at a stables on Cannock Chase owned by a showjumper called Joe Gregory.

He had three daughters and the littlest one was about five at the time.  Her name was Lisa and she was bold and confident and pony mad. I could not have imagined then that all these years later we would still be friends – and really, she hasn’t changed a bit!

I started riding in 1974 at the age of 32. I was Mayor of Lichfield at the time and the then Sheriff asked me if I would join him on the city’s annual traditional beating the bounds ride.

I said I couldn’t ride at all but would learn in time for the event. In fact I only rode about eight times and then went on the Sheriff of Lichfield’s ride. I wouldn’t recommend that! It wasn’t the well organised day it is now – it was more like the Charge Of The Light Brigade!

I just about managed to stop on, only saved by the fact the horse I was on was very unfit and ran out of puff in every gallop.

But it didn’t put me off, far from it in fact. I was riding at Brian McMahon’s racing yard, where they also took rides out. I also rode at Middleton Equestrian Centre, and then I found Lisa’s dad’s place.

I rode at a lot of places and have kept a record of all the different horses I have ridden over the years. The total stands now at 247!

Then in June 1995 I saw a newspaper advert for a new stables opening at Teddesley. I went along in the very first week and was amazed to find that the owner was that same little girl I had known years before – now all grown up and putting me on a massive 18hh shire cross called Simon.

And I have ridden with Lisa ever since. Her original stables were here, on the site we are on today, but when Cannock Chase was closed due to forest fire risks in 1996 we moved over the road and kept on riding.

It was a tough time but Lisa battled through and stayed in business with 18 horses.

Then Lisa moved to Brocton for six years and the horse herd grew to 26. In 2001 she was able to buy her original site and the whole operation moved back here and continued to grow.

I have always ridden twice a week and still do. When I was working I would come for the day on a Sunday with some sandwiches and a can of lager and do both the morning and afternoon rides.

In 1996 I convinced Lisa to join me on the Sheriff’s Ride. There was just me and her back then – last year she took 25 riders! Altogether I have completed 30 and there were some very scary incidents in the old days. Health and safety hadn’t been invented then!


cannock chase trekking centre

John and Lisa one of many Sheriffs Rides together









Over the years Lisa has become vitally important to the ride and I think she and the marshalls she provides are instrumental in keeping it going. Without her input it could have died.

I am so pleased to see what the Centre has become. It is a long way from my can of lager days and it is so nice after a ride to come back to the bistro and enjoy a good coffee and some lunch, especially in winter when the log fire is blazing away.

But it hasn’t been easy for Lisa. Sometimes it has been a real struggle but she has so much determination and stamina that it keeps on getting better and better here.

And over the years she has got better and better as a trainer. She always learns from experience and so the quality of horses continually improves, especially as she has trained many of them from foals. And she is excellent at not only training horses but pairing up riders with the right horse for them. That is a fantastic skill.

I have so many happy memories and have ridden some excellent horses and I have to say that Brodie is my all-time favourite. He has been a wonderful horse for me and I have done so much on him, including eight Sheriff’s rides.

cannock chase trekking centre

John & Brodie celebrate Johns 77th Birthday

cannock chase trekking centre

John congratulating Debbie Butcher and Brodie on their ‘Best Turned Out’ award












But I am getting old now and the horse I enjoy riding most is Lola. She is fast and forward going and she goes very easily and nicely. It is not hard work for an old man like me!

When I worked I found coming here was a stress buster for me. Riding horses is a very healthy and therapeutic hobby.

Now it keeps me fit and well. A few years ago I had a heart problem and the doctor was amazed at how quickly I recovered and got back to full fitness. My heart efficiency returned to normal and that happens only in one per cent of cases. I credit riding for that.

Riding at the trekking centre over the years has always been a real pleasure, but it has been more than that. It has been, and still is, a very important part of my life and I intend to keep going for as long as I enjoy it.

There is no better riding anywhere than Cannock Chase and if you really want to enjoy your riding there is no better place than this.

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



While there is always lots going on here at the trekking centre I am always delighted to be able to offer special events.

And this summer we will have plenty to look forward to, thanks to our programme of seven super dates.

PUB RIDES have always been hugely popular events but last year I had to discontinue them due to circumstances beyond our control.

So I am very excited to announce that the Bank Holiday Monday PUB RIDES are back with a new venue for our lunch. I am sure you are going to love them, especially as our new pub is a little further away, so that means a longer time in the saddle and visiting parts of our beautiful Cannock Chase we do not usually see. And the food there is fabulous!

These fantastic days out are for experienced riders only, but please bear in mind that this will be quite a long ride,  so pay attention to your physical fitness. You must be comfortable at walk, trot and canter.

The dates are April 22nd, May 6th, May 27th and August 26th. Spaces will be limited so don’t leave it too late to book!

cannock chase trekking centre cannock chase trekking centre

cannock chase trekking centre
















I am delighted to again offer our two-day LONGDON TRAIL RIDE on Thursday and Friday, July 25th and 26th.

There will only be 10 places available on this lovely ride that is one of the highlights of my summer.

I personally take this ride and we will enjoy two full days of riding through the glorious countryside of Cannock Chase, on a variety of different tracks and terrain.

Your selected mount is your own horse for the two days and you will be responsible for his care.

We will start with coffee and pastries here in the bistro before we bring in our horses, groom and tack up and then head out on our adventure. We will stop at a gorgeous country pub for lunch, riding on in the afternoon to our cosy overnight farmhouse accommodation.

We will make sure our horses are comfortable before turning them out to graze in their holiday paddock. Then it’s our turn to relax with a glass of wine and I will prepare a delicious evening meal. Finish our evening with a dip in the jacuzzi to ease any aching muscles.

Next morning we will wake up to a full English breakfast before tacking up to begin our ride home. But it’s not over yet! Depending on the weather we will stop for either a picnic on the Chase or a pub lunch as we wend our way back to the centre.

This event is for experienced riders only. Please contact the centre for prices and booking information.

And for a really special treat with friends I am happy to offer this fantastic trail ride to private groups.

If you want to put together a group, with a minimum of six riders, you can have an identical two day experience to yourselves. Please liaise with the centre over possible dates, and I would be delighted to make myself available to escort you over a weekend.


CANNOCK CHASE TREKKING CENTRE cannock chase trekking centre












The annual LICHFIELD SHERIFF’S RIDE is our event of the year on Saturday, September 7th. This historic beating the bounds ride starts from the centre of Lichfield and heads out on a route of more than 20 miles that does include some roads.

Riders are in show dress and the horses are turned out to the highest of standards to impress the large crowds that line the streets to cheer us on. You must be available for the two preparation days prior to the ride.

cannock chase trekking centre







This event is for experienced clients only and riders’ abilities will be assessed before bookings are accepted.  It is a long and challenging day and in the interests of the horses I must impose a 13stone weight limit.

On Wednesday, September 4th, there will be a two hour pre-Sheriff’s trek when I will ensure you are comfortable with your chosen horse and organise rider pairings for the big day.

Thursday and Friday, September 5th and 6th, are very busy but lots of fun! You will be looking after your own horse – with the help and supervision of myself and my staff – and doing all the bathing, mane and tail washing and tack cleaning before my girls apply the finishing touches.

cannock chase trekking centre cannock chase trekking centre










Then it’s the big event and it really is a very special and memorable occasion. In 2018 we took our biggest ever group and everyone was so pleased and proud of themselves at the end of a brilliant day. Again, please contact the centre for prices and booking details.

cannock chase trekking centre cannock chase trekking centre







There will be a first for us on Saturday, May 25th, when we stage our RANCH PARTY NIGHT.

This will be our first ever evening event and the whole centre will have a Western ranch theme.

Evening views out to the Chase from our bistro are spectacular with the horses at rest in the fields, so you can relax around the cosy flames of the fire pit with a drink, or enjoy some dancing to our live band.

There will be a bar, food from our smokehouse barbecue, face painting and much more. If you are feeling really daring, test your riding skills on our bronco bull. Watch the website for when tickets go on sale.

So those are our super seven events but that won’t be all this summer! Wait for news of evening barbecue rides, an Indian restaurant ride and perhaps an early morning breakfast ride.  We will keep you busy this summer!



After such an exciting 2018 I have decided we need to go one better as we head into a new year, so I am expanding our programme of adult activities.

We have lots of fun going on for children, so the grown-ups deserve their excitement too! There will be brilliant treks as usual and loads of action in the arena designed at improving riding skills and learning new disciplines. I hope there is something for everyone!

Our arena is open Wednesdays to Sundays for the normal range of lessons and we will now have two late nights, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Saddleless Master Class

Our very popular SADDLELESS MASTER CLASS will be on Wednesdays at 6 pm for 45 minutes and this bareback training session is led by myself. Anyone can try this if they are comfortable at walk, trot, and canter.

This is a fun class set to music but it has a serious theme. Whenever I see things start to go wrong for a rider it is generally loss or lack of balance that is to blame.

In this class, I will ride alongside you and teach you how to develop your core strength. Using cones and pole work you will learn how to use your posture and body position to assist your horse.

Riding bareback is something I have done all my life and I still do. I make sure that at least a couple of times a week I take my stallion Zidane into the arena to work without a saddle. Even with all my years of experience, I find it still improves my core strength and balance.

I really want to encourage all my riders to join me and try this. It is such a good way to boost confidence too.

Saddleless Masterclass Lisa with Chase

Introduction to Dressage

On Thursdays at 6pm we will have an INTRODUCTION TO DRESSAGE class, led by our BHS registered instructor Karen. I decided to introduce this 45-minute session for people who would like to have a go at learning the basics of this fascinating Olympic discipline.

I am not expecting anyone to suddenly turn into Charlotte Dujardin, but you will be able to build up to performing a preliminary dressage routine. This will be great for riders who like to have a target to aim for and will provide such a feeling of achievement.

Polework Clinic

Thursdays at 7pm is the slot for our great new POLEWORK CLINIC, led by myself and our instructor Karen.

This new discipline is all the rage in the horse world at the moment. People who own their own horses are travelling all over the place to take part, so I decided our clients here should have the chance too.

This is a group lesson and loads of fun for both horse and rider as you all try our grids of 30-plus poles in the arena. Pole work is the key to rhythm, balance, and straightness, so I am sure you will all soon notice the difference in your riding.

Cannock Chase Trekking, Lessons

Cross Country Clinic

From April onwards this slot will be taken over by our very popular summer CROSS COUNTRY CLINIC led by myself and Karen. Watch our website for dates and details.

cannock chase trekking centre xc

Cannock Chase Trekking, Cross Country

Intro to Jumping

On Saturdays at 3.45 we will have another fun group activity, INTRO TO JUMPING.

Take your first leap into jumping in a controlled environment, learn the jump position and stages of the jump. This is an ideal class to prepare if you want to have a go at the summer cross country sessions.

Intro to Jumping

Adult Beginners’ Group

Another new activity is our ADULT BEGINNERS GROUP on Sundays at 2pm. This is exactly what it says, an opportunity for adults to learn the basics of riding for the first time, but so much more fun in a group atmosphere.

Western Riding

Do you love a good Western on the TV? Have you ever fancied learning to ride like a cowboy? Well now you can!

I am so excited about our WESTERN RIDING class on Sundays at 3pm. I absolutely love Western riding and I am so happy to be able to offer this activity. Full Western tack and an instructor will ride with you. This is also a good preparation if you plan a ranch holiday at any stage.

Cannock Chase Trekking, Western Riding

Please contact the centre for booking and pricing details. And please remember to keep checking our website and Facebook page for news of events and activities.



It’s a new year and I have loads of new activities planned to take place here at the trekking centre.

Obviously the centre is growing and I am always thinking of fun ways for our young riders to learn and to interact with our lovely ponies and I have introduced a whole children’s schedule.

Every week we have our PONY CLUB for children aged four and over. This runs each Wednesday from 4pm to 5pm.

This is perfect for every child who ever dreams of owning their own pony. It is a fun and exciting opportunity to get close to a pony, with kids learning stable management, how to groom and look after a horse and obviously includes a riding lesson.

This is pony club with a difference. Throughout the year we will be adding all sorts of fun activities and there will be the chance to play gymkhana games, try Western riding and have a go at bare back.

I always think children learn best through fun and it is important that they become “horse savvy”. It is fine to focus on learning to ride, but pony handling is a very important skill.

cannock chase trekking centre

cannock chase trekking centre







We always try to listen to what our clients want and we aim to keep things fun and exciting for our children. So we have added a very special event every winter Wednesday at 5.15pm.

All children love the sparkly world of UNICORNS and we are offering a magical Unicorn experience. Little girls love the idea of dressing up ponies and we have had many requests for Unicorn fun.

It will include brushing and grooming, painting glitter on pony hooves and decorating with fun accessories. Then they will be able to ride their unicorns to music.

This activity will run until the end of March, when it will switch to Sunday afternoons. It is also available for private party hire on Sundays.


cannock chase trekking centre cannock chase trekking centre











School holidays will bring a whole feast of trekking centre activities.

MY LITTLE PONY is a two hour activity session which includes grooming, plaiting, a riding lesson and fun and games. It also includes a small snack and a drink. Dates:
Wednesday February 20th, Wednesday April 17th, Wednesday July 24th, Wednesday August 7th, Wednesday October 20th and Friday December 27th.

The October session will have a Halloween theme with fancy dress, games and apple bobbing for the ponies. The December date will be a Christmas party theme.


Cannock chase trekking centre cannock chase trekking centre











HOME ON THE RANCH is a morning of cuddly pets. Spend two hours with our ponies, donkey, bunnies and Pygmy goats. This includes a paddock ride and a small snack and drink. Dates: Thursday February 21st, Thursday April 18th, Thursday July 25th, Thursday August 8th, Thursday October 31st. This one will have a Halloween theme.


cannock chase trekking centre cannock chase trekking centre







Our RIDING SCHOOL is open from Wednesday to Sunday every week and on Saturdays we have a programme for children.

INTRO TO RIDING begins at 9.45am and introduces our young riders to the first steps of walking and trotting. RIDING IMPROVEMENT is aimed at children who have completed six weeks of the intro class and introduces canter for the first time. INTERMEDIATE RIDING looks at the transition to jumping and basic dressage. This is for age seven and upwards.

cannock chase trekking centre cannock chase trekking centre








On Sundays we have PADDOCK RIDES for young children at 10am and 11am. And obviously there are opportunities for slightly older kids to join our TREKS on Cannock Chase.

cannock chase trekking centre cannock chase trekking centre










Please contact the centre for prices and booking information and keep an eye on our website and Facebook page throughout the year.

Blizzards and Droughts


It’s that time of the year when I always take a look back at the year just ending here at the Trekking Centre and start thinking about the year to come.

I find it helps me plan and come up with new ideas but when I look back at 2018 I am still amazed by the challenges caused by the weather.

No trekking today!

A cold but cosy winter at the Trekking Centre

The winter was surely the most severe I have see. since I opened the trekking centre. The snow began even before Christmas and disrupted our festive rides, but our hardy riders wrapped up warmly to brave the Chase as soon as the ice melted.

Our Ranch Bistro offers a warm welcome inside

It was a massive help to have our lovely visitors’ centre and bistro so we had cosy surroundings to thaw out in – we had a snug ski lodge atmosphere with the log fire blazing – and our arena kept the horses moving when conditions were bad.

But of course worse was to come when The Beast From The East roared in with blizzards and deep drifts and hard frosts put paid to our fun for a few days.

Summer was a hot challenge….

And it seemed that no sooner had the long-awaited spring arrived than we were facing another weather test. Summer came with long hot days and a record breaking drought – no rain means no grass!

I ended up having to feed the herd with hay rations through most of the summer.

Special occasions, super fun….

A summer evening’s trek to the Indian restaurant

There was a consolation though – gorgeous evenings when our clients enjoyed barbecue rides and our first ridden expedition to a local Indian restaurant. Both were voted a great success and I am looking forward to doing both again in summer 2019.

Enjoying the glorious sunset on our return to the yard

We had so many activities on offer through the year – children’s activity days, pony club, and home on the range. And for adults the cross country clinics taken by myself and our instructor Karen were very popular.

We have had hen and stag parties, corporate days, team building days, and celebrated the Royal Wedding. All day rides with lunch back at the centre also went well and for 2019 I am hoping we can reinstate our popular pub rides. Our two-day trek with an overnight stay in Longdon was greatly enjoyed and I hope we will do that again.

Lisa sets the standard for her saddleless classes

My saddle-less riding clinics have really captured the imagination. Riders are loving learning new skills and improving balance and I now have both beginners’ and experienced rider classes most weeks.

Group saddleless riding class

Our annual highlight, the Sheriff of Lichfield traditional beating the bounds ride, was our best ever. We took 25 horses – including Dakota, Sahara, Kitty and Wispa, who were making their debuts. Like the rest of

A perfect Ranch Bistro start to the day

the team, they looked gorgeous and behaved impeccably.


Our Bistro cooks up a recipe for success….

In the bistro we have settled on a menu that captures our ranch style, and we have many visitors now who are not riders. And we were very proud to be awarded again our five-star hygiene rating.

Horses, horses and more horses….

There were some sad goodbyes and warm welcomes in the horse herd. Saminca and Leo moved on to private homes and one of my most popular horses, Galaxy, started a new life in well earned retirement.

Kitty practising her dressage moves

Stepping in was the stunning Friesian mare Kitty. I think we have all fallen in love with this spectacular but very kind and gentle mare. Joining her later in the year was our new big boy Tyri, a dramatically marked Appaloosa cross. He has competed to quite a high level in dressage but he loves best to be cantering along out on the Chase. What a happy horse he has turned out to be!

Saminca’s full bred Oldenburg daughter Sahara is proving to be an absolute delight for our experienced riders and will excel in the school I am sure.

And I am so proud when I am out leading a trek to see three of our home breds trotting along behind. My Dutch warmblood stallion Zidane’s sons Dakota and Oregon and daughter Arizona joined the treks in 2018 and are already very popular. It won’t be long before Dakota’s full sister Indiana joins them.

Sister Nymeria : “We are family”

And 2019 will also see another new arrival available for clients. I am currently training our beautiful Andalusian mare Nymeria, full sister to my lead horse Pele, and she will be a wonderful addition to the team.

The year brought us one or two health worries. Jake was out of action for a little while, Indiana had surgery for sarcoids and Lola was hurt in an accident with a gate. Zidane’s teeth bothered him again. All now have a clean bill of health but I am grateful our vets at Pool House have opened a new equine hospital. I was honoured with my partner Mark to be on the guest list when it was officially opened by Prince Charles.

2019 – an exciting year ahead….

So there we are, goodbye 2018 with all its challenges. As for 2019, I have all sorts of plans brewing!

More barbecue rides, event nights, Indian restaurant rides, special kids’ activities and I am investigating possible riding holiday venues.

Indiana and Nymeria will be joining the treks and Montana’s training will start. There’s a lot to look forward to, so a very happy New Year to you all!




The Bond of Friendship


Despite spending all my life working with horses there are still moments that give me
goose bumps and catch at my heart strings.

Often those are moments that leave me reflecting on the bond of friendship that exists between ourselves and these beautiful and sensitive animals that share our lives.

I experienced one of those moments recently here at Cannock Chase Trekking Centre. It might seem trivial to some but it was something that really left me amazed. I will tell you the little story and you can judge for yourselves.

As followers of our Facebook page know, I am currently training our new arrival, a beautiful Andalusian mare called Nymeria. She is quite sensitive and a little bit challenging so I often work her in the arena in the evening when it is quiet with fewer distractions.

I had worked her and then turned her out. The rest of the herd were long gone so, with Nymeria loose, I walked up the field to open the gate and let her through.

Unfortunately she spotted them through a gap in the trees and became fixated that she should go the wrong way. With no lead rope or head collar I was stuck and could not persuade her to follow me through the open gate.


She was getting a little agitated when I had an idea and approached my good friend Capulate, who was grazing in the next field. As my blog readers know from when I wrote about him, he was one of the most challenging horses I have ever trained. We spent many, many hours together and as a result we have a special friendship. I love him, he loves me, simple as that.

We had a little chat and a cuddle that evening and I explained my predicament. Then I did some of my natural horsemanship join up technique and he left his grazing to follow me into the other field where Nymeria was still fretting. I really had no clue what would happen next.

I watched in delight as Capulate went straight to her and stood with her for a few seconds. Then he turned, and with Nymeria following closely behind, he led her through the gate and escorted her to her friends before resuming his grazing.

I closed the gate behind them and stood in quiet amazement. I am left with more questions than answers. How did he know what I wanted him to do? How did he understand? How did he communicate with the mare?

All I do know is that he is my beloved friend. I had a problem and he fixed it. The rest must just be magic!

The Power of the Herd

THE POWER OF THE HERD – Now we have our new Cannock Chase Trekking Centre website up and running I decided it was time I started writing my weekly blog again. And this week presented the perfect opportunity.

Anyone who enjoys visiting our ranch bistro knows how entertaining and interesting it is to watch the interactions and relationships between our horses.

Our team have a very natural life, living together as a herd with a distinct pecking order, and the power of the herd has a major influence on their behaviour. I often harness that power when I am introducing a new horse or training a youngster.

It can be a major training tool and it was demonstrated this week with our newest arrival, our five-year-old pure bred Andalusian. She is my trek leader Pele’s full sister and we have named her Nymeria.

She has always lived on the stud where she was born, never going beyond her birthplace and living a quiet life in the field.

Once arriving at the trekking centre we stable a new horse so we can carry out worming and health checks. This helps us start to bond with them before beginning their training.

But in Nymeria’s case she became very stressed. The big world outside was a scary place and she had never even been stabled before. She began to withdraw into the corner as if it was her sanctuary.

Three days after her arrival I decided to turn her out with the herd. One reason was to allow her to see and understand her surroundings. She is like a country girl arriving in the city. This is a big, busy trekking centre, she needed the company of other horses to help process this sensory overload.

I have started my natural horsemanship with her and she was starting to bond with me but I decided she would not relax properly until she joined the herd.

Joining the Herd
She was stabled alongside our lovely boy Skye, who is so friendly and laid back. We don’t just kick a new horse out with them all. We carry out a careful introduction procedure and first we put her in the field with Skye, her new friend and comfort blanket.

Then we added her big brother Pele and after ignoring each other for a little while they went off for a gallop and a play.

nymeria and pele Nymeria and Pele

We continued the process by turning out boy, girl, boy, girl. We also find it helps to first turn out those of similar ages and the group slowly grew in size. If alarmed she ran back to Skye and she soon found she liked Kitty. Interestingly Kitty is our other newest arrival and still bottom of the pecking order. So Nymeria clearly recognised a kindred spirit.

It’s incredible to watch. The other horses were calm and assertive, but not aggressive. They put her in her place with their body language.

Nymeria cctc_herd

She won’t be allowed to fully integrate for a while. The mares will keep her at least 20 metres away until they are ready to make friends with her. They patrol and even operate a shift system like armed guards. One of them is always on watch to keep an eye on her.

She will learn to go out and come in with the gang and days of play, learning and interactions will expend her energy. The other horses will teach her that this is a safe place with nothing to be afraid of.

cctc_herd cctc_herd

The power of the herd will have helped me to begin her training to become a trekking horse. Exciting times ahead for this beautiful girl!