In a couple of my recent blogs, I have been introducing you to key members of my team here at the trekking centre.
This time, it is the turn of Karen Hudson, and she really needs no introduction as many of you already know her – she is our British Horse Society (BHS) instructor and teaches lessons here several days a week. However, she has a key role at the centre, and I thought you would all be interested in learning how she came to be working here and to hear from Karen herself.
When I started the trekking centre nearly 25 years ago – it is our silver anniversary in 2020 – I had no intention of offering lessons. There are some very good riding schools around – notably Ingestre – and I did not want to compete with them. They are excellent at what they do, and we have always been excellent at what we do – offering clients the chance to enjoy our gorgeous Cannock Chase from the back of a good horse.
But, as time went on, more and more of my regular clients started asking about the possibility of having lessons on their favourite horses. So when I began the redevelopment here, it was the perfect opportunity to build an indoor arena and fulfil those clients’ wishes. Of course, I had to find an instructor, and as soon as I met Karen I knew we would be a good fit for each other.
Now we have everyone from children to adults, beginners to advanced, enjoying tuition here. Karen and I love seeing the riders develop, and the horses are benefitting too by turning their hands to every discipline and becoming much more well rounded. Now it’s over to Karen…
I started riding when I was just four at a trekking centre owned by the mum of equine dentist Mat Carter, who cares for all of Lisa’s horses.
A little Shetland called Sooty gave me a lifelong passion for riding, although I did not start out in an equestrian career. I was in sales and marketing – including selling equine products – for a long time. And after I had my daughter, I was starting to get bored.
At the time, I had a thoroughbred called Pimm. She had a few injuries, and I couldn’t ride her, so I started riding at Ingestre, where they suggested I take a few exams. I really enjoyed that and I did my Stages One, Two and Three, and then my coaching exams. I also trained at Berriewood Equestrian Centre in Shropshire. I started doing a little bit of coaching at Ingestre, and it was there that I found my passion for teaching. I worked at a number of riding schools and, at that time, it was all about developing myself as a coach.
It may sound very weird, but I always knew I would end up working with Lisa here at the trekking centre. Someone told me that an arena was being built, and I came and handed in my CV. Six months later, I saw the job advertised on the BHS website and I thought, “That job is mine!” I applied, and the rest is history.
It was a challenge at first because the horses were used to being ridden out on the Chase – they found being asked to work in an indoor arena a bit baffling. Working on their own was strange to them when they were used to trekking with their herd mates.
And I had to get used to Lisa’s way – no artificial aids, no crops, no whips, no spurs and no lunge lessons. But I have absolutely loved it!
Our patience has paid off as the horses soon settled in to school work and they are never, ever stale or bored, because they still have the fun of trekking out on the Chase.
I realised a long time ago that this is a leisure industry and you have to send your clients away happy. You cannot boss them around. I have learned that a coach must be interactive; you must make people welcome. A coach must empower clients rather than put them down. I hope I succeed in that in every lesson. When you teach children, you are often making the difference whether they go on to ride all their lives – or give up. It is a serious responsibility.
I love working with groups, so I enjoy our clinics, such as cross country and dressage in the summer, and polework in the winter. I enjoyed learning to ride Western in the summer, so I was able to take part in the Western riding displays at the ranch party nights, even including some exciting barrel racing!
Lisa and the girls on the yard provide me with wonderful support. She and I discuss how we want to develop the school further, and I love to get feedback from her.
I adore the horses here – I don’t think they have a clue how much I love them! My current aim is to get all the coloured cobs working nicely in the school because they are so safe.
My own horse is a coloured cob called Blaze and he is schooled to novice level in dressage. Any horse can do dressage – it is just a matter of schooling.
Coaching is my passion. Seeing my pupils leaving the arena with smiles on their faces is everything. I want them to go home buzzing.