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!

Sahara – Coloured Oldenburg Mare


Our beautiful Sahara really is a very special girl. She is a pink papered pure bred Oldenburg from Germany.

Her daddy is Sanyo, a top continental stallion from an elite family that includes the famous sires Samber and Sandro. Sanyo fetched 110,000 Euros at auction just after his stallion grading!

Sahara arrived at Cannock Chase Trekking Centre after I had bought my wonderful Oldenburg stallion Zidane. His former owner had a mare called Saminca with a yearling foal at foot and asked me if I would like to buy them.

I was so happy with Zidane I decided I would like the mare as well. It was a little bit tricky at first because Sahara had not been weaned at six months, which is what I always do with my foals.

Because Sahara was much older the bond with her mother became very intense and it was difficult to wean her. I felt, with my previous experience of young horses, that leaving them together so long had been detrimental to both of them.

The bond between them never broke and they were always very needy of each other. When they were apart it was very difficult. Sahara would even go through a fence to get back to her mother.

Sahara with her mother, Saminca

Sahara with her mother, Saminca

But eventually they settled into the herd and I was able to break in Saminca. When it was time to train Sahara I decided that it would be best to keep only one of them.

Saminca was the sort of horse who really needed a one on one relationship with an owner. She was never really a suitable trekking horse so we found her a good home.

That was the making of Sahara. Once her mum was gone she really relaxed, grew up and matured.

Sahara out trekking

Sahara out trekking

She was a late developer so I gave her lots of time to grow. People always ask me at what age do I start with a horse. I always say it depends on the individual horse. Some I can start early, Sahara needed a little extra time.

She was very easy to train, accepting everything and she is a lovely genuine mare. She needs to kept interested. As soon as I backed her she was bored with the arena so I took her straight out on the Chase and she loved it.

Over the last year Sahara has become a real favourite with the experienced clients. Everybody who rides her says she floats.

Sahara on the Lichfield Sheriff's Ride

Sahara on the Lichfield Sheriff’s Ride

This winter our plan is to develop her work in the arena. She is bred for dressage and jumping so we hope our experienced riders will enjoy some special lessons with her.

Saffy – Clydesdale x Cob

We have a nice little group of horses here whose names all begin with S and they are headed by Saffy.

Her breeding is Cob with a good dash of Clydesdale and she is what’s known as a Blagdon Cob. That means she has a lot of white in her genes. This appears in her showy white markings and her unusual spring ‘in between’ coat, which is almost strawberry roan with lots of white hairs. When she loses that her summer coat is a rich bay, like Lola and Benson.

I find quite a lot of my horses through friends and Saffy is one of them. One of my retired ponies, Millie, had gone to a lovely family home where she was having lots of fun with the daughter, Lauren.

They had a very nice young mare that they had bought as a baby and shown very successfully in hand. She had been professionally broken, then turned away to grow and mature but when she came back into work she was a little too feisty for Lauren.

They were very sad to make the decision to sell and their priority was a good home where they could keep track of her.

That was where I entered the picture. I went to visit my old friend Millie and at the same time I took a look at Saffy.

I found her to be a little tense and wary but she was very responsive to my natural horsemanship. Within ten minutes I had achieved join up and I believed my approach would be ideal for her. Her family were sad to see her go but were sure the trekking centre was the right home.

I immediately began training her. Jake had arrived at almost the same time and having the two newbies together helped them to settle in. They are still best friends.

Saffy learned really quickly and was soon being ridden out on the Chase, which she loved – and still does!

She was not used to living with a large group of horses and at first didn’t like having them around her on the treks, but she soon got over that and has gone from strength to strength.

Our yard manager Sonia has trained her as her guide horse and the two of them have a very close relationship. Sonia says Saffy is afraid of nothing, describing her as one of the most honest and genuine horses she has ridden.

Saffy has done beach rides and the Sheriffs’ rides and is now working well in the arena too.

She is one of our most comfortable horses to ride and has a lovely nature. She is very happy here and her old family still come to visit.

Ross – Grey Connemara Gelding


Now I am blogging again we will get back to where we were with our insight into the characters of our horses. We had reached R on our alphabetical tour so we will start again with Ross.

This gorgeous grey is a beauty, a pure bred Connemara from Ireland with the rather grand official name of Rosscon McDuff. But we just call him Ross and everyone loves him.


A family – 3 generations of riders – that had been riding with me for a long time rang me up. They had bought a horse for their grand-daughter and they wanted me to give a second opinion.

Cannock Chase Trekking, Ross

I went to see him. He was only rising four and newly broken. I quickly noticed that the horse would not stand still to be mounted – a priority for me. He was lovely but very forward and I felt he would be too much for them. I explained to them that he would not be ideal, although she was a very nice rider. It is easy to underestimate how much time and work is involved in bringing on a young horse.

He was a sweet natured boy though and the whole family was already in love with him! I helped them with some ground work and took him out on the Chase for them, but eventually they too, sadly decided he was not right for them.

But they loved him dearly and were very concerned about his future home so I decided to buy him.

Once I got him home I resumed the ground work – and taught him to stand still! – and gradually brought him on. We put a lot of hours into him and he came good really quickly. We rode him as a guide horse before we put experienced clients on him. It took time before we could allow him to be ridden by lots of different clients.

Ross is a lovely kind natured horse and now he doesn’t have a single problem. He is very sensible, keen and eager to please. My regular riders adore him!

Cannock Chase Trekking, Ross

He has an incredible jump and absolutely loves being in the arena and doing lessons. Karen and Lucy, our instructors, love teaching people on him.

In my bareback lessons he is literally bouncing because he is so eager to canter! My staff love him as a guide horse and he has done the Wales holidays, beach rides and been a Marshall’s horse on the Sheriff of Lichfield’s ride.

He is just perfect – our little gem.

Cannock Chase Trekking, Ross

Ross on Sheriff’s Ride Day

The Power of the Herd

THE POWER OF THE HERD – Now we have our new Cannock Chase Trekking Centre website up and running I decided it was time I started writing my weekly blog again. And this week presented the perfect opportunity.

Anyone who enjoys visiting our ranch bistro knows how entertaining and interesting it is to watch the interactions and relationships between our horses.

Our team have a very natural life, living together as a herd with a distinct pecking order, and the power of the herd has a major influence on their behaviour. I often harness that power when I am introducing a new horse or training a youngster.

It can be a major training tool and it was demonstrated this week with our newest arrival, our five-year-old pure bred Andalusian. She is my trek leader Pele’s full sister and we have named her Nymeria.

She has always lived on the stud where she was born, never going beyond her birthplace and living a quiet life in the field.

Once arriving at the trekking centre we stable a new horse so we can carry out worming and health checks. This helps us start to bond with them before beginning their training.

But in Nymeria’s case she became very stressed. The big world outside was a scary place and she had never even been stabled before. She began to withdraw into the corner as if it was her sanctuary.

Three days after her arrival I decided to turn her out with the herd. One reason was to allow her to see and understand her surroundings. She is like a country girl arriving in the city. This is a big, busy trekking centre, she needed the company of other horses to help process this sensory overload.

I have started my natural horsemanship with her and she was starting to bond with me but I decided she would not relax properly until she joined the herd.

Joining the Herd
She was stabled alongside our lovely boy Skye, who is so friendly and laid back. We don’t just kick a new horse out with them all. We carry out a careful introduction procedure and first we put her in the field with Skye, her new friend and comfort blanket.

Then we added her big brother Pele and after ignoring each other for a little while they went off for a gallop and a play.

nymeria and pele Nymeria and Pele

We continued the process by turning out boy, girl, boy, girl. We also find it helps to first turn out those of similar ages and the group slowly grew in size. If alarmed she ran back to Skye and she soon found she liked Kitty. Interestingly Kitty is our other newest arrival and still bottom of the pecking order. So Nymeria clearly recognised a kindred spirit.

It’s incredible to watch. The other horses were calm and assertive, but not aggressive. They put her in her place with their body language.

Nymeria cctc_herd

She won’t be allowed to fully integrate for a while. The mares will keep her at least 20 metres away until they are ready to make friends with her. They patrol and even operate a shift system like armed guards. One of them is always on watch to keep an eye on her.

She will learn to go out and come in with the gang and days of play, learning and interactions will expend her energy. The other horses will teach her that this is a safe place with nothing to be afraid of.

cctc_herd cctc_herd

The power of the herd will have helped me to begin her training to become a trekking horse. Exciting times ahead for this beautiful girl!

Red – Appaloosa – Gelding

Red – Appaloosa – Gelding
Red – full name Afon Fed – is one of our most popular horses here at the centre, he has come so far from the horse that he was when he first arrived here.
This handsome and traditional spotted Appaloosa gelding found me through one of our lovely regular young riders.  As well as riding here she also rode at a riding school where her favourite was a spotted horse.  The family  decided to buy one of their own and went to the stud where this horse had come from, an bought Red. He was ungelded and had only just been backed.
In my opinion this is a bit like buying a Ferrari as your first car, especially as Appaloosas can often be a little bit quirky and need a lot of work. I would not choose such a green horse for a first-time owner.  She moved him to a new yard and had a lot of instructors trying to help her with him but he still became, in my view, a little bit dangerous. When I was asked to give my opinion and met him for the first time I found him to be one of the scariest and most unpredictable horses I have ever sat on.
I don’t scare easily and I don’t get off a horse easily, but this boy was worrying about everything his rider might do, so he just couldn’t settle or feel safe. She was trying to ride him through his problems, but I would not ride a horse who was feeling so tense. I did some ground work with him and I could feel his tension as soon as I mounted.
I offered to help with Red but eventually his family decided to offer him to me. It was a tough decision for them to make because they are lovely people who loved him very much. As it happened I had a nice Welsh Section D called QT who needed a quieter life, so we decided to swop horses.
His yard wasn’t very far from me so I rode QT over there to fetch Red with another horse as company. I have to admit that on the way back I was thinking ‘what have I done?’ because I had to leap off him at least twice.
It took a couple of weeks of really intensive training and me riding him out to start to get through to him and get him through whatever it was that was bothering him. Eventually I started to make progress.
Writing this story now makes me think that all of you who know Red and love riding him so much will never believe it!
People say to me now that you can trust him with your life – and that is absolutely true. Years later no-one can begin to imagine the sort of horse that he was.
The trekking centre was his saving grace. The feeling of security he gained from living in our herd environment enabled him to be ridden in a quiet and calm atmosphere. He felt safe and at ease.
I bought Skye from the same yard and they had been stabled next door to each other. Skye was already here when Red arrived and straight away they became best friends in the field. They will even share a stable beautifully. Relaxing in Skye’s company really helped Red to chill out and for such a nervy horse he never had problems in the field.
I think in another environment he would never have become the horse he is now. He does everything and has always done everything that is asked of him. He is so relaxed and happy in the indoor arena that he excels in our lessons.
He is so different to the horse I bought – our handsome boy and a reformed character.

Princess – Highland Dun Mare

PRINCESS – Highland Dun Mare
This little lady is a Highland and a beautiful cream dun – and she had a surprise in store for us when she arrived!
Princess was a three-year-old when she joined the trekking centre.
I was looking for a pony with a bit of bone, suitable for both children and lightweight adults. Princess was for sale in Stoke and I went to see her with Jackie, one of the girls working for me at the time.
The pony had been brought over from Ireland and had only been lightly backed. The people selling her didn’t know much about her history but she was a lovely sweet mare.
We had a little trial of her and she was very green and I knew I would have a lot of work to do. But I was happy with that. I like to put my own stamp on a horse.
We agreed to have her and Princess came to the trekking centre a couple of days later. Once she arrived I had a really good look over her and I almost kicked myself. Knowing she was only three I could see her teats were a little bit swollen and her stomach a bit low slung for a pony of her age.
Straight away I suspected she was in foal and I asked my vet to come over with the scanner and check her over. The vet confirmed it – Princess was pregnant!
I had really mixed feelings. Business-wise I was cross with myself because I needed another pony for the centre and that is why I had bought her. But I love babies and I was so excited that we were going to have a foal!
The lady I had bought her from offered to have Princess back, but I decided to keep her and turned her out in the field for a few months. Then I stabled her at night with the cameras on so I could keep an eye on what was happening.
I was keeping a close eye on her and she was showing none of the signs that we look for to indicate that foaling is imminent.
One evening she was checked at 8pm after an evening ride and I came back an hour later to take a look at her again. As I put the lights on I could see something cream against the door. It was the foal!
She had been sneaky – as maiden mares often are – and in that hour she had quietly given birth all by herself. We had another beautiful dun with a dorsal stripe and stripey legs.
We called the filly Wispa – after the chocolate bar – but it’s a name with a double meaning because she was her mum’s little secret.
Princess had six months’ maternity leave and once Wispa was weaned I got on with the job of schooling and riding. Jackie had a soft spot for her and did a lot of work with her as well.
We found that Princess was very forward going and she has always been an exciting ride. She wasn’t one we could put any rider on but as she has got a little bit older and more experienced she has really come into her own, even winning ‘Best Turned Out’ at the Lichfield Sheriffs Ride.
Now we are using her in the riding school and for pony club activities and she has a great jump.
She is our BOGOF – Buy One and Get One Free!

Pirate – Coloured Irish Cob – Gelding

The Wales saga continued …….the last of the mountain gang!
Pirate was my friend Vernon’s breeding stallion at his farm in the Welsh mountains, producing some lovely babies.
I always loved him because although he is a coloured horse he is mainly black, with a distinctive pirate eye patch. He is my own Johnny Depp of the horse world.
I first met Pirate when I took one of my mares to be mated with him. I fell in love with him immediately and when I returned to see Paddy I asked if I could have Pirate too, although I didn’t want to keep him as a stallion.
After a bit of convincing Vernon agreed, and Pirate joined my epic four-horse shopping spree.
As with the others he went through the whole health routine when he arrived and he had to be gelded too. Just like the other three, he took everything we threw at him.
Sometimes you come across horses that are like naughty children because they haven’t been brought up correctly. But these had been allowed to be horses, to behave naturally, and we found they loved every aspect of being trekking centre horses.
They have been the most simple of horses to work with and they have thrived here in our happy herd environment.
Pirate is a lovely lad, probably one of the most popular that we have for newcomers to riding. He is such a great character and is so safe and dependable that he gives people a memorable and enjoyable first experience of the trekking centre. For beginners or for riders who have lost their confidence he is wonderful.
And some of my regular experienced riders are currently having a fabulous time with him on the treks. They are finding him a really exciting ride – our Mr Dependable has hidden depths!
In the herd he is a very sociable horse. You will often see him sparring with either his son Lightning or today, as I write this blog, Mr Shrimp. They are playing a fun game of trying to take each other’s legs and dropping their playmate to their knees. Although a strong member of the team he is one of the most playful in the herd dynamics.
Some people thought it was a shame to geld him and take him away from his mountain environment.
But I knew it was the right decision. He is a fantastically happy horse and loves the life he has here. We are so lucky to have him. Our clients enjoy riding him just as much as we enjoy owning him.

Paddy – Coloured Irish Cob – Gelding

PADDY – Coloured Irish Cob – Gelding
Paddy was one of the four I brought home from my Wales adventure – probably my best ever shopping trip!
You will remember from last week’s blog about Melody that I originally agreed to buy two coloured cobs.
Paddy was one of them and he was special from the start. He had been gelded late, so he was a nice big horse who still looked like a stallion. He had a lot of presence but in a calm way, so he had a strong and dependable demeanour.
Like Mel, when he arrived he had to go through the whole routine of vet, farrier and dentist and he was unfazed by the whole procedure. He went straight into training and within two weeks he was riding out on the Chase with me on his first trek.
We did have a little hiccup with him a while later when he started to catch a few people off their guard. Because he is a big hairy cob people are inclined to think he is bound to be a dopey plodder and some were underestimating him.
He isn’t a plodder – he is actually a forward going and active ride and for a while I only put my stronger riders on him. We soon worked him through it and those experienced clients have helped to make him the lovely cob he is today.
Now he is a delight to ride and so dependable, he is a real confidence giver. We find that when we are teaching people to canter for the first time he will give them a really fantastic first experience.
Paddy has such a good reputation these days that we call him “Super Cob”. At first glance people see him as a traditional coloured cob – some clients even ask if he is a Shire – but there is more to him than meets the eye. If we were to clip off all his hair, underneath you would see a quality horse, much finer than he looks!
He doesn’t need a lot of leg or encouragement. He is a really comfortable ride and he has that boost of extra power that makes cantering on him really exhilarating. But he is kind and gentle too, which makes him the perfect package for all levels of riders.
Just one problem – he is quite laid back in the indoor arena! I ended up riding him myself during one of my bareback lessons  and although I got him going nicely in the end, it was a bit of a challenge! But it gives us something to work on and we will get there.
Paddy’s most endearing quality is the spectacular moustache he grows with his winter coat. His “Movember Moustache” has to be seen to be believed.
One of our lovely regular riders, Marie, is a great Paddy fan and this winter she bought him the most gorgeous leopard print turn-out rug. Twinned with his big moustache he has now been nicknamed “Medallion Man”!