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29Jan 20

MAARTEN VAN STEK IS COMING BACK!

A CLINIC IN MAY

 

Yes, Maarten van Stek is back on form! And visiting Cornwall again for a clinic in May. Last year he couldn't make it due to a lengthy recovery period because of multiple leg fractures after having been stuck under his horse who had a very unfortunate slip on the concrete. 

 

PHENOMENAL RESILIENCE

 

Yet again, the fact that Maarten is back riding and instructing after such a horrendous accident tells you of his phenomenal resilience. We, who have met him and were already part of his clinics, know his story. Maarten has been at the dressage subtop for many years, despite the fact that he lost one arm because of an accident when he was only six years old. Other than having trained numerous horses ready to compete Grand Prix, he has coached five Dutch riders into Grand Prix level and 17 into the PSG.

 

MAARTEN: UNDERSTANDING, FORGIVING AND A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOUR

 

What I personally find Maarten's greatest gift is, that he, despite the fact that he himself has had to be as tough as nails to have such a brilliant career as a sublime horseman, he is very understanding and forgiving to anyone struggling at any level.

Having trained so many horses and riders to the highest levels, there is nothing kocky or snobby about him and his sense of humour, together with his knowledge, has given all of us the chance to feel secure and free to ride with confidence, at the same time able to absorb his comments and thrive. For me it has meant I have developed my teaching skills through watching him and for my pupils it meant we were able to continue our journey with more focus and understanding about where we are heading.

Below some statements from some who have taken part in Maarten's previous clinics in Cornwall:

Lucy Lloyd: Maarten's clinics have been invaluable to tweak and improve many aspects of our training programme. This helped me to move up to medium level dressage, something I never really thought I would achieve on my old eventer, Tomtom.

 

 

Becky Wilkins: I had a lesson with Maarten on his last visit and I can honestly say that it was incredible. He identified and addressed the small issues that I was having with my little mare and made a huge difference to the way she went. I was then able to work on his advice afterwards with Liz. With Maarten and Liz's help we've been consistently in the top 10 after dressage which we definitely weren't before. I would strongly recommend booking for a lesson with Maarten, he is brilliant!

Emily Skerrett: I had a lesson with Maarten when he visited the UK last, and really enjoyed it. I am a grade 5 para rider and found it very helpful being taught by someone who not only understood my disability, but my fierce independence and also understood my hot warmblood who then was recently imported from Holland. He worked with us with a lot of sensitivity and insight which left me feeling more empowered and confident with some good tools to help my horse. Looking forward to seeing him again!  

 

 

 

Davina Pritchard: Maarten is a really inspirational trainer. He is very firm, direct and clear in what he expects from you as a rider and he doesn’t settle for anything less than 100% commitment. Yet he is insightful and generous with his time and knowledge and helped gain real improvements to my riding and my horses way of going.

 

 

 

 

Liz Bailey: I have been lucky enough to participate on Maarten's clinics in Cornwall over the past few years. He has a superb manner of calmness and confidence about him, putting yourself and your horse at ease very quickly. His lessons are incredibly informative & fun & I find myself referring back to moments within our sessions multiple times long after the event. I always try and make time to watch some lessons throughout Maarten's clinics too, there's so much to learn!

 

 

 

 

Claire Daniels: My horses and I have been so fortunate to have had several lessons with Maarten on his visits to Cornwall. Every experience with him has led to several light bulb moments, turning some training methods completely upside down! Maarten has a true gift in enabling riders to help their horses in an amazing way all through working within their natural instincts. In a single lesson he is both inspiring and so intuitive that you always come away on a real high, eager to continue in the same fantastic groove he’s shown you and addicted to achieve that ‘feeling’ from then on!

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Maarten van Stek clinic dates at Tall Trees: May 18, 19 and 21. £70 per session. Claire Daniels is taking bookings on messenger WhatsApp or text. Mobile number: 07790 394234.

 

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14Dec 19

FROM COURT CASE TO SCHOOLMASTER

IN FOAL TO MAYHILL

 

A couple of weeks ago, I got a message from Charlene Derbyshire, saying that TingTang, Tinky, as she called her, at 28 years old had taken on a new job as a schoolmaster.

Heavens, didn't that bring back memories.

When her stout mother plopped TingTang in the straw I was quietly watching over the door which made it extra special. It was a late still night and the sound of that first suck with mum gently nuzzling that little curly tail was such a sweet moment. Three years later I backed her and put her into foal to Mayhill, the eventing stallion from Marc Todd standing at the Bleekmans in Cullompton. Because she was very straightforward I thought I could probably put a few more months work into her before she would start her maternity leave.      A NASTY WOLF TOOTH     Unfortunately this didn't go quite to plan. To cut a long story short, after several bit-related incidents the vet found a nasty well-hidden little wolf tooth,  which was removed. I was happy with the advice to leave her be until she'd had her foal and so TingTang was turned away with her older sister Bodrigan, who was also in foal to Mayhill.     BACK INTO WORK AND SOLD     The following spring she had the tiniest little foal, which I called Tegen, the Cornish for 'pretty little thing'.

After weaning TingTang went to my friend Tiddy Hamilton at Bolventor, who helped me with most of my young horses in exchange for dressage lessons. Selling horses has never been my forte and the moor is a good place for a young horse. Tiddy brought TingTang back into work with the aim to be sold.

This is when Charlene, who visited Tiddy regularly, fell in love with her. She rode her occasionally and enjoyed hunting her, but couldn't quite make up her mind to buy her, and so, when a seemingly nice mother and daughter turned up who liked her, TingTang moved to Devon.

    REARED OVER BACKWARDS     Three months later the phone rang. The woman who bought TingTang told me they were having terrific problems. TingTang had reared over backwards several times and they wanted to know, had she done this before. I explained to her about the wolf tooth and, yes, that she had reared a few times before it was found because it was well-hidden. But it was dealt with and after a year off with a foal there had never been any issue whatsoever. I knew TingTang was straightforward when sold and so I became a little suspicious about what they had done to her.     LOCKED UP FOR FIVE DAYS IN A STABLE     I prodded along a bit and was finally told that, unfortunately, it had taken five days for the insurance to come through after she arrived at her new home, so for this reason they had kept her in for that time. 'Day and night?', I asked. 'Yes, day and night', was the answer. And then, without ever turning the poor horse out her daughter got on her in a cobbled yard, TingTang lost the plot, and fell.  I reminded the mother that TingTang had spent most of her life outdoors and that this information was passed on when she was sold. The conversation turned a little tense, to say the least.     TING TANG  HOME     I actually was more worried about TingTang than I was about her new owners, so I decided to offer them the same money they had paid me and bought her back. Two days later she was with Tiddy again and behaving absolutely normal as if nothing ever happened. As soon as Charlene realized TingTang was back she bought her straight away.      SUMMONED TO COURT     Sadly for me, this was not the end of the story. A week later I was summoned to court for having sold a dangerous horse. I felt so in the right and convinced of my innocence that I nearly fell of my chair when the judge agreed with the buyer because, he said, when I bought TingTang back I had proven my own guilt. I was made to pay another 500 pounds. I know, it could have been worse and it didn't kill me, but I felt betrayed and cheated on.     TINGTANG AND CHARLENE HAPPY     Still, the main thing was TingTang was happy, Charlene was happy and I so relieved, that my girl found the right home. Charlene stayed in touch and occasionally they visited for a lesson. Charlene was super enthousiastic and joined the Camelford Riding Club. Not everything was easy. TingTang was young and I knew from her older sisters that their mum passed on what you might call 'character'.        ENDURANCE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP      However, together they found that endurance riding was their forte and in early 2000 they were on the team of the Camelford Riding club which made it to the national championships at Alfred's Tower in Somerset and ended up with an impressive third.     CROSSING THE PENNINES     But there was more fun to be had and these two liked a challenge. In 2003 Charlene and TingTang crossed the Pennines together with three riding friends and their horses for the charities The Laminitis Trust and the National Osteoporosis Society.  They rode for 21 days, 25 miles every day, achieved a climb to 2,450 feet to Great Dunn Fell, rode down the River Tees Valley to Garrigrill and over Hadrian's Wall to the Keilder forest . It was a slightly crazy and brave undertaking which involved getting stuck in a bog and one of the horses putting a foot in a wasps nest, but they did it. An experience of a lifetime and something to be extremely proud of.     A BOND AND A LOVE AFFAIR     I know Charlene won't mind me saying that she is a hobby rider and TingTang did not always do exactly as she was told but when it mattered, TingTang took care of her and they had, still have, a bond and a love affair that many riders who may have jumped bigger fences never achieve.   And now Charlene's beloved Tinky is 28, sound as a bell, and making a young girl happy. What a success story. I will never regret I bought her back although I do take umbrage that I was portrayed as an untrustworthy horse dealer. I put her in the world and so I felt the responsibility to give her a life. And Charlene certainly gave her that. 28 Years old and going strong.   -----   Note: TingTang's foal by Mayhill, Tegen, went to a very handy and fun young rider who evented her successfully at Intermediate level. After that I called breeding horses a day. 'Fools breed them for wisemen to buy...'            
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29Aug 19

PIXEL, I'VE GOT A HORSE AND PIXEL'S GOT A LIFE

I WAS LOOKING FOR A GELDING...

 

It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog for my own website. A new project and also writing for Dutch equine magazine the Hoefslag, has been taking up most of my spare time.

But I feel after having worked Pixel for a couple of weeks again after six weeks off I want to share our journey.

I bought Pixel last autumn after dear Pinokkio turned out to have some physical issues that can’t be fixed. I was looking for a 6-ish year old gelding. It didn’t have to be very special as long as I could stay in the groove with dressage training. That has always been my priority as training has always been more important than competing for me. 

 

PIXEL IS A MARE AND SHE KNOWS IT

 

Things worked out different. Pixel is five years old with a quarter thoroughbred and a quarter Dutch in her. Oh, and she is a mare and she knows it. When I tried her, I could feel she had an ‘I prefer to go slow’-attitude and I know from experience that especially with mares that can sometimes be a bit tricky when also the hormones kick in. She was either above the bit with a grumpy face or way behind it with what I call a lock-down attitude. The dressage arena was obviously not her favourite place so after five minutes of having tried her in there I decided I knew enough and didn’t want to do any more damage.

I guess I like a challenge, so, after passing the vet with 'perfect conformation' written on the form, I bought her. With the warning that she could be a bit awkward to get on. I knew I had my work cut out for me and I was looking forward to it.

 

LUNGING WITHOUT ANY EXTRA KIT

 

My way into a horse has always been lunging. Lunging without any kit. So, no side-reins, no bit. Especially with a horse that has been through the mill a bit and where things obviously have gone somewhat pear-shaped.

First learn to use their legs, after that we’ll see what’s next. Pixel started off with ears back, eyes on grumpy and bucking back at the lunging whip. After a week or so she understood that I meant it, and the whip meant ‘go’. But canter was a problem. She was so incredibly uncomfortable that I decided to settle for a forward trot and every day one transition into canter on each rein. Patience, patience.

 

SAFETY FIRST

 

After a few weeks I felt I needed to see whether anything had changed on top. Not really, after patiently putting her back time and again at the platform to get on she at least finally stood to allow me on board but immediately buried her head and went in lock-down. Because I solidly believed it was totally related to insecurity, distrust and lack of respect, I knew we needed more groundwork. I obviously wasn’t able to read her correctly yet, and for me groundwork is the key to achieve that.

Back to the lunge and on the good days a hack. Winter was on the doorstep, so safety first.

 

GETTING THROUGH THE WINTER IN ONE PIECE

 

She improved bit by bit, day by day. But as in the school we seemed to go forward, in the stable things went the other way. She changed from being quite sociable in the stable to not at all. The sight of a halter turned her into a vicious little monkey. Added magnesium to her food didn’t help either.

It seemed to me a territorial issue and I realized I had to tread carefully. I decided to keep her halter on in the stable with a long lead-rope over her back and that sorted the going into the stable to get your horse.  Also, when I opened the door to put her bowl of hard-food in I kept it behind my back until she pricked her ears.

And I had to accept there was one hell of a lot more homework to do. This was a very intelligent horse with many tricks up her sleeve who was not sure yet I was boss.

If we got through the winter lunging and hacking in one piece, spring would be the time to start the next phase.

 

INTO THE FIELD ON THE LONG-REINS

 

Other than the stable issue there was the canter which was still so on the forehand that I completely understood why she didn’t like it much. So, we went in the fields on the long-reins. We needed space and believe me, I ran as much as she cantered. But it worked. Gradually I saw a change in her attitude, and yes, also in the stable she gradually turned into a happy horse again. By February the canter started to look like something, and happy snorts started to appear in the trot.

 

ON TOP!

 

So, soon after, when the weather was on our side, I decided it was time to get back on top in the school and yes, this time I was right. We had done enough groundwork to continue on top. Very short sessions in just walk and trot to get used to each other with a pleasant hack afterwards and then, one day, just with the voice command, there was the canter, without any hesitation and surprisingly comfortable. I can tell you, after that session I went to the kitchen, made myself a cup of coffee and laughed out loud. I was that excited.

 

FORWARD, LIGHT, HAPPY, SNORTING

 

In June I had to stop working her because of a tendon issue in my hand. The flies were bad, so pretty good timing, hey?

Last week I took Pixel back in the school for the first time again. On the lunge, just to see where we had ended up. I was not ready yet to take everything for granted. One wrong move and months of effort can be wasted. She was great. Forward, light, happy, snorting.

The next day she stood patiently to let me on board. And this is now normal. The last two weeks have been bliss with every single session filled with small improvements.

I now have a horse that stands like a normal horse should do to let me on board. The riding area has become her happy place where she is keen to improve every day with her little ears pricked and the odd happy snort. With a canter which has become so comfortable that we both like it nearly better than the trot.

So, I think we’re in for a good autumn.

And I am so chuffed. I’ve got a horse and Pixel’s got a life!

 

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Picture: Pixel below Pinokkio having a leisurely time in the garden

 

 

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12Dec 18

AUDREY COLE, LARGER THAN LIFE...

The first time I saw Audrey Cole was some thirty years ago, when she was more or less galloping back to her horsebox after her dressage test at Lanhydrock where I was stuarding. She was brightly lipsticked and in full flight, but still managing to pass on some information to some of her groupies.

Roughly ten years later, I drove into her meticulously clean and well-organised yard for our first lesson together. Afterwards, when I of course had to come in for a cup of tea, Audrey told me about her beloved Spike, the Intermediate event horse she lost not long before and the one she probably was riding that time at Lanhydrock. She talked about him with such adoration and respect, that I knew that this was a woman who loved her horses deeply.

Another ten or so years later, I had a phone call from Audrey, ‘Hi Liz, I’m organizing a charity ballroom dance evening in aid of Parkinson’s UK and I thought it would be fun to have some dance lessons with a group of people. You can join with Paul Martin.’ Audrey didn’t need an answer. She simply expected me to join in and my farrier Paul Martin, too. Some 20 odd of us danced all winter, learning the Cha Cha Cha, the Jive and the Waltz. I still look back at that winter as one of the most fun times I ever had. The evening itself was spectacular, hilarious and made a vast amount of money.

This was one of many charity events she organized, and I do suspect that Audrey’s favourite thing was dressing up. She always looked absolutely gorgeous, with her husband Alan in his Tux next to her a proud man.

Audrey had strong opinions, and even if my opinion was different, I admired her drive and commitment to stand for what she believed in. To complain about things without doing anything about it was not her style. Didn’t she knock on doors during election times, even stopping cars, just to keep the hunting going?

There was something else that I noticed during the years I knew Audrey. She would always help the underdog, as long as there was attitude. She helped numerous youngsters to get their feet on the ground in a very quiet way. No one needed to notice.

So, it is clear, whatever Audrey did, she gave it 200 percent. She was larger than life in every way. Whether it was her job with the police, her horses, her friends, or creating a lifestyle for Alan and her that never allowed Alan’s illness to keep them from having fun. She did never make it easy for Alan and her, never took the easy route. It must have been so hard at times for both of them, but she made sure we never got to see that bit.

The last time I saw Audrey, she was wearing some sort of tropical sarong and was picking blackberries in the hedge. It was a beautiful day, Alan was racing around the yard on the lawn mower and Adrain James Brannelly was waiting for me in the school on her big grey. Audrey and this young Irishman, who has a special touch with horses, had developed a great friendship. Only today Adrain messaged me, ‘Aud meant the world to me. If it wasn’t for Audrey, I am under no illusion, I wouldn’t have a business, here.’

I so hoped that it would have been a long-term relationship with Audrey as the owner, Adrain as the rider and me as the dressage trainer, but it wasn’t to be. The horse she and Adrain adored turned out to have a complex spinal issue and sadly didn’t make it.

So, that was the very last time I saw Audrey. With a dinner plan in the making I drove home, no idea I would never see her again. I want to remember her like that. Brown as a berry, big smile, in her sarong with a bowl of blackberries, waving.

‘Bye Liz, see you soon!’…

 

 

 

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12Oct 18

LORNA WILSON OF ELITE STALLIONS; A SPECIAL HORSE WOMAN WITH A VISION

Three years ago, at the stallion show in Den Bosch, I heard two ladies talking to each other in English. One of those ladies was Lorna Wilson from Devon. I went over to have a chat and Lorna told me enough to know that this was someone with a strong vision and an enormous desire to learn from the Dutch and German studbooks how to tackle her own breeding program.

This young woman intrigued me, so I asked her if I could come and visit sometime. "Sure, just let me know."

A few weeks ago, on a glorious autumn day, I finally made it. After having been hopelessly lost, I drove into the yard of Newton Stud, also the home to the semen agency Elite Stallions. A company she bought several years ago and gives her access to the semen of hundreds of stallions, the creme de la creme, throughout Europe.

I couldn’t believe my eyes! This looked like a stud farm, the kind I have only seen in the Netherlands. The only thing that gave away we were in Devon was the hilly landscape.

 

FROM SURVEYOR TO HORSE BREEDING

 

My gut feeling was correct. Lorna Wilson has an extremely good set of brains, and, likes to use them. She started her professional life as a surveyor. When I asked her whether she rode, she was not overly enthousiastic about her own riding skills. Does not ride anymore. All she wanted to do was breed, so in 2001 she bought the broodmare Nicole (Indoctro X Pion) out of whom she bred a number of foals. Three became Grand Prix.

17 Years later I am at a stud of about 500 acres, 'how much exactly, I really don’t know', says Lorna with a chuckle. The yard filled with a stable complex and endless airy and safe loose-boxes, feeling peaceful and happy.

Lorna bought the business name Elite Stallions from the previous owners in 2014, for whom she had already been working. This was a huge step, but a very good one. It catapulted the company in a growing spurt, continuing to this day.

 

THREE TIMES AMISS

 

I parked my car next to a trailer, which also just arrived. A tidy lady with a perky blonde ponytail was as relieved as I was that we had found Lorna, having been lost as well. This lady came to collect a mare from her daughter, who is now working abroad. That phase for mothers, when the children have left, but mummy must still pick up the pieces that are left behind.

After three misses at the local veterinarian, the family had brought the mare to Newton Stud, where it appeared that the mare had an infection in her uterus. Equine veterinarian, Irma Rosati from Italy, was successful in clearing the infection and the idea was that the mare would now go home and come back in the spring for insemination.

I am fully responsible for what happened next. When the nice lady started to talk about foaling at home, it just popped out, 'do it here, safest option’. Lorna had to laugh; I relieved.

 

LESS ROMANTIC, BUT WITHOUT ANY WORRIES

 

There were more options. At Newton Stud the mares come in, as soon as the weather changes, into the large loose boxes, with the lights on until 12 o'clock at night. This helps the mares to come into season as early as possible. If this lady would take her mare home and not do exactly that, the semen of the very popular jumping stallion Chacfly who she had selected together with Lorna, would probably not be available due to high demand.

To cut a long story short, this lady drove away without a mare. Less romantic, but without any further worries.

 

HOME DEVELOPED FOOD PROGRAM

 

When Lorna took me on a round, she told how the mares, when the weather turns, come in and are divided into ‘fat and thin’ groups. Not only does dividing the mares according to their condition make the feeding program simple and safe, but also the fact that they themselves produce a very precise feed product, which the mares can eat together and in peace, just like the haylage; without any jealousy. Lorna says, grinning, "it saves my staff, broken legs, and a lot of stitches."

This feed product was developed by Lorna's partner Eddie Hosegood ('no, not married, no time for that, haha!'). Eddie is a farmer and Newton Stud is still a mixed farm where, in addition to sheep and beef cattle, grain and maize are also grown. Eddie has always been interested in developing quality mixed feed products and now makes this very effective combination of ingredients, which the mares love and thrive on.

 

ON A MISSION! ELITE FOALS UK REGISTRATION TOUR

 

Two years ago, a lovely girl I know well, Cara Jasper, told me that she and her foal had gone to an open day at Newton Stud. I also saw the beautiful photos of a grading day at the stud on Facebook. Finally! Something that I had missed at the shows, here in England. Good runners, which gave the mares and foals a chance to show themselves at their best. Also, neatly dressed in white. Just like the grading inspections in the Netherlands.

This year this happened at 11 venues throughout the UK. Lorna was on a mission. What she had started had to be bigger, more nationally available. So that more breeders would be motivated to breed good quality and have the possibility to choose a professional studbook. To be judged by the official judges of that studbook from that country, be it Holland, Germany, Denmark or any other country. To be able to obtain the studbook paper, chip and even a brand.

A sales program was also set up. And so, the 'Elite Foals UK Registration Tour' was born.

What Lorna has started, could be the beginning of the first successful registration for sport horses in the UK that actually matters, stands for genuine quality. So much has already been tried, from the Database to the Futurity. Nothing ever really got off the ground. In England dozens of registrations are possible, but nothing gives a breeder or a potential buyer of a horse any idea of ​​what the quality really is.

 

COOPERATION WITH DRESSAGE RIDER ANNA ROSS

 

Flushing embryos, transporting embryos, it is day to day life at Newton Stud, with some 70 recipient mares owned, loaned and leased, and you are nuts (no pun intended!) if you do not benefit from it yourself.

Lorna owns ten broodmares, and then another ten together with Grand Prix rider Anna Ross, who moved from Wiltshire to barely a mile from Newton Stud. Anna trains and competes the donor mares, which is possible without interruption because the embryo transfer to the recipient mares can take place so close to home.

 

IN 17 YEARS FROM ONE SINGLE BROODMARE TO AN ICSI LABORATORY

 

At Newton Stud, everything is possible, and, yes, the next plan is an ICSI laboratory in the sheep barn. Lorna looks at the development of Brexit with suspicion (think of the cost of sperm) and tries everything to avoid as many negative consequences as possible for her bustling business.

She has secured the RCVS approval for an equine veterinarian from Argentina, intensively involved in research on ICSI, the impregnation of an egg cell outside the uterus with one single sperm cell. Together with Irma Rosati, she is going to continue this research for the ICSI at Newton Stud.

 

THE BIG LEAP

 

It's not that long ago that if you were looking for a stallion for your mare, here in England, all you could do, was look at him in the stable and possibly see him trotted up in a cobbled yard. This has certainly improved, but what Lorna has done is take the big leap.

This, by doing an incredible amount of homework, visiting grading shows throughout Europe, approaching the big boys in the stallion industry, making gutsy investments. But also, being fair and respectful with her employees. Nobody really wants to leave once they have arrived.

Another very strong point is that she dares to think incredibly inventive. Together with partner Eddie of course. Storm, responsible for the PR and much more, said with a smile, "we never allow Lorna and Eddie to have the same day off. If those two start brainstorming together, that’s dangerous! "

 

BOYFRIEND IN A BOX

 

The next day after my visit, I sent Lorna a few more questions. One of them was whether she might want to invest in her own stallion in the future. "No, we like ‘boyfriends in a box’, much more peaceful than all that testosterone!"

I could write forever about Newton Stud and its people, but I'll keep that for my next visit, when the sheep barn is ready for the ICSI program. "Yes, come back any time!" What a woman, dynamic, business like, but also, so very cheerful and hospitable.

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Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

About Liz Barclay

Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.

THE FARMER, THE COAL MERCHANT, THE BAKER...

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