Oberon Foppe – by Lisa Gregory

Welcome to my new regular blog feature. Every week there is a horse that shines through for me and my staff, and we will be sharing their stories with you.

It might be a horse that is going brilliantly in the school, or one that has given a beginner rider their first canter out on the Chase. We will choose one every week for you.

Oberon Foppe – our very own Black Beauty

And because I am the boss, I get first pick! My choice is our gorgeous new boy Oberon Foppe, a pure bred Friesian whose origins are in Holland and who has only been in this country for a year. After hearing a little of his history his is a real Black Beauty story that I want to share with you.

His name was simply Foppe, but as you all know, I like a great sounding name and so I double barrelled it by adding Oberon.

Oberon, FriesianI have always firmly believed that there are some horses that are destined to be mine and I think he is one of them. He has found the place where he needs to be.

For a little while, I have been on the lookout for a new member of my team. I had seen a few, but had not really felt the connection with them that I really need to experience before I buy and had come home disappointed.

However, I had noticed that a friend of ours who sells quality sports horses on behalf of their owners had on her yard a beautiful Friesian gelding.

I had been looking for a big weight carrier type. Now I was considering something completely different!

Something just drew me to him, and it was quite an impulsive buy. I was negotiating before I actually saw him, but my friend assured me his paces and jumping were fabulous and I trust her judgement.

Even more beautiful than his photos

I went over to her yard with my horse box and as soon as I saw Oberon in his stable I was shocked. He was even more beautiful than his photos! He turned and looked straight at me and he reminded me instantly of my stallion Zidane, the horse with whom I have the closest relationship.

Oberon came straight home with me and I felt him totally relax as soon as he arrived. Within ten minutes, I was riding him in the arena. I was blown away by his sensational paces! At some stage in his past, he has received a really good education.

Although I had been told he had done very little hacking, I took him out on Cannock Chase the next day at the height of Storm Hannah. He led a ride of 20 through the gales and rain, and loved every minute of it! He was so excited but his behaviour was perfect.

Within a couple of days, the lady who had owned Oberon contacted me and I asked her for more information about him. She came to visit and was delighted to see him looking relaxed and happy.

She told me she had bought him from someone in Worcester who had bought him from a seller in London. The Worcester owners told her that when they went to view him he was on a yard where meat products were hung around his stable.

The new buyers then acquired him as a driving horse, but when he was put in harness he went crazy and turned the carriage over, injuring himself and the driver.

So, he has had a couple of bad experiences and when she brought him home she found him to be very nervous. He didn’t settle well and she struggled to handle him on the ground, with him breaking free a few times. Eventually, she made the sad decision that she needed to find the right home for him.

Oberon – totally relaxed in his new environment

He came here, and from my point of view I see a horse that is totally relaxed in his new environment. He has never tried to pull or barge, he loves to hack out and his work in the school is fabulous. I think he has found his happy place.

He has fantastic breeding and my next aim is to track down his past. How did he end up on that yard in London? He has many behavioural traits like my stallion Zidane, and I am convinced that he was an entire for quite some time.

Oberon is loving his new life and I really enjoyed turning him out with the herd. He was so excited to run free in our fields and he really showed off his spectacular moves! Our photographer Tim was able to capture some fabulous shots.

Unfortunately, whilst enjoying himself out in the fields with the rest of the herd, he managed to injure one of his hocks, so he has been off work recuperating for a while, following treatment by the team at Pool House Equine Clinic. As of next week, we will be bringing him back into work gently, so you should see him out on the treks again very soon.

Montana Diaries – Part 4 by Lisa Gregory

Montana – the perfect package

My training journey with our beautiful mare Montana is proving to be both exciting and very satisfying.

I have loved this little girl since the moment I delivered her when she was born four years ago. I always believed she would be very special and she is already proving me to be right.

As I have already told you, she is the daughter of my Dutch Warmblood stallion Zidane and our beautiful and very popular Welsh Section D mare Lola. Montana is proving to be the perfect combination of both her parents, with good looks and intelligence and her mother’s pretty face. I think that Montana is the perfect package.

I know that lots of you are waiting with great excitement for the chance to ride her, and quite honestly, she is proving so easy to train and is such a quick learner that I do not think you will have too long to wait.

My last session in the indoor school with her proved to be such a success that I decided to push on and back her, and Montana accepted my weight in the saddle for the first time with no worries at all.

So today I am back in the arena for our next session, again with one of my staff Leah Dodd, as my assistant. All my girls have a project horse and Montana is Leah’s. Assisting me in this training project will benefit Leah in her equestrian qualifications.

And apart from that, Leah adores this little mare and I made her day at the end of the last session when I allowed her to have a little sit on.

Never rush a young horse

I never make a plan before I start a training session. The biggest thing is never to rush a young horse and I think if you have a target in mind at the start then you can end up disappointed. It is best to go with how it feels on the day.

But one thing I do want to do today is put a little more work into asking Montana for reverse gear. She is reluctant to step backwards and it is an important thing for her to learn. It is not just about obedience and submission, it also assists in muscle development.

I have Montana in a Monty Roberts training headcollar and we work our way through instructions to stand, walk, and back up and I immediately I am able to long rein her from behind. We move through walk, trot and canter with ease and Montana is engaged with me and concentrating on what she is being asked to do.

Leah long-reining Montana

I also teach Leah to do some long reining with Montana, which will be important for Leah’s qualification.

Our only little sticky moment is with backing up. Montana really isn’t relaxed and happy with this so, just like last time, I call on the help of my trusted steed Chase. I hop on him bareback and give Montana the voice command to go back. She instantly responds. Perfect!

Montana learning from Chase

Chase’s reassuring presence gives her the confidence to do something she is a little uncomfortable with, so we are solving a little problem without pressurising her.

I do some join up with her and then Leah and I take Montana to the mounting block where she is calm and quiet as I mount. She stands like a rock and is so confident that I dismount and pop Leah up on her while I carry on my work from the ground.

Montana is instantly responsive so I push for Leah to ride her out on a wide circle while I hold her on a lunge line. This is really going beautifully and after a few circuits I feel ready to turn the pair of them loose.

:Leah’s first trot on Montana

I continue coaching them from the ground, encouraging Montana to go forward and we then push for trot in both directions.

We are now at the point where I don’t have to help drive her forward and after a few more circuits on both reins I finish the session by jumping on Chase and riding alongside Montana and Leah.

I was so pleased with her, I decided to take her straight out onto the Chase on the one hour trek.  She took it all in her stride and led up the front with Chase.  My next step will be taking her out myself to do her first canter. So exciting!

Montana’s first trek

The Montana Diaries – Part 3 by Lisa Gregory

Montana makes delightful progress with her training

Montana's training

Early stages of Montana’s training

I have been delighted so far with the progress made by our lovely Montana, the latest of the young horses here at the Trekking Centre to be trained and made ready for clients to ride.

As you no doubt all know Montana is one of my home breds – I always dreamed of having my own stud farm – and at four years old is at the perfect age to begin her working life.

She is a beautiful girl, tri-coloured and standing at about 15.2 hands. Her daddy is, of course, my warm blood stallion Zidane and her mum is our pretty bay Welsh Section D mare Larosa – known to us all as Lola.

Lola is a hugely popular member of my team and I can foresee Montana being just the same, especially as she has inherited her mother’s pretty face.

Montana’s training journey

I have decided to take all of you with us on Montana’s training journey because I thought you would find it interesting to follow the whole process from the start.

In Part One I described how I gently introduced her to her bridle and saddle and was delighted that she remained calm and sensible throughout. She reminds me very much of Lola, who was no trouble at all as a young horse.

Then in Part Two we ventured into the indoor school for the first time. She was quite noisy – calling for support from her herd friends! But she settled nicely as I attached the long reins and gently began introducing her to walking and trotting in both directions.

Again my opinion of her is confirmed – she is smart and easily trainable.

Now I am excited to take the next step – and if all goes well perhaps I might get as far as leaning over her so she experiences some weight on her back for the first time.

I have a member of my staff, Bethan Jane, with me to help. All my staff have a group of horses to be responsible for and each group includes one of the youngsters. Montana is actually in the group cared for by Leah Dodds, who loves her dearly and is extremely frustrated to be missing out on the excitement due to a day off!

Montana takes being tacked up in her stable very calmly and walks sensibly into the arena where Bethan helps as we hold her stirrups in place with a strap under her belly and then attach the long reins.

I repeat the exercises we went through in our last session and I am thrilled at how well this little girl is responding. I think she is going to be very special!

Montana – responsible and sensible

I decide that Montana is so responsive and sensible that we will go a step further. I am confident that her calm attitude will allow me to push on a little.

We take her into the centre of the arena and Bethan holds her, talking to her and giving her lots of stroking and praise, while I pick up the mounting block and show it to her. I allow her to look at it and sniff it and she is not in the least bit worried by my strange behaviour!

Now I climb on to the block and begin stroking and fussing her from above. She has not experienced this before – as an untrained horse she has only been petted from ground level. It is important she understands that this is not frightening as of course, this is where her riders will be!

Then I get down off the block, walk away and climb back on. I repeat this a couple of times before I take the block back to the front of her and round to her sides so she gets used to the sight of it from different angles. What a good little girl she is – she remains calm, quiet and interested in what I am doing.

I walk all around her a few times and then I climb on the block and lean over her, and repeat this exercise from the other side, leaning completely over her on my belly. Montana is completely unfazed.

She is so good that I decide I can safely back her. Normally I would have a leg up into the saddle from a member of staff, but Montana is so calm that I put my foot in the stirrup and go straight up. I sit sideways at first, rather than throw my leg over her, but again she remains cool and calm.

Her reaction is so sensible that I mount again and sit quietly astride, gently putting my feet into the stirrups.

Montana being ridden

Lisa backs Montana

Montana has lots of patting and praise as I slide off her. She is backed! On her second session in the arena!

I am so delighted with her – and I can’t wait for our next time when I will take her another stage further.

THE MONTANA DIARIES – Part 2 by Lisa Gregory

I hope you all enjoyed the first part of my Montana Diaries, in which I will be taking you on my training journey with our lovely home bred girl.

As I explained in Part One I thought you would be interested in hearing about how I train a young horse from the very first step.

Montana – a pretty girl with a wonderful temperament

Montana is just four, the daughter of my Dutch Warmblood stallion Zidane and our beautiful registered Welsh Section D mare Larosa. This pretty girl has had a wonderful temperament from the day of her birth and I hope this will mean smooth progress through the training process.

When I look back at our babies they all have different traits to their personalities. And when I think about training Montana’s mum I remember how she presented no problems at all and I think mother and daughter are very similar.


Baby Montana shares a special moment with mum, Larosa, and Lisa

Time to Saddle-Up

Step one was to gently introduce Montana to her bridle and saddle for the first time. This was done in the quiet of her stable and she proved to be as calm and sensible as I had hoped.

Now we have reached step two and for the first time I am taking her into the arena. She has her bridle and saddle on and I will be attaching the long reins.

Friends can be a distraction

One problem with my home breds is that they are very attuned to their herd. This means that when I take them in the arena they sometimes do a lot of shouting and can get easily distracted. Communication can prove a bit tricky and I have to be very patient!

Bethan, one of my girls, comes into the arena with me to help me attach the long reins. It is very important that a young horse does not spook and spin, so it is a two person job. Montana’s stirrups are secured underneath her and then Bethan moves away so she doesn’t get entangled.

And as I expected, Montana is distracted and shouting to her friends so I decide to go straight into long reining her. She takes to it like a duck to water!

Within 15 minutes she is walking and trotting and changing the diagonals. And she is happy when halfway through the session her big sister Indiana pops her head over the wall to reassure her.

I am finding that like all Zidane’s children Montana is very smart and trainable. I am able to keep her moving straight down the long sides of the arena and then move to circles.

Montana’s first out the gate when it comes to training

I could not have asked for more in our first session. She is forward, clever and listening to me. Then I notice a little spot of soreness has appeared by her mouth so I call a halt immediately and we switch to a little join up session, the first time I have done this with her.

By next day her little sore spot has vanished and I can start planning our next session. We will continue with the long reining and I will be asking for extended walk, trot, extended trot and moving up to canter.

I also want her to walk around the arena with me driving her from behind so she gets used to the sight and sound of me behind her. This will be a big help when I get to the stage of getting on her.

I am delighted with Montana so far. I can’t wait to share Part Three of her story with you.

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!

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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.

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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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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Father & Son Pirate & Lightning

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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.


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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.

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Red relaxing

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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.

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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