Toby – Irish Coloured Cob

Toby’s official name is Tobias Jug – it brings a smile to my face every time I think of it.

And Toby makes me smile a lot too, because he is such a good and reliable boy here at the trekking centre.

We seem to have a theme going of horses I have found through friends and Toby is another one.

toby, cannock chase trekking centre

Toby out on Cannock Chase

I had already bought several horses – including Chase and Splash – from this particular friend, who has a very good eye for a nice horse.

She had moved to Loughborough when she contacted me to see if I would be interested in a great little straightforward 14.3hh coloured Cob. Lucy, a long term member of my staff whose judgement I totally trust, was at the time living in Nottingham, where she had a horse transport business.

Lucy went to see him on my behalf and liked him so much she didn’t even try him! She just popped him on her horse box and brought him to me.

As soon as he arrived we kitted him out with tack, jumped on him and took him out on the Chase. Toby is one of the few horses I have ever bought who really needed nothing at all from me, he just went straight into work.

And he has never looked back. I don’t think we have ever had a problem with him.

Toby's Tash

Toby showing off his winter Tash

He is a happy and relaxed pony whose forte is teaching lots of novices. Because of his size he can carry both children and light adults, so he is very versatile.

He makes us laugh every autumn. As his winter coat arrives he grows a fabulous moustache! I always say he grows it for Movember and he becomes Colonel Toby.

This year was lovely as Pam, a member of my staff, is one of his biggest fans and she took him on his first ever Sheriff of Lichfield’s Ride.

Toby in the Lichfield Sheriff's Ride

Toby & Pam in the Lichfield Sheriff’s Ride 2018

The two preparation days were really hard work for her as Toby has a very thick mane and tail and long and dense feathers on his legs. She had to scrub and scrub but it was well worth her efforts.

He looked immaculate and it was fabulous to see him so beautifully turned out and enjoying every minute of his big day out.

Tia – Irish Cob Cross Mare

TIA – Irish Cob Cross

This gorgeous mare is my Apache war horse! That is what I think she looks like with her striking markings and I can just imagine her decorated with war paint.

But she doesn’t have a warlike nature at all. In fact, as anyone who rides her knows, she is the sweetest girl, with a kind and gentle personality.
Tia Cannock Chase Trekking Centre

Like many of my horses, she came to me via word of mouth. The people who owned her had bought her as a foal, but when it came to breaking-in time when she was about four they found she was too lively and a little bit of a handful.

I was about to retire one of my original trekking horses, Duke, who needed a happy hacking home. As Tia was kept nearby her owner suggested that I took a look at her, and maybe we could arrange a horse swap. And that is what we did.

With Chase as company I rode Duke down to their yard, and rode Tia back home. My first impression was that she was very sharp – rather different to the laid back and calm lady she is today!

The next day I took her straight out for two hours on Cannock Chase and I never had a problem from then on. She just needed to be at finishing school for a little while and push past one or two things she found scary.

Since then she has done everything to the best of her ability, from the Wales holidays to the Sheriff’s Ride.

Tia Cannock Chase trekking

Tia at Fairbourne Beach

Tia Cannock Chase Trekking

Tia & Chase leading the Sheriffs Ride

As soon as I bought my Dutch Warmblood stallion Zidane I realised that Tia would make a great mother as she is 16.1hh and a strong, well made mare.

So in 2013 I put her in foal and she produced a beautiful filly we called Arizona. Her daughter was a perfect mini-me, looking exactly like her mum.

Tia Cannock Chase Trekking

Tia and Arizona

As readers of my foaling diary blog will remember, Tia was sneaky and caught me out. I had been watching her for days and she gave birth when I wasn’t looking. But I was quickly on scene and as she was a nervous first-time mummy, I helped the foal to stand and suckle for the first time.

Tia soon became a chilled out and relaxed mother. Nicoh gave birth three days later to Indiana and when the two mares went out together Tia was quite happy to let Nicoh watch both babies while she took a nap!

Because Arizona was such a big quality youngster I decided to put Tia in foal to Zidane again and in 2017 she gave birth to a fantastic colt foal. Colorado is even bigger than his sister.

Tia, Cannock Chase Trekking

Tia and Colorado

Arizona is now broken in and is becoming a fabulous trekking centre horse so we are all very excited about Colorado for the future.

Meanwhile, as her foals grow up, Tia is still loving her cantering out on the Chase and is becoming so good at teaching lots of new riders in the arena. She is a gorgeous girl and is much loved by everyone here.

Tia Cannock Chase Trekking

Tia, Arizona & Colorado

Summer – Welsh Section C

Summer is our little strawberry roan superstar and is the last of our S’s on our journey around the stable yard – but she is certainly not the least.

She is the grandma of our herd – the oldest of my horses – but Summer still has energy to spare and loves her work.

She was about six when I bought her from a rather exclusive riding school that was closing down. I was looking for a really nice pony and she was recommended to me by someone who said if she became available I absolutely must buy her.

I didn’t actually go and see her! But when she arrived I thought she was a little bit fat and put her straight on a diet and into work.

It was winter and at that time all my horses were stabled. One Monday morning I had a call from staff member Lucy to say I needed to get down to the yard as quickly as possible – and bring the video camera!

At first Lucy had thought Summer was suffering from colic. Then she realised the mare was in labour!

Soon we had a beautiful chestnut filly foal that I decided to call Autumn. I later rang the people I had bought Summer from and told them about our little bonus. They said Summer could not possibly have had a foal as they had no stallions.

Then they realised that they had turned out with Summer and another mare an 18-month-old British Arab colt. Surprise, surprise – he was chestnut with four white socks and a flaxen mane and tail, identical to our baby Autumn! And they called me later to say the other mare had also produced an unexpected foal.

As everybody knows, we still have both mother and daughter and they have always been fantastic members of my team.

Summer has always taken life here at the trekking centre in her stride and has taught thousands of children to ride. Since we built the new indoor arena she has become a favourite with our instructors because of her kind and gentle nature and willingness in the lessons.

Summer, a favourite at Pony Club

She is fantastic at teaching children to canter. We have someone who has been waiting for ages to offer Summer a retirement home but so far she shows no signs at all of slowing down.

She is one of those genuinely safe and sensible ponies that are worth their weight in gold. It has been an absolute pleasure to own her for all these years.

 

Half Term Pony Fun – Nutmeg and Shrimp

NUTMEG – dark bay Exmoor

This beautiful girl joined the trekking centre after her previous  owner popped in to ask if we would be interested in a pony they had that was in a field and doing no work.

I agreed to give her a try and the first thing we did on her arrival was bath her and clip her as she was so hairy.

nutmeg

We started working Nutmeg very quickly and she settled immediately. She loves life in the herd and spends lots of time with her My Little Pony team friends.

She is quite lively and independent,  yet is very safe, so she is great for confident children who want to ride outside.

Nutmeg is a firm favourite and is loved by all the children who ride her. She is always having pictures drawn of her!

She makes us laugh because she does love her sleep and if she gets tired of waiting to work she always lies down for a nap!

And we finish half term week with the last of our tiny team – the very lovable Mr Shrimp.

MR SHRIMP – Cremello Welsh Section A

My nickname for him is Prawn! – He is a Welsh Section A with the lovely cream colouring known as Cremello.

He is yet another of my herd found for me by my former yard manager and now instructor Lucy. He belonged to a good friend of hers in Nottingham and she had owned him since he was a foal.

She had broken him in herself and had shown him very successfully at a high level. But she had to part with him and asked Lucy if we might be looking for another member of our pony team.

The new indoor arena was about to open so we were keen to find another good pony for children’s lessons. I completely trust Lucy’s judgement so I was happy to take Mr Shrimp.

shrimp

And I am very glad I did. He is absolutely adorable! He loves his little riders and always wants to be cuddled and snuggled.

Just like Nutmeg he loves to take a nap, but he lies totally flat and motionless and sometimes he scares us. I think playing dead is his little joke!

shrimp

Half Term Pony Fun – Georgie and Lady

This is day two of our half term pony fun and today we are getting to know GEORGIE and LADY.

Georgie

Georgie, whose real name is Farmer George, is the newest addition to our tiny pony line-up and we came across him when he was a companion in a field for our retired little chap Tommy Tucker.

His family had bought him for their children but they had lost interest in riding and a good home was the priority.

Georgie

Georgie poses for the camera

I went to a take a look and loved him as soon as I saw him. I went next day with the trailer to fetch him and we soon hit a problem. He really did not like loading and quickly became quite distressed.

I decided not to put him through the ordeal and as he was only on the other side of the Chase, his owners very kindly walked him all the way to me.

Since joining us last year he has become more and more confident, even to the extent of loading on a horse box without any problems!

I call him Georgie Porgie because he loves to kiss the girls – although he never makes anyone cry! He is a really affectionate little lad and he loves kisses and cuddles from his children when they have finished their lessons.

Lady

The third member of our little gang is our gorgeous and very cheeky LADY.

Lady

Lady, with one of our young riders

She came to me after someone I knew of had bought her for his grandchildren. Unfortunately, it ended up with the common scenario of the children losing interest and the pony ending up as a lawn mower.  My friend was looking for a good home for Lady as she was getting very fat and starting with laminitis due to lack of exercise.

I went to see her and found she had a really cheeky personality.  I had to have her – I loved her quirkiness. And when I got her Welsh Section A papers I found she had the same birthday as me, so it was clearly meant to be.

She arrived at the centre and has never looked back. Lady is super in the school and is brilliant at taking our young riders for their first treks on the Chase.

The only problem I have with her is that she is still a greedy girl! She would eat constantly if we let her. She never knows when to stop, so we have to keep her on a restricted diet.

Half Term Pony Fun – Dolly

Half term pony fun

As it’s half term this week I decided to turn my blog over to some tiny but very important members of my team.

These are My Little Ponies, five boys and girls who provide so much fun for all the children who come to the trekking centre for lessons and pony experiences.

Our young clients might like to know a little bit more about their four-legged friends and we start with Dolly.

DOLLY

This lovely little pony was found for me by my then yard manager Sally, who knew her owner.

Sally recommended Dolly and said she was a cracking pony that I really needed to see. So we went to take a look and I fell in love with her straight away.

dolly, cannock chase trekking centre

She is a beautiful, dainty little Welsh Section A who lives up to her pretty name. With her Palamino colouring and lovely long mane she is every little rider’s dream pony. She has proved to be absolutely invaluable to me.

Dolly will take all the children from walk right up to canter and is happy to be used in the school on her own, without the company of the other ponies, she is brilliant at helping children to canter for the first time. Dolly is great in our pony club sessions and will stand patiently while our younger riders learn to groom, tack up and plait that beautiful mane!

Dolly, cannock chase trekking centre

She has a wonderful personality and is very kind and maternal. She is a sucker for our babies and will always take a newcomer to the herd under her wing and look after them until they settle in. Dolly really is a darling.

Head over to our children’s events page or our Facebook page to see all of our activities this half term week.

 

Spirit – Chestnut Welsh Section D

SPIRIT – Welsh Section D

Our beautiful Spirit with his chestnut coat and flaxen mane and tail is a very handsome Welsh Section D Cob with a registered name to match his looks – Elvirra Miracle.

When I bought him he was called Travis but he reminded us of the Disney character horse Spirit and so his name was changed. I think it really suits him. He was an unbroken three-year-old but was a lovely straightforward, problem free little horse to train.

As readers of my blog know, I think Welsh Section D’s can often be tricky in the early stages but Spirit was the exception. I had no facilities at the time, so I trained him in the field and we had no difficulties at all.

I backed him quite early and my most vivid memory is my first canter on him. I have always said he is one of the fastest horses I have owned. I had tears in my eyes when I pulled up that first time,he was quick!

I soon had him riding out but he was still too young for clients. Lucy, one of my senior staff members, was heading to university to study equine psychology, and he went off to college with her so she could continue his education .

When he came home I trained him for Western riding and I also taught him to bow! These days he can be ridden both Western and English and I keep saying that I am going to switch him back to full time Western. He is the centre’s cowboy horse!

As the years have passed he has found his place in the middle of the ability range. He excels at giving experienced clients a fast paced ride, but he is also safe and sensible enough for the less capable. Confident novices do really well with him.

My yard manager Sonia recently took him on the Sheriff of Lichfield Ride and was seriously impressed by him. He went like a dream for her all day.

Spirit, cannock chase trekking centr

We had a brilliant surprise a couple of years ago when his very first owner managed to track him down and contacted us to find out how he was. She was so thrilled to find that he was here, happy, healthy and loving his life.

The Bond of Friendship

THE BOND OF FRIENDSHIP

Despite spending all my life working with horses there are still moments that give me
goose bumps and catch at my heart strings.

Often those are moments that leave me reflecting on the bond of friendship that exists between ourselves and these beautiful and sensitive animals that share our lives.

I experienced one of those moments recently here at Cannock Chase Trekking Centre. It might seem trivial to some but it was something that really left me amazed. I will tell you the little story and you can judge for yourselves.

As followers of our Facebook page know, I am currently training our new arrival, a beautiful Andalusian mare called Nymeria. She is quite sensitive and a little bit challenging so I often work her in the arena in the evening when it is quiet with fewer distractions.

I had worked her and then turned her out. The rest of the herd were long gone so, with Nymeria loose, I walked up the field to open the gate and let her through.

Unfortunately she spotted them through a gap in the trees and became fixated that she should go the wrong way. With no lead rope or head collar I was stuck and could not persuade her to follow me through the open gate.

Nymeria

She was getting a little agitated when I had an idea and approached my good friend Capulate, who was grazing in the next field. As my blog readers know from when I wrote about him, he was one of the most challenging horses I have ever trained. We spent many, many hours together and as a result we have a special friendship. I love him, he loves me, simple as that.

We had a little chat and a cuddle that evening and I explained my predicament. Then I did some of my natural horsemanship join up technique and he left his grazing to follow me into the other field where Nymeria was still fretting. I really had no clue what would happen next.

I watched in delight as Capulate went straight to her and stood with her for a few seconds. Then he turned, and with Nymeria following closely behind, he led her through the gate and escorted her to her friends before resuming his grazing.

I closed the gate behind them and stood in quiet amazement. I am left with more questions than answers. How did he know what I wanted him to do? How did he understand? How did he communicate with the mare?

All I do know is that he is my beloved friend. I had a problem and he fixed it. The rest must just be magic!

Skye – Grey Irish Cob

SKYE – Grey Irish cob.

Skye is an absolute star here at the trekking centre and is priceless to me for his ability to put nervous riders at their ease.

He came to me from the same owners as Red, who had been his next-door neighbour on their previous stable yard.

The stable yard proprietor had bought Skye for her husband, who was used to riding Thoroughbreds. But he found this big lad too laid back and not agile enough in the school.

I went to try him, and although he was very young I soon managed to get him cantering around the school and I knew he had potential for me.

He was so laid back that when he arrived I pretty much turned him straight out with the herd and he had no trouble at all. He was very comfortable in the middle of the group.

Skye joining the herd

One of the highlights in his life here was when I bought Red and he was reunited with his old friend. The pair recognised each other straight away and bonded immediately. They will happily share a stable and Skye would even share his dinner with him!

In fact, Skye was my training partner in sorting out Red. His friendship with this gentle giant reduced Red’s stress levels and relaxed him so that he could absorb my training.

Sky is safe, gentle and kind and hasn’t got an unpredictable bone in his body. You could ride him out alone in complete safety.

Skye and Lady on a trek

Skye welcoming Nymeria to the herd.

He is very popular with our novice male riders who are often dragged here by a partner and don’t really want to ride at all! But an hour with Skye ends their fears and gives them the confidence to come again.

Sometimes he can be frustrating when I know he isn’t giving his all in his work. But I wish people who say they can’t get him going could see him galloping full blast with Michelle, one of my regular experienced riders who loves him to bits. She has taken him on the beach rides and the Sheriff’s Ride and the pair of them fly!

Skye-Cannock Chase Trekking Centre

Skye at Fairbourne Beach

Skye- Cannock chase trekking centre

Skye feeling the ‘Christmas’ Love

I do like experienced clients to ride him because the worst thing you can do with a laid back horse like him is to keep putting beginners on him.

Mind you, we’ve recently found that he gets very excited in our new indoor arena and he has been having a little buck in the bareback lessons! I love to see him having fun.

Splash – Coloured Irish Cob

This lovely lad, Splash, is another of my cob club and is one of the most dependable horses here at the trekking centre.

His breeder described him as a traditional skewbald, but I call him red and white because I think his colour is brighter than chestnut.

He was called Murphy when I bought him from a friend who I have had several horses from, including my own guide horse Chase. I soon decided Splash was a better name.

Splash and Lisa

He was said to be four and had been lightly backed when I went to see him and I could tell he had quite a bit of growing and filling out to do, but I decided to have him.

It was only when he was checked over by a vet at home that it appeared he was in fact only three and therefore too young to be ridden by clients. So I spent the time until the following January schooling him, riding him myself and training him as a guide horse.

I think that extra time I spent with Splash has helped to make him the horse he is today. My yard manager at the time was Sally and she rode him a lot as her guide horse. She formed a very close bond with him and still comes back to ride him.

Splash is the sort of horse who will plod happily with a beginner, but will really step up for an experienced client. He adapts to his rider and his surroundings – totally dependable.

Splash cowboy style!

splash trekking

Splash out trekking

Over the last few years his big claim to fame has been his starring role on the annual Sheriff of Lichfield’s Ride. This is a traditional “beating the bounds” ride of more than 20 miles involving up to 80 horses – and every year Splash carries the Sheriff!

He has carried many Sheriffs who had never sat on a horse until they started training for the ride and he has never put a foot wrong. Splash looks stunning on the day and is the star of the whole show. He loves to be the centre of attention.

Splash at Lichfield Sheriffs Ride

He is still a vital lead horse for us here and is a great character. Out in the field he often hangs out with Skye and Red and he is very gentle in his relationships with the herd. He never squabbles or fights.

He is just as kind in his relationships with people. He is a happy horse and I don’t think I have ever seen him with his ears back. He is great with everyone.

Splash enjoying a day off!