DOWN MEMORY LANE by John Brooks

DOWN MEMORY LANE

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.

DOWN MEMORY LANE
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!

 

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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.

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John & Brodie celebrate Johns 77th Birthday

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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

MY GUIDE TO THE BABIES PART 2

MY GUIDE TO THE BABIES – PART TWO

I hope you all enjoyed reading Part One of my Who’s Who guide to Zidane’s children.

And I really hope it helps you all to remember which mares are the mummies of these gorgeous young horses.

So off we go with Part Two and I start with a very special young lady.

ARIZONA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This truly gorgeous horse was also born in 2014, just three days after Nicoh’s filly foal Indiana.

Arizona is Irish Sport Horse/Dutch warmblood cross and her mother is the exceptionally gentle and kind Tia. Arizona is a beautiful coloured mare and she was Tia’s first baby.

It was so lovely raising two foals together. Indiana and Arizona always had each other for company and they played all day.

 

cannock chase trekking centre

cannock chase trekking centre

Kisses for her sister!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once they joined the rest of the herd Arizona quickly became the leader of the baby group. There were six young horses out there together and if I needed to catch them all I just had to shout Arizona and she would bring them to me.

She is the biggest of the babies so far, now standing about 16.2hh, and was an absolute dream to train. She took to it straight away and did everything I asked of her.

Arizona is very calm and also clever and I absolutely sped through the process and jumped on her. I had only done a couple of ridden sessions when I decided to take her out on the Chase.

I was so proud of her when she immediately decided that she wanted to be out in front, leading the way. She is so bold –  she even led on her first canters.

 

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Leading a canter across Cannock Chase

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Arizona trekking out with Dad!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of my experienced clients are already riding her and she is quickly becoming a firm favourite.

Arizona reminds me of an Apache horse in the Disney film Spirit and is a very loving and affectionate horse. I think she has the best of the temperament of both her parents.

Nothing fazes her and I am so excited to see how she develops. If she is this good after just a few months, the future looks amazing.

MONTANA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby number five is Montana, born in 2015 and now a three year old.

Montana’s mum is Lola, which makes her a Welsh Section D/Dutch warmblood cross.

She is the foal that caught everybody out on the sweepstake – nobody expected Lola to have a coloured foal and no-one got the colour right. In fact she is tri -coloured.

 

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The herd catching their first glimpse of the new arrival

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Montana enjoying some sun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the night she was born I was watching on the video screen and when Lola was delivering her I could see a bay head, then a black mane, and then I saw she was coloured and I was so excited.

Because of the Welsh half of her breeding she has a very pretty Arab type head. Lola is a lovely forward going mare and I will definitely have another foal from her, especially as she was such a wonderful mum.

I had to put Lola in foal – she so wanted a baby of her very own. She was our Nanny McPhee out in the field with all the babies gathered around her so she could watch over them.

2019 will be Montana’s year for being trained. I think she is going to be really nice. She is stunning to look at and moves beautifully. Her face and eyes are her mum but her body is her dad and she is very exciting.

cannock chase trekking centre

cannock chase trekking centre

Montana out in the paddock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COLORADO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The youngest of our babies is Colorado, the second foal of Tia and born in 2017.

He was another sweepstake miss because he is tri-coloured and nobody got it right.

When I delivered him I couldn’t believe how big he was and how quickly he stood up. He is the biggest foal I have ever had – just enormous.

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Enjoying being centre of attention outside our visitor centre.

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Colorado only a few days old

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We talk about how big his sister Arizona is at four and still developing – well he is going to outgrow her.

Like his sister, nothing worries him. Teeth, feet, injections – all taken in his stride. He is very bold and doesn’t look twice at anything.

The only problem with him is that he is becoming a bit of a tinker at escaping. And because of his size he has no respect for electric fences.

Cannock Chase Trekking Centre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So those are my babies, and by later this year I will have five of them in work. I have left a little gap because I wanted to see how the older ones took to training and then to life as a working horse here at the trekking centre. I needed to know if they had the brain for the job.

I think they have answered my questions – and now I have to decide which of my mares is next to be put in foal!