Summer – By Lisa Gregory

Writing a Horse of the Week blog might sound like a simple task, but it’s actually quite tricky. And that is because all my horses here at Cannock Chase Trekking Centre are so fabulous! I am sure you would all agree!

This week’s nomination was an easy one, and it is one that came from several members of my staff. We all agreed that this had been a very special experience and our beautiful, little Welsh Section C mare Summer played a vital role.

Summer

recently spent an emotional and inspiring hour or so in the company of a very brave lady who is terminally ill. We were all in awe of her courage and good humour in such a desperately sad situation.

She has a bucket list, and one of the experiences she wanted to complete was to ride a horse. It was, she said, something she had always wanted to do but had never got round to organising.

She is only a little lady, so, of course, only needed a small horse. The obvious choice for her was our pretty strawberry roan. Summer is renowned for her gentle and kind nature, so was perfect because of her laid-back nature.

As Summer is one of our pony team for little riders, some of you may not know her very well, so let me introduce her.

She is the grandma of our herd and the oldest of all my horses. But you would never know that from seeing her at work. She is still full of energy and enthusiasm, and shows no signs of wanting to retire. In fact, I have someone waiting with a retirement home for her but Summer isn’t slowing down yet.

She has taught thousands of children to ride over the years and is brilliant at teaching her young riders to canter.

Buy one, get one free!

Summer was just six when I bought her, and I thought I had taken delivery of a fat little pony. But there was a surprise in store as, unknown to me or my staff, she was in foal.

Our tubby girl provided me with the prettiest little chestnut baby with four white socks and a flaxen mane and tail. I named her Autumn and she is an invaluable member of my team.

 

A very special mare

When the lady arrived, we said she could choose what she wanted to do and her first thought was that she would like to meet her chosen horse and perhaps do some grooming. We knew that if she didn’t want to ride, Summer would stand quietly, enjoying being fussed.

However, our client was very excited after meeting the gentle Summer and, after spending some time bonding with her, she decided that she felt confident enough to get on.

Our instructor Lucy supervised, and she was both amazed and delighted when the ridden session progressed to rising trot! It could not have gone any better. Our rider loved the whole experience, and that was thanks to Summer.

Summer also has another regular visitor who benefits from her kind nature. This is a lady with dementia, who is regularly brought to visit us by staff from her care home. We bring Summer up to the bistro and the two of them spend some time together. Summer’s manners are perfect – and her reward is the bag of carrots that her friend always brings for her.

She deserves all the attention she gets; she’s a one in a million.

Buttons – By Lisa Gregory

It’s time for our latest Horse of the Week nomination – and it’s the turn of our instructor Lucy Powell to name the horse who is impressing her most at the moment.

Lucy’s choice

Lucy’s pick is Buttons, our beautiful tri-coloured Standard Bred x Irish gelding.

Most of you know Buttons very well indeed. He is a wonderful, forward-going ride out on Cannock Chase and is a popular choice among my clients. And he is also a very reliable escort horse who is ridden by all my staff. Not only that, but he is the undisputed leader of the Cannock Chase Trekking Centre herd, and respected by all our other horses.

Buttons has even carried the Sheriff Of Lichfield on the annual traditional beating-the-bounds ride.

But it is not for his abilities out on the Chase that Lucy has chosen him as her Horse of the Week. It is because she rates Buttons as our most improved horse for his work in the indoor arena.

From baffled to arena superstar!

As you all know, trekking out on the Chase is our speciality, which will always be the case, but when I planned the redevelopment of the centre, I decided to build an indoor arena.

There are some excellent riding schools in Staffordshire, particularly Ingestre, which is not very far from here. I had no plans to try to compete with them – they are specialists in what they do – but I had many clients who were asking if they could possibly have lessons on their favourite trekking horses.

So we decided to give it a go, and it was clearly challenging for the horses. They were used to trekking on the Chase and were being asked to work in a way that they were not used to. Some took to it well, others were a bit baffled – and one of those was Buttons. On his first lesson in the arena he took his rider onto the centre line and planted himself there for 15 minutes! He was on strike!

Of course, we do not use whips or crops to get horses moving, so it was all a case of patient persuasion. Gradually, he began to realise that it was not so awful after all, especially if he was working with another horse.

Suddenly, it clicked with him, and he decided he loved the saddleless classes, where he was with a group of horses all having lots of fun.

The days when Buttons napped to the centre are long gone. He is forward going and relaxed, and has no problems working alone. He is great for teaching extensions, because he has such lovely long strides. He can be used for teaching all levels, from beginners learning to trot to more advanced riders working on their dressage.

Our polework clinics are where he really shines. He is like a cat through the most complicated grids, which involve lengthening and shortening strides. He never touches a pole. It is a great feeling for his rider and incredible to watch.

Yee-haw!

In the last couple of months, we have trained him for Western riding and he is now one of our go-to horses for Lucy’s Western classes. And when we staged our Western arena display for our Ranch Party Night, he turned out to be an ace at barrel racing too!

He is our most improved horse in the school, and both Karen and Lucy agree that he deserves this title.

We always knew he could do it – and now he knows it too. So step forward Buttons – our Horse of the Week!

Saffy – by Lisa Gregory

This is the second episode of my new regular blog feature – horse of the week.

As I explained in my earlier blog, I want to highlight one of my horses regularly who has shone through in their work in some way.

I and my staff will nominate our choices and, as I had first pick with our lovely Friesian gelding Oberon Foppe, this time I have asked my yard manager Sonia Aston to name her hero or heroine.

Sonia’s choice

It’s not exactly a surprise that she has chosen Saffy, who is often Sonia’s lead horse. We all know how much Sonia loves this honest and genuine mare, and the two of them have a wonderful, close relationship.

Sonia can always depend on this lovely Clydesdale x cob, but she says that, during the spring and summer, Saffy was called on for extra duties and really came up trumps.

Good old Auntie Saffy!

This has been an exciting time at the trekking centre as we have introduced five new horses to the delights of hacking out on Cannock Chase. I have trained our beautiful young Andalusian mare Nymeria and our homebred filly Indiana, who is the daughter of my Dutch Warmblood stallion Zidane. Plus I have bought Oberon, who has done very little hacking out during his life so far, and Sonia has bought her own young horse Elka, a four-year-old Friesian x Dales. And now another of Zidane’s daughters, the four-year-old Montana, is ready to join them.

All of them have had to be introduced to the big wide world that is the Chase and Saffy has often been called on to act as baby sitter.

It is not just Sonia who has been impressed by Saffy’s calm, brave and bold attitude. Each time I have been riding the newbie, I have been so glad of Saffy’s solid and reassuring presence alongside me. If the new horse has spotted something that worries them, they have cuddled up to her for safety and reassurance, and she has allowed them to do that without a problem.

She spends all her time in the field grazing alongside her beloved Alfie and her best friend Nutmeg. She has now allowed her new friend Nymeria to join her little field gang. So well done, Auntie Saffy!

Next time, it is the turn of our instructor Lucy Powell to choose her horse of the week.

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.

Montana

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

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.

A WEIGHTY SUBJECT

A WEIGHTY SUBJECT
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.

BRODIE IS MY INSPIRATION
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!

Herd Life – Part Two

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.

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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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