Starting the Build. Off to a Flying Start!

The Trekking Centre’s New Development

WEEK 1 – 25th January 2016

It’s happening at last – our fabulous new trekking centre is underway and I can’t believe the progress we’ve made in just a few days.

After all the planning and dreaming – and all the delays and red tape – the contractors have arrived and we have finally begun work on our long-awaited development project.

It has been a long time coming and it seems quite surreal that we are actually breaking ground. Scary – but very exciting too!

We have a hard working crew of contractors on site and the transformation every day is quite amazing. I really can’t take my eyes away from it.

After just a couple of days the contractors’ compound was up, the area for the new stables dug out and the footprint of the visitors’ centre established. All you riders will see huge changes every time you visit.

I had hoped that we would have started the work last summer, but a few little snags and hitches developed along the way that needed sorting out. But that’s all dealt with now and so finally the dream is taking shape.

I began thinking about all this more than six years ago. It was then that I started considering that at some stage I would like to take the trekking centre into a new era.

That dream became a necessity when I decided that our facilities were becoming tired. It was a case of scaling down the operation – or going all-out for a development that would enable us to offer our clients the very best.

And we will also be providing top-class facilities for the staff and for our horses too. They work hard and deserve to be spoiled a little.

The new indoor arena will be the first to be finished and should be ready for use in April. The visitors’ centre, which will incorporate a cafe, shop, lecture area, showers and toilets, should hopefully be complete by late June or early July.  The completion of both of those will enable us to offer our clients so many options with activities and I will keep you updated with all our ideas along the way. I think you will all enjoy the plans I am making!

Of course, all this construction work will cause some disruption to our operations but we have devised a plan to keep us up and running without affecting our riders’ enjoyment.

The office where you all check in for rides has moved onto the car park. So visitors will park there as normal, then check in as usual, but we will mount up and ride out from the rear field. We may, in fact, put a corral in there, but it might not prove necessary, so we will wait and see.

Starting a major construction project in the winter may seem like odd timing, but it is ideal for us. This is our quiet time of the year when our rides are much smaller, so disruption will be kept to a minimum. When our busy period starts again, the build will be well advanced.

And by the summer, all our new fun can start. Enjoy coffee and cake after a trek, join us for an evening barbeque ride, or get up early and come with us to spot wildlife on the Chase before a delicious breakfast!

Then there will be workshops, lectures, Western riding, maybe even Pony Club games for adults!

It’s all so exciting and I know all you are going to love our new-look centre.

Larosa’s Pregnancy – Welsh section D Mare First Foal

She’s a real beauty, I’m sure you all agree.

Of course I’m talking about our new arrival, little Montana, whose lovely looks and cheeky personality have already earned her a massive fan club.

I kept you all in touch with events on the night of her birth via our Facebook page and it attracted such huge interest that I thought I would share with you all my foal diary.

I always like to keep a diary when one of my mares is in foal so I can keep a record of all the changes as the weeks go by. Then I can be there to make sure that both mum and baby are absolutely safe throughout the labour and birth.

Larosa – Lola to all her friends – is our lovely bay Welsh Section D mare. She was in foal to our coloured stallion Zidane, a first pregnancy for her, and the baby was due on May 20th.

She was scanned in foal in July 2014 and continued to work up to December when she started her maternity leave. On March 10th she moved into her foaling box and we began camera monitoring on April 27th.

Here’s how the last few weeks progressed:

April 28th: For a maiden mare Lola has a huge baby bump and has already changed shape behind.

April 29th: Lola is quiet in the field during the day but has started to become restless in the stable at night.

May 3rd: Lola has started kicking out at her belly and rubbing her tail, but has not really developed an udder yet.

May 4th: Standing quietly but scratching her back legs together and flashing her tail frequently – I think the baby’s kicking!

May 5th: Shaking her head and biting her stomach tonight.

May 6th: She’s doing what I call mooching in her bed – making a nest.

May 9th: Rubbing her tail and pushing against the stable – I find mares do this when their foals are active. Lola’s udder is developing and she has a tiny bit of wax on her teats. She is becoming very restless and walking her stable and stamping a lot, signs that she is becoming increasingly uncomfortable.

May 10th: This morning Lola didn’t want to go out in the field – unlike her! But we turned her out as I find it relaxes the mare. She’s in the field next to Zidane which seems to settle both of them. We’ve seen her rolling more than normal in the paddock.

May 11th: I’ve spent the last couple of nights watching her closely as maiden mares can be sneaky and she’s showing me all the signs of labour! I’ve now plaited and bandaged her tail and left the stable light on.

May 12th: This morning Lola is still reluctant to go out to the field and her udder is very full.

May 12th – 5pm: She has now completely waxed up on her teats and is dripping milk. Foaling should happen tonight!

7.30pm: The baby is either kicking or very big – contractions are happening!

8.45pm: She’s digging her bed (nesting)! Her back end spasms underneath her four times.

8.52pm: Eating some hay.

8.53pm: Mooching her bed and digging again.

9.41pm: I can see on the monitor that the white bag is visible. This is now when I can go in to her, never before as you can interfere with the birth. I’ve learned that in the past! Once the bag is visible it’s the point of no return for the mare, the baby is coming.

10.03pm: I can see two legs and a little nose but she seems like a big foal so I give Lola a little help and our new baby is safely delivered.

10.30pm: She’s standing for the first time, a very strong little girl.

As we always expected, Lola is proving to be the ideal mother. Zidane has had a good look at his new daughter and is very proud.

Mare and foal are now out in the field in the daytime, enjoying the sunshine, and Montana is loving testing out her long legs.

Larosa’s Pregnancy – Welsh section D Mare First Foal

We had lots of suggestions for names, following our Chase Stud theme of American states. I eventually had a shortlist of five and finally went for Montana.

It seems to suit her perfectly and fits very well with her brothers and sisters, Dakota, Oregon, Indiana and Arizona.

I’m sure you all wish her a warm and loving welcome to the trekking centre.

23.20: She’s feeding from mom.

Horse Of The Month – Zidane, April 2015

As we started our new horse of the month feature last month with our gorgeous mum-to-be Larosa, it makes perfect sense to follow with Zidane, the father of her baby.

Zidane is my 16.2hh KWPN Tobiano stallion, and is the sire of four youngsters so far here at the Trekking Centre – Dakota, Oregon, Arizona and Indiana. Our fifth will be Larosa’s little one, due on May 20th.

I bought Zidane in 2011 as a special birthday present to myself – he was the first horse I have ever bought just for myself rather than for the Centre. Some people mark a certain birthday with a fast sportscar – well Zidane is my Ferrari.

In my eyes he is the most stunning horse I have ever seen, not just conformation-wise. He has the most fantastic temperament of any stallion I have ever come across.

I found him when I had a mare that I wanted to put in foal. He was advertised at stud after coming over from Holland.

But when I rang up to inquire about him I discovered that his owners were about to put him up for sale. I got talking to them and said that one of the dreams I had always had was to breed my own horses.

They told me he was like no other stallion they had ever known. They felt he could have a very natural life here at the Centre where he could enjoy daily turn-out and being ridden regularly. I talked to them for ages about him.

And then I broke all my own rules about buying horses – I bought him unseen over the phone!

I just went with my gut and my heart – I felt it was something that was meant to be.

But then I went into panic mode – I was thinking “What on earth have I done?”

That panic disappeared the moment he arrived. As he came down the ramp I just wanted to cry – he was so beautiful. I was, quite simply, gob-smacked!

Buying him without seeing him could have been a gamble that backfired completely. But it has proved to be exactly the opposite.

From the day he arrived there has never been a single problem. He fits in fantastically well with the herd and with the treks. When ridden he is always under control and in the stable is a complete gentleman. He has the most perfect manners.

He has swum in the sea on the Wales holidays, led treks on the Chase, and set the pace on the Sheriff of Lichfield’s ride, where he is surrounded by up to 80 other horses. There is never a problem.

And he is very definitely my horse. We have a very special relationship and he is very affectionate.

We have found, too, that his foals inherit his nature. While they all have the colour of their mothers, it is his lovely temperament that Zidane passes on.

Everybody adores him – especially me. He is my horse of a lifetime.

It’s The Dawn Of A New Era At The Trekking Centre!

Well, the great day is nearly here!

After all the days, months and years of dreaming and planning, we are about to start work on our wonderful new trekking centre.

All we need is a confirmed date from our builders and the first bricks can be laid. I can hardly believe it and I am so excited.

For the last few years we have had lots of dreams for the centre. After 20 years here I felt that we were either going to have to downscale or really up our game.

The facilities are getting a little tired now and after much thought we decided to go for it! We are putting into action a plan for a whole new equestrian complex.

We obtained planning permission and now, this month, ground can finally be broken.

The new centre will comprise a visitors’ centre containing a contemporary coffee shop, a training and conference area, toilets, showers and a shop. A brand new indoor arena will complete the first phase.

The second phase will include 46 new stables with wash areas, laundry rooms, tack rooms and foaling boxes.

The visitors’ centre will be built of cedar wood and glass with a lovely viewing area. We see it as a relaxing place to come and we envisage all sorts of activities going on there.

We will be able to host hen parties, birthday parties, well being days, corporate days and a retreat centre with a holistic theme.

Food and drink will be healthy – but we’re planning a few naughties as well, especially as my mum is a cake designer. You can be sure there will be some delicious treats on offer.

We’re also planning kit hire and merchandising and we’re looking forward to organising some pony club evenings.

There will also be a medical room and myself and the staff are undertaking our training to become a first responder horse unit. We felt we needed to be self contained following the closure of the A and E Unit in Stafford.

The development will give us the chance to offer all sorts of fun activities, including breakfast rides and evening barbeque rides.

I’ve never intended to provide formal lessons because there are a lot of excellent riding schools in the county.

But we have a lot of clients who would like to push themselves a little further with the horses they love and trust, especially our younger riders. So we have some exciting plans for unconventional activities that we hope lots of clients will enjoy.

This is such an exciting time in the history of our centre. The future is looking really bright – come along with us for the ride!

Horse Of The Month – Larosa, March 2015

Welcome to horse of the month – our new regular feature here on the centre’s website.

Every month we’re going to feature one of the horses you all love so much – and who better to start with than our beautiful Larosa.

All the centre’s regulars will know that the excitement is growing because Larosa is expecting a new addition to our herd.

Larosa, a gorgeous bay Welsh Section D, is in foal to Zidane, our coloured Dutch Warmblood stallion. Everyone is talking about what the new arrival might be. The due date is May 20 – but breeding horses is always a case of wait and see.

We have had Larosa – Lola for short – for three years. She arrived as an unbroken five-year-old and proved a quick learner, always bold and confident. It wasn’t too long before our clients were enjoying riding her on the Chase.

That was one of the reasons we decided to breed from her, even though she is quite young. She is very popular here at the centre. We haven’t got enough Lolas to go around, so we decided we needed a baby one coming along behind.

Another reason for putting her in foal is that she is the ‘Nanny McPhee’ of our herd. She loves the youngsters and becomes surrogate mum to all our weanlings.

Our stud vet has loved her from the moment she first met her, and recommended it was time she had a baby of her very own.

We are counting down the days now. It is the first time we have covered a bay with Zidane and we are so excited to see what colour the little one will be.

Zidane’s offspring here at the centre start with Dakota, who was born coloured, a flashy black and white just like his dad. Now he is a spotted Appaloosa – the same as Nicoh, his mum.

Then there is Whispa’s son Oregon, who is dun with black points and a dorsal stripe. Last year’s foals are Indiana – Nicoh’s second baby – who was born a chocolate bay but is now steel grey, and Arizona, who was born a skewbald like mum Tia and has retained her original markings.

All their colourings seem to take after their mothers, and I have seen pictures of some of Zidane’s earlier babies, born before he came to us. One was coloured and another was bay.

In my mind Larosa is having a boy and he is bay. But one of the exciting things about breeding is that you simply don’t know, so we will be having a sweepstake for a bit of fun. Keep a lookout when you come to the centre and have a go. There’ll be a prize for the winner.

Larosa is thriving in pregnancy. She looks great after wintering out, but she’s now coming in at night to the comfort of her foaling box. For a maiden mare she has a really big baby bump so we’re keeping a close watch on her.

The cameras in the box are linked to a monitor in my house and I am studying her night time routine carefully so that as the due date gets closer I will spot any tiny changes in her behaviour. From now on we will also be looking for signs of the formation of her udder. I will take pictures so we can identify the changes.

When the birth is imminent I will go into the stable with her to make sure everything goes smoothly and she has no difficulties. Once the foal is standing and drinking I will leave the pair of them alone to enjoy some quiet bonding time together.

I have no doubt at all that Larosa will be a wonderful mum. She has wanted a baby of her own for so long that it is just great her time is nearly here.

We know how interested all Larosa’s friends are so we are looking into the technology of showing the foaling box feed on our website. We would love you all to share in this beautiful experience so keep an eye on our Facebook page for news.

Summer’s Just Around The Corner

Summer’s just around the corner and here at the centre we’re already getting excited about sunny days, long leisurely rides with pub lunches – and exciting gallops on the beach.

All our summer activities are great fun, but the highlight is our holiday in Wales. We’ve been going for four years now and we have a fabulous time. The horses enjoy it as much as we do!

We are based at Abergwynant Farm, near Dolgellau, for three days of beach and mountain rides and swimming the horses in the sea. We stay in comfortable self-catering cottages on the farm, and your horse is exactly that – yours to care for and ride for the whole of your stay.

And we have a brilliant time in the evening too. The social side is great and our riders have all become firm friends.

The holidays are so popular that last year we branched out and ran two – one in July and a second in August.

That experiment was such a success that this year we’re doing the same – and have come up with another new plan to ensure that as many of our clients as possible can join in the fun.

I will be based in Wales with the horses for a whole week in July and another in August, and the riders will come to me.

There will be a three-day holiday on July 13th, 14th and 15th (cost £510), followed by another on July 16th, 17th and 18th.

A third three-day holiday will be on August 8th, 9th and 10th.

August 11th will be a one-day beach ride (£150), something we are doing for the first time. I hope this will be a real treat for any riders who can’t make one of the three-day breaks.

Then the horses will have a day off before we finish with another three-day holiday on August 13th, 14th and 15th.

We still have some vacancies, so contact the centre for more details. This will be Cannock Chase on tour – come and join us!

I have another plan for short riding breaks – but this time we’ll be staying on the Chase. The idea is to do some two-day weekend trail rides, staying overnight at a lovely B and B that we have used before. We’ll stop for pub lunches or have a picnic delivered to us on the trek.

We’ll be catering for small groups only and my ultimate aim is that at some stage we will be able to let experienced clients ride the trail by themselves.

We haven’t set any dates for this yet, so please contact the centre if you are interested and we will put our plans into action.