As I introduce you all to the exceptional bunch of people who keep the trekking centre firing on all cylinders, we arrive at someone who is very well known to you all.
That person is Lucy Powell, my versatile right-hand woman who can literally turn her hand to any job at the centre. She may have greeted you at reception, taught you a lesson in the arena, or even made you a delicious coffee in the bistro!
Sometimes people come into your life that you instinctively know are going to be with you, step by step, throughout the whole journey. Lucy is one of those people. We met within a week of me opening the trekking centre, and she came to ride for her 11th birthday treat. She reminded me of myself at that age, quite shy but pony mad!
Her parents asked me if she could start coming to help out, and she has been with me ever since – through three yard moves, from working out of pig sties to the foot and mouth crisis; and from doing everything ourselves because we had no staff to our new era of the bistro and the arena.
Lucy has always shared my vision and my dream and my love of horses. She shares my ethos.
Having Lucy here coaching is fabulous; her style complements that of our other instructor, Karen Hudson. They are my teaching dream team. Each of the two of them approaches their lessons from a different perspective. Karen is a classically trained BHS coach, while Lucy studied breeding and horse psychology. But they feed off each other and their aim is the same: happy clients and happy horses.
Lucy started off as my pony-mad little assistant, helping out on the paddock rides; then she became a trek leader, my yard manager, a receptionist, a barista, a coach and now she even does the accounts. She can jump into any role – she is essential.
Now let’s hear from Lucy…
I started riding when I was three and was having lessons, mainly at Ingestre. But as I got older I felt I was getting a bit stale, and then my mum spotted that the trekking centre was opening.
She booked me an 11th birthday trek with my friends. I met Lisa and I was soon coming to help out. At first, I helped out on the paddock rides – I was known as the pony girl. My favourite was Banner, Lisa’s old competition pony.
Working with Lisa really brought my riding on because my confidence grew so much. At school I was quite shy, but at the trekking centre I found my voice; it brought me out of myself.
I went away to boarding school, but I insisted on coming home every weekend to work here, and when I went off to university I spent all my holidays here.
My degree was in equine sports science and equestrian psychology, and after university I lived in Nottingham. I worked as a groom for the army, taught at a riding school, trained horses and ran my own horse transport company, but I never lost touch with the centre.
While I was in Nottingham I bred my mare Eclipse. Her mum was Sophie, a mare of Lisa’s who was going to be out of work for a while (and who is also the mum of Atlantis), and her dad was a thoroughbred. I phoned Lisa as soon as she was born at 3am, and she and Georgia came to visit next day. I broke in Eclipse myself, and she was very good, but when I did have an issue with her, I turned to Lisa for advice. Now, of course, Eclipse lives here at the trekking centre.
Just as I was wrapping up my transport business, Lisa needed someone full time and I jumped at the chance. It was the best job I had ever had and I commuted from Nottingham for a long time before moving back here when I met my future husband Jamie, and he found a job locally.
I became yard manager, with Sonia as my right-hand woman, and that continued until 2015 when Jamie’s job moved to Cumbria. When we left, the building here had just started; when we came back two years later, everything was different!
Of course, as soon as we returned from Cumbria I was back at the centre! I started doing the accounts (which my dad had been doing for several years), then a little bit of teaching and I even learned to be a barista, as well as running reception.
I particularly love my teaching here. Because I have been here for so long, I have known some of these horses since they were born. I know them so well that I can teach my pupils how to ride and get the best out of that individual horse.
A cowgirl at heart
Western riding is a great love of mine and passing on that enthusiasm in my lessons is really rewarding. In the summer, we hosted two ranch-style evening parties, and I choreographed the musical rides performed my myself, Lisa and the staff. I devised the routine and chose the music, and I absolutely loved it. I was so proud of the girls. When we started practising, most of them had never ridden Western. By the time of the performance, they looked as if they had been born to it. We ended each performance with a fast and furious barrel racing competition with the staff in two teams. It was so popular that I am now teaching barrel racing clinics!
It is really interesting that I have noticed that the horses enjoy the Western clinics (including barrel racing) as well. For example, Tyri came from a dressage background but he just loves Western. He finds it sheer fun.
I love it here because every day is different. When I wake up in the morning, I never know which hat I am going to be wearing.
I can’t stay away – I am the Cannock Chase Trekking Centre boomerang!