Horse Of The Month – Larosa, March 2015

Welcome to horse of the month – our new regular feature here on the centre’s website.

Every month we’re going to feature one of the horses you all love so much – and who better to start with than our beautiful Larosa.

All the centre’s regulars will know that the excitement is growing because Larosa is expecting a new addition to our herd.

Larosa, a gorgeous bay Welsh Section D, is in foal to Zidane, our coloured Dutch Warmblood stallion. Everyone is talking about what the new arrival might be. The due date is May 20 – but breeding horses is always a case of wait and see.

We have had Larosa – Lola for short – for three years. She arrived as an unbroken five-year-old and proved a quick learner, always bold and confident. It wasn’t too long before our clients were enjoying riding her on the Chase.

That was one of the reasons we decided to breed from her, even though she is quite young. She is very popular here at the centre. We haven’t got enough Lolas to go around, so we decided we needed a baby one coming along behind.

Another reason for putting her in foal is that she is the ‘Nanny McPhee’ of our herd. She loves the youngsters and becomes surrogate mum to all our weanlings.

Our stud vet has loved her from the moment she first met her, and recommended it was time she had a baby of her very own.

We are counting down the days now. It is the first time we have covered a bay with Zidane and we are so excited to see what colour the little one will be.

Zidane’s offspring here at the centre start with Dakota, who was born coloured, a flashy black and white just like his dad. Now he is a spotted Appaloosa – the same as Nicoh, his mum.

Then there is Whispa’s son Oregon, who is dun with black points and a dorsal stripe. Last year’s foals are Indiana – Nicoh’s second baby – who was born a chocolate bay but is now steel grey, and Arizona, who was born a skewbald like mum Tia and has retained her original markings.

All their colourings seem to take after their mothers, and I have seen pictures of some of Zidane’s earlier babies, born before he came to us. One was coloured and another was bay.

In my mind Larosa is having a boy and he is bay. But one of the exciting things about breeding is that you simply don’t know, so we will be having a sweepstake for a bit of fun. Keep a lookout when you come to the centre and have a go. There’ll be a prize for the winner.

Larosa is thriving in pregnancy. She looks great after wintering out, but she’s now coming in at night to the comfort of her foaling box. For a maiden mare she has a really big baby bump so we’re keeping a close watch on her.

The cameras in the box are linked to a monitor in my house and I am studying her night time routine carefully so that as the due date gets closer I will spot any tiny changes in her behaviour. From now on we will also be looking for signs of the formation of her udder. I will take pictures so we can identify the changes.

When the birth is imminent I will go into the stable with her to make sure everything goes smoothly and she has no difficulties. Once the foal is standing and drinking I will leave the pair of them alone to enjoy some quiet bonding time together.

I have no doubt at all that Larosa will be a wonderful mum. She has wanted a baby of her own for so long that it is just great her time is nearly here.

We know how interested all Larosa’s friends are so we are looking into the technology of showing the foaling box feed on our website. We would love you all to share in this beautiful experience so keep an eye on our Facebook page for news.

Top Tips For Buying A Horse

Buying a new horse can be a minefield, especially for the inexperienced.

I must have looked at hundreds of horses for sale since I set up the trekking centre here on Cannock Chase and over the years I have developed my own checklist that I go through when I’m viewing a potential new candidate.

When I need to find a new recruit I listen to recommendations from people I know and I study horses for sale adverts on the internet. Then I go to view.

I like a particular type of horse for the centre, but the basics are the same even if you are buying a little pony for your children.

I always get them trotted up so I can see their action and check that they are straight behind. Check the legs for lumps and bumps and pick the feet up.

Always find out the horse’s history and have a look inside the mouth to check age. Also ask to see the passport and any other paperwork and make sure that everything matches up.

Temperament is vitally important. If you are a beginner or a happy hacker you really don’t want something feisty and fiery! If you can only ride at weekends, don’t buy something that needs schooling every day. You will soon find you have a problem on your hands.

I ask the owner to tack them up in front of me. I like to see them being tacked up – or even ask if I can do it myself – and I normally ask the owner to ride the horse for me. I always insist the owner gets on first – if it’s going to buck they can be the one who hits the ground!

Always find out what type of diet the horse is on – that can have an effect on behaviour. I also ask about the worming programme and any health problems.

If you think it is the horse for you it is worth asking your vet to check it out.

People so often buy the wrong horse, so never be afraid to look at one that is older and more experienced. We have the expertise here at the centre to break in and bring on a youngster, but some owners end up with problems that they simply can’t deal with.

Active pensioners can lead full and fun-filled lives and can prove to be the perfect best friend. Our lovely Thomas and Megan, who have recently retired, have both gone to great homes where they will be kept busy.

The important thing is to find the horse that is right for you.

New Arrival Jake Fits The Bill Here At The Centre

We have an exciting arrival here at the centre and he’s everything I look for when I’m seeking out a new horse.

Our new boy is Jake, who has joined our herd from Derbyshire, where he was living with his breeder. He is rising five, an Irish Draught cross and is 16.1hh. He is still growing right now and I think we’ll get a couple more inches out of him when he’s had a summer on our good grass.

All my horses come from private homes. Some we find from recommendations and we also keep an eye on horses for sale adverts and the internet.

I’m from a showjumping background and I still go for a certain type of horse. I like to see a straight action, a deep girth, short back and a pretty head – preferably with some sort of distinguishing mark like a star or a blaze.

If they are too heavily built they tend to suffer from ailments like sidebones and ringbone and you don’t get the longevity with them; too fine and you end up with soundness problems. I also like a horse that is forward going rather than quiet.

I want to see a kind eye. A lot depends on the feel I get from them. I know instantly if this horse is something I can work with – I have to fall in love with them.

And I did fall in love with Jake. I could see he was going to pick things up quickly. He had been lightly backed over a few months but had done nothing since October. When that has happened with a horse I like to go back to basics.

So when I brought him home to Cannock Chase I began the process as if he had not been backed at all. That way I will give him the head carriage I like and teach him my way of going.

Within an hour of arriving he had done his first photo-shoot for my yard manager Lucy’s LVR Equine horse and rider clothing company. He took to posing like a professional model – just like his new owner!

After 24 hours I had done the groundwork with him, loose schooled him and got on him. Since then I’ve been taking him out on the Chase and so far he has taken everything in his stride.

Ultimately I want a safe and forward going horse that is going to be happy in the job. I think Jake will be exactly that.

I predict he will be a popular favourite with our clients. Not only is he flashy looking and a very handsome boy, but he is also a very comfortable ride. He will have many happy years here with us.

Summer’s Just Around The Corner

Summer’s just around the corner and here at the centre we’re already getting excited about sunny days, long leisurely rides with pub lunches – and exciting gallops on the beach.

All our summer activities are great fun, but the highlight is our holiday in Wales. We’ve been going for four years now and we have a fabulous time. The horses enjoy it as much as we do!

We are based at Abergwynant Farm, near Dolgellau, for three days of beach and mountain rides and swimming the horses in the sea. We stay in comfortable self-catering cottages on the farm, and your horse is exactly that – yours to care for and ride for the whole of your stay.

And we have a brilliant time in the evening too. The social side is great and our riders have all become firm friends.

The holidays are so popular that last year we branched out and ran two – one in July and a second in August.

That experiment was such a success that this year we’re doing the same – and have come up with another new plan to ensure that as many of our clients as possible can join in the fun.

I will be based in Wales with the horses for a whole week in July and another in August, and the riders will come to me.

There will be a three-day holiday on July 13th, 14th and 15th (cost £510), followed by another on July 16th, 17th and 18th.

A third three-day holiday will be on August 8th, 9th and 10th.

August 11th will be a one-day beach ride (£150), something we are doing for the first time. I hope this will be a real treat for any riders who can’t make one of the three-day breaks.

Then the horses will have a day off before we finish with another three-day holiday on August 13th, 14th and 15th.

We still have some vacancies, so contact the centre for more details. This will be Cannock Chase on tour – come and join us!

I have another plan for short riding breaks – but this time we’ll be staying on the Chase. The idea is to do some two-day weekend trail rides, staying overnight at a lovely B and B that we have used before. We’ll stop for pub lunches or have a picnic delivered to us on the trek.

We’ll be catering for small groups only and my ultimate aim is that at some stage we will be able to let experienced clients ride the trail by themselves.

We haven’t set any dates for this yet, so please contact the centre if you are interested and we will put our plans into action.

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.

Horses For Sale At The Trekking Centre

All our horses here at the centre are much-loved members of our family, so the prospect of parting with any of them can be heart-breaking.

But, like us, there comes a time when they need to take life more easily.

Just thinking about horses for sale is enough to give me sleepless nights, but sometimes it has to be done and my priority then is to find my old friends wonderful forever homes.

The horses here have to be up to full fitness and able to provide a terrific experience for everyone from beginners to knowledgeable riders. I always promised myself that I would never have horses that can only do part of the job and when I see the signs I know I have a tough decision to make.

Retirement day comes at different times for different horses. We have a couple of older boys at the moment, Emrys and Tom, who have been here for many years but still enjoy every moment of their work and show every week that they can still keep up with anyone on a trek.

On the other hand, we have two younger lads who both need a new life and so I have had to make the dreaded ‘horses for sale’ decision. One is PJ, a great favourite with our clients, and the other is Tally, a boy who really needs an experienced one-to-one home.

We have had lots of enquiries from people who want them, but I have to make sure they are going to ideal homes and I’m not afraid to say no.

PJ is just gorgeous – I call him Peaches after the cuddly little mammoth in the Ice Age film. He’s a young-at-heart 16, 14 hands and a lovely chocolate and white. He has such a lot to offer the right owner. Ideally I want him to go to a lightweight adult or to a young rider who will have lots of fun with him. He wants to be someone’s best friend.

He has loads of experience, he’s done our Wales holidays and been on the Sheriff’s Ride, and he is a big favourite on the yard. There will be many tears when he leaves.

We thought we had found his forever home, but unfortunately that person sold him to a horse dealer and we had to act quickly to buy him back. He’s worth his weight in gold and he deserves a lovely family to spend the rest of his life with.

The other horse for sale is Tally, a very handsome seven-year-old Welsh Section D, who is 14.2hh and won in the show ring with a previous owner. He is a lovely pony but he needs a home where he can receive lots of individual attention. He had a little bit of a rough start before he joined us and he wants a special friend who can regain his trust. Experienced hands will be the key and patience and love will bring out the best in him.

If you think you can give PJ or Tally the perfect home, please contact the centre.

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.

Background:

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.

Background:

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!