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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Debbie Butcher

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

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









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

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








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

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

cannock chase trekking centre








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

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

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

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

Cannock Chase Trekking Centre








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

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

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

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

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

Retirements At The Trekking Centre

What an emotional time we all had recently when we said goodbye to our beautiful Megan, one of our great favourites.

Megan had been here at the centre for 12 years, a tall and elegant Andalusian grey who captured a little piece of the hearts of everyone who ever rode her.

She was – and still is – the perfect horse, a steady confidence giver to beginners or the nervous and a forward going and eager ride for the more experienced. What fun our clients have had with kind and gentle Meg over the years, especially those lucky enough to take her on the Wales holidays or the Sheriff’s ride.

But she was slightly lame after the last Sheriff’s, and after thinking long and hard, the decision was made that she needed a different life in a five-star home.

When the day came there were tears from the staff, the clients were in bits and I wasn’t doing too well myself! But, as I explained on our Facebook page, my emotions were mixed. I was so sad to drive her away to her new home, but so happy that she has moved on to a bright future in a perfect place.

Her new owner is lovely, she has a best friend called Pia and she is spending her days taking leisurely hacks around the bridleways in Worcestershire where she now lives, with an occasional fun ride thrown in if she fancies a reminder of her speedier youth.

All our clients were interested to hear about her new home and that prompted me to think you might like to hear about how some of our other ‘pensioners’ are getting on.

I am sure you all remember Kara and Billy. They were sold together to a family, who unfortunately had to part with them. But they moved on to a fantastic home together where they are happy and settled. They are not too far away and still enjoy their rides over the Chase. Kara is busy learning a new skill and recently came second in her very first dressage competition. I hope there are lots more rosettes for her.

Millie was another of our favourites and is now the very best friend of 13-year-old Lauren Brown. Lauren lost her confidence after a bad fall a few years ago and Millie has restored her love of riding. They are doing well in the showing ring and enjoy hacking out around the lanes. Millie shares Lauren’s fashion sense and surely must be the best-dressed pony in Staffordshire. She has an extensive wardrobe – most of it pink!

Tommy Tucker taught so many children during his years here at the centre and is still caring for young riders. This little chap was bought by Rosie, one of our guides, and now looks after her grandchildren. He is spoiled rotten.

Tammy was bought by one of our clients, Lucy Giles, and went to live with her in Stafford. Lucy kept her with a friend, whose horse then sadly died. So Lucy’s friend bought another of ours, May, as a replacement.

These lovely girls were insperable when they lived here so now they are reunited in their retirement homes. They come to visit us regularly and join in our treks over the Chase.

We still have May’s sister, Mel, here and there is much excitement whenever there is a visit. They clearly remember each other and it’s very sweet.

So it’s happy endings all round. It’s always sad to say goodbye, but as you can see, all our old friends are still loving life, and don’t forget, there are five babies coming along who will soon be new favourites.

Nicoh Pregnancy: Grade A Appaloosa Mare Second Foal

Nicoh our Grade A Appaloosa Mare who is expecting her second foal on the 18th April to Zidane our Dutch warmblood stallion.


Scanned in foal in May 2013
Continued to work up to December 2013
Currently on maternity leave
Moved into foaling box February 2014
Camera monitoring began on 10th April 2014

11th April:

Nicoh now has a large baby bump and is now developing her udder.

18th April:

Now we’re looking for signs of preparation for birth as this is her due date. Lots of eating and sleeping standing up and her udder is enlarged. She has also started doing horse yoga, lots of stretching, so funny!

19th April:

Now wondering whether the close dates was a good idea! Noticing the first signs of preparation for birth.Nicoh is doing lots of yoga stretches and rubbing her tail. She seems restless tonight lots of lying down and getting up, but I don’t think tonight is the night!

20th April:

Observing Nicoh in the field she is now distancing herself from Tia (our other mare in foal) and seems to want to be alone and a bit agitated, this can be a sign that foaling is nearing. Nicoh is looking chilled this evening but her baby bump has dropped into a point now and her muscles on her hind end have relaxed and udder is getting fuller.

21st April:

Nicoh seems quiet today. Lying down sleeping a lot.

22nd April:

Nicoh has started to dig up her bed tonight, she did this the night she had Dakota. Fingers crossed not long now. She’s also holding her tail out to one side constantly.

23rd April:

Nicoh at last wax has appeared on her teats (small milk beads). Most say 24 hours from this point but can vary and she went a few days after this point with Dakota. Very restless night with Nicoh, up all night with her definitely in slow labour.

24th April:

Nicoh heavily waxed this morning and reluctant to be turned out into the paddock, not like her at all. She’s constantly flashing her tail.

25th April:

Nicoh is even more waxed up and looking really uncomfortable. She is constantly holding her tail to the side. Not long now!

26th April:

Nicoh is dripping milk this morning which is a clear indication that baby is definitely coming tonight!

7.15pm: Second stage of labour has started; she is digging her bed, agitated, rubbing her tail and kicking one leg.

8.00pm: Eating a bit of her haynet then pacing again

8.49pm: Getting up and down now and the white bag is now visible. I have entered the stable to make sure that baby is presenting itself correctly

Baby born: 9.20pm
Stood up for first time: 10.03pm
Feeding from mum: 11.20pm

So happy with a beautiful filly we have named Indiana!

Tia Pregnancy: Irish Sports Horse Mare First Foal

Tia our Irish Sports Horse Mare who is expecting her first foal on the 3rd May to Zidane our Dutch warmblood stallion.


Scanned in foal in May 2013
Continued to work up to December 2013
Currently on maternity leave
Moved into foaling box in February 2014
Camera monitoring began on 10th April 2014

11th April:

Tia has also got a large baby bump and a less developed udder to Nicoh.

18th April:

Tia has also increased her udder size and is sleeping a lot now lying flat out. She seems tired and her baby bump is now huge! Bigger than Nicoh’s!! She is breathing heavily constantly whilst she’s lying down.

19th April:

Tia is sweaty and agitated tonight which is out of character for her. She keeps lying down and getting up and looking at her belly. Seems uncomfortable. Not sure which camera to watch as both girls showing signs!

20th April:

Tia also seems a bit grumpy with Nicoh and is happy to keep her distance, so different to how they’ve been over the last few months together. Her baby bump is now huge and also has dropped, wonder what she’s carrying! Thinking she might want to beat Nicoh to foaling first!

21st April:

Tia also quiet and lying flat out.

22nd April:

Lots of swishing tail, sleeping and eating.

23rd April:

Tia is just looking huge and tired. She keeps looking at her belly; think she can’t understand what’s happening! Confused.com!!

24th April:

Tia noticeably developed udder, don’t think she’ll be too far behind Nicoh.

25th April:

Tia is spending lots of time getting up and down, biting her belly and kicking.

26th April:

Tia has started to dig her bed and is shifting her weight from side to side. She is also stamping her feet lots and swishing her tail.

27th April:

Tonight you can see baby kicking a lot. Poor Tia doesn’t know what to do with herself!

28th April:

Tia is mooching and smelling her bed a lot, still weight shipping and holding her tail to the side, sleeping a lot…. Flat out!

29th April:

Today Tia has been pawing the ground and has been quite restless in the field. This evening she has been rolling and is making her nest….Hopefully the foal isn’t too far away!

30th April:

Tia caught me out!

No signs at 4am…. no signs at 5am…. and then on the monitor at 6am our latest baby girl had arrived!

Emily our stud vet had warned me that maiden mares are very sneaky! How true is that?!

5:30am: Baby born

6.20am: Stood up for first time

7.30am: Feeding from mum

A perfect pinto filly – we have named her Arizona!

Wispa’s Diary: Getting back to work

2nd January 2014

As Oregon was now nearly 7 months old the time had come to start weaning him from his mother. As this can be a traumatic time for mother and baby we try to make it as stress free as possible. They had already spent a number of weeks as part of the herd, with Wispa teaching her boy social skills and how to make friends in a herd. He had formed strong bonds with both Dakota, his big brother, and Shrimp and would often be away playing with these two instead of being at his mother’s side. We turned the herd out as normal in the afternoon, along with Oregon who skipped off happily to play with his friends under the watchful eye of Larosa, our surrogate mother who seems to take all the babies under her wing. Wispa was then stabled and spent the night enjoying the peace and quiet without someone stealing all her hay.Wispa then spent the next few days going out in the field with Nicoh, who is also currently stabled and expecting a baby in April, during the day and stabled at night. Oregon came in with the herd during the day and was out in the fields at night. The time had now come to start bringing Wispa back into work.

8th January 2014

Prior to having her foal Wispa had started being broken in. We had been long lining her, backed her and she’d been out on the Chase a couple of times. As she had had nearly a year off work she’d need to start from the basics again.

We started her off on the first day on the long lines re-establishing the basic walk, trot and stand commands. She took all this in her stride and was quickly back into the swing of things.

9th January 2014

The following day the long lining was repeated and then we reintroduced a rider. Steadily leaning over her at first and when she showed us how relaxed and happy she was with everything the rider mounted fully and we went through a few basic walk and stand movements. Again all taken in her stride and as if she hadn’t had a break at all.

10th January 2014

Impressed by her progress so far we decided to try a little short ride out on the Chase. So accompanied by Chase, our most sensible baby sitter, we were off out for an hour of walk and a few short bursts of trot. Wispa spending the whole time having a good look at everything the Chase has to offer.

11th January 2014

Time for some proper trekking today and Wispa accompanied our 1 hour novice trek. Again perfectly behaved and starting to look like part of the team.

15th January 2014

After a few days off it was time for the next step in her training. Wispa went out with our morning experienced trek. This would be her first time working properly doing more trotting and having her first canters. She sat in the middle of the group and cantered away happily up the hills. Power of the herd working at its best she had a fun morning out with her friends doing what they love to do.

The following weeks

Following this Wispa was ridden out by various different staff members on all the different levels of treks including experienced morning rides and mixed ability rides both with the cantering group and walk trot groups. Once we were happy she was going well and was happy in her work we started putting some of our regular customers on her to take her out. We have had good feedback from all the customers that have ridden her, many of whom have seen her grow up from a baby.

21st April 2014

Wispa completed her first pub ride and was a complete superstar all day. Think she was pleased to finally be classed as one of the gang eating her lunch at the pub next to her good friend Gabriel!

Working with young horses is always rewarding and seeing them grow up from foals to adults as we do here is all the more rewarding. They seem to take to their work so well and having been here from birth they slot in to trekking life so easily. Looking forward to when young Oregon is ready to start his training too!