THE MONTANA DIARIES – Part 2 by Lisa Gregory

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

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

Montana – a pretty girl with a wonderful temperament

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

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


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

Time to Saddle-Up

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

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

Friends can be a distraction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wispa – Highland Cross

This lovely mare – full name Chase Wispa – has a story so full of plot lines that it could be an episode from our very own trekking centre soap opera!

We have here her mum, Princess, and readers of my blog will know that Wispa was a surprise package. But that is just the first chapter in the Wispa story.

Wis[a, with mum Princess

Wispa with mum, Princess

Princess was a three year old when I bought her and we had no idea that she was pregnant. When we got her home I asked the vet to check her over – and her foal was born two weeks later.

She showed no signs at all of being in labour. I was keeping a close eye on her and checking constantly, but when I popped my head around the door on one of my visits there was a stunning golden coloured foal running around.

Wispa, the foal named after a chocolate bar

I named her after the chocolate bar – I already had a Galaxy! – and from the moment she was born Wispa was very bold. She would mow you down if she wanted to and she learned quickly to be an escape artist. She had no fear of electric fences.

When she was old enough I started to lightly break her in, but then at one of our weekly health checks my yard manager Lucy mentioned to me that she thought Wispa was putting on weight.

Wispa’s in foal!

On close inspection I nearly fell on the floor – Wispa was in foal!

And I knew straight away what had happened. About nine months earlier the whole herd had one night broken into my stallion Zidane’s field. I had checked all the mares and didn’t think he had covered any of them – clearly I was wrong!

Obviously a 16.2hh warmblood is not the ideal partner for a pony mare so I immediately called my stud vet Emily. She popped in a camera – and we clearly saw an eye blinking back at us. Neither of us had seen that before!

Wispa gave birth to a fabulous golden dun colt foal that I named Oregon. The accidental baby was wonderful, with beautiful markings.

Wispa and Oregon

Wispa and Oregon

She was a good little mum and I love having the three generations, grandma, mum and son living together in our herd.

As soon as Oregon was weaned I began work again with Wispa and she really grew up to become a great little all-rounder.

We are developing her schoolwork – she loves the bareback clinics – and this year she did the Sheriff’s Ride for the first time with Heather, one of her regular riders.

Wispa has become very popular and she has her own little fan club of riders who ask for her, especially as she so loves her cantering out on the Chase.

Wispa taking part in Sheriff's Ride 2018

Wispa taking part in Sheriff’s Ride 2018








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.


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.


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!


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!

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”!

Eight wonders of 2016

This has been one of the most exciting years we have ever had here at Cannock Chase Trekking Centre.
I think every month has brought us something thrilling, from the start of the redevelopment to putting the gorgeous Tia back in foal to my Dutch warmblood stallion Zidane; from starting our lovely Longdon weekend trail rides to a hugely successful Sheriff’s Ride.
I am looking forward so much to what 2017 brings us, but here is my look back – Eight Wonders Of 2016.

Number One: This has to be the start of our new build back in January. I had been waiting for so many years to redevelop the centre, and here were the diggers to break ground and get under way with our fabulous lodge building and our covered arena.

Unfortunately the weather was wet and it was the start of weeks of living and working surrounded by mud, but it was a small price to pay. It was very strange working with machinery and builders all around us and sending treks out from the back field, but staff, clients and horses all took it in their stride. W
e were all so excited – we were going from “The Pits” to “The Ritz”.
Number Two: The completion of the indoor riding arena. It was fantastic to have such great facilities, with mirrors, flood lights and a state of the art Martin Collins floor. Now we could start riding lessons, bring on board our coach Karen Hudson, and ride in any weathers and at any time of day or night. The world is our oyster!
Number Three: Starting pony clubs for young riders. We now offer club activities in three age groups ranging from four to sixteen. There’s lots of games, fun, riding and learning about ponies. Now I am looking at one for adults too! And I have loads more plans, including Western riding, horse ball and mounted archery.
Number Four:

Fitness classes. I am a strong believer in the importance of physical fitness to aid riding, and as the year came to a close we were able to hold our first mounted fitness classes. Equifit and Equilates – which combines elements of yoga, pilates and Tai-Chi – will continue next year. Book in to get fit and toned for the summer!
Number Five: I have always used bareback riding as a way of keeping fit and strengthening my core. It is also a wonderful way of feeling at one with your horse. We have now started Intro to Bareback Riding sessions in the arena and I think they will prove very popular.
Number Six: Our beautiful bistro. The Lodge is everything I dreamed of and more. We are offering Barista coffee, amazing hot chocolate and delicious home cooked food. We are really excited about the future and what we can do here. Think of early morning breakfast rides, barbeque rides, parties and corporate events. We seem to be evolving in a tex-mex ranch style and we want to make sure we carry on serving fantastic food and drinks.

Number Seven: Another exciting first for the Centre was when I became a qualified first responder. I have installed a medical room in the lodge and I can now carry a trauma kit. We will be holding first aid training courses from basic to advanced here at the Centre.

Number Eight: Over the years we have had lots of enquiries from people wanting to hold corporate events or birthday parties, so we now have the facilities to do that here in the new lodge. We have held our first ‘Trekworking’ event when our business visitors combined their meeting with lunch and a trek out on the Chase. It was such a success that early booking will be essential for the next one!