A dedicated and hard-working team is absolutely essential to keep an equestrian business the size of Cannock Chase Trekking Centre working efficiently. With 46 horses to care for, clients to keep safe and happy, and a popular bistro to run we have a busy life! And I am lucky enough to have first-class workers, from my yard staff right through to my baristas, to keep the operation rolling along smoothly.
Behind the scenes there is also a highly professional support team, who are crucial to our work. They are our vets, our equine dentist and our farrier, who keep all our much loved horses happy and healthy.
Our farrier is Karl Jones, and he is a weekly visitor to the yard, where there are always customers awaiting his attention. Karl has been my farrier for many years, and his skill and patience are highly valued here. My horses meet some rough terrain out on Cannock Chase and it is crucial that their feet are kept in tip-top condition.
Each horse has its own farrier record, and Karl has an individual programme of attention for each one, depending on wear and tear. When our foals are born, Karl starts going in with them early on, so they get to know him. And horses that I buy soon settle to his patient handling. He doesn’t have a single problem with any of our horses and he is always quick to spot if a potential problem is developing.
Karl is a massive part of our team and we have such a good relationship with him.
I thought you might like to hear from Karl, so now I am handing over to him…
I qualified as a farrier in 1998 after a four-year apprenticeship with a firm that had a history of ten generations in the business. I first became interested in farriery because I had two cousins who were farriers, and I used to help them out while I was still at school. That got me thinking about farriery as a career, and I have never regretted taking this route. I love it – it doesn’t really feel like a job to me.
I started working for Lisa about a year after I qualified. She was looking for a farrier and her vet recommended me. When I started, she had about 26 horses, and, of course, the yard has grown and grown since then.
It is the biggest privately owned yard that I visit, and I am here every week. Lisa always asks me if I can see any lameness problems developing with any of the horses, as I can sometimes spot signs from the wear of their shoes before it becomes physically apparent in their work. It is a responsibility I take very seriously as I can help Lisa deal with issues promptly.
And because I know all of these horses individually, and have known some of them for a very long time, I can see if things are not quite right. For example, I started handling Gabriel when he was six months old. Now he is 15, so I know him very well indeed as I have been shoeing him all these years. I would notice immediately if he began to suffer a problem.
I find that most horses on other yards tend to work on a surface these days. They do school work most of the time. But Lisa’s horses do the majority of their work on a whole range of terrains so I have adapted what I do to deal with that. It is not like shoeing dressage horses! I aim to be looking after joints, tendons and ligaments by correct shoeing. Foot balance is crucial to their overall soundness. A horse that is working on uneven ground is always under extra pressure. With the Chase being so stoney, over the years I have learnt to leave a good amount of sole, only taking away sole that is needed to allow plenty of protection to the ground surface of the hoof.
I am always on call for the trekking centre. If a horse loses a shoe, I try to get there as soon as possible because there may be clients booked for that horse.
One of my highlights is that I very much enjoy starting with the babies. I like to start them patiently and quietly. It sets them up for life if they begin their education with no stress.
We had a little challenge to think about when the beautiful Nymeria arrived. She was an adult horse but very little handled – so potentially a problem. But she loves her food, so she will stand nicely for shoeing as long as Lisa feeds her some lunch!
I am delighted that my 16-year-old son Harrison has become really interested and likes to come with me in the school holidays. He has really taken to it and it is exciting to think that he is following in my footsteps.