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.
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.
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!
Picture: Pixel below Pinokkio having a leisurely time in the garden
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!’…
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.
A VERY SPECIAL TRIP TO GERMANY RESULTING IN AN UNEXPECTED MEETING WITH OLYMPIC RIDER LEONIE BRAMALL
A few weeks ago, my husband Buz and I left Cornwall at the crack of dawn to be in time for the Eurostar to take us to Bruxelles. We were on our way to Hanover for a very special occasion, the marriage of Toby and Christian, both committed horsemen. Two days never to forget. To witness a young man, whom I had known for many years, getting married to the love of his life, was an emotional happening, to say the least.
For the newly-wed to take their first married day and drive us around for an equine-related sight-seeing trip was the icing on the cake. Not only did Toby, now a qualified equine veterinarian, show us around the Veterinary College of Hanover, but we also visited Volker Dusche and Olympic rider Leonie Bramall. The proud owners of dressage yard and stud Bramall-Dusche GbR gave us a warm welcome and were extremely generous with their valuable time.
A FUN AND LOYAL LITTLE HELPER FROM GERMANY
Some fifteen years ago, a very shy boy, named Tobias Puschmann, walked into my yard. He was on a working holiday at the organic farm next door, but so missed horses. At the time I was still breeding and, other than a few mares and foals, I had a couple of horses in work and a busy teaching schedule, so some extra help wouldn't hurt.
For three delightful weeks, Toby came every day. He not only knew how to handle a broom or shovel, but was a kind of hard-working sponge, sucking up every bit of information that could possibly help him to become a better horseman. The day he came to say goodbye with his mum, still too young to travel on his own, I will never forget. As soon as they were out of sight I basically sobbed, because I knew: such a kind and loyal young helper I would never find again.
TWO INCHES TALLER
Until he went to university, Toby came nearly every year for a couple of weeks. The third time I went to pick him up from the airport he was suddenly two inches taller than me. Little boys can grow very fast.
We always had so much fun. Other than the work in the yard, Toby came with me to all lessons, he rode some of my horses and in our spare time we walked the coast and talked about everything under the sun. As Toby got older, our conversations often were about his future.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH
Last year, when Toby came to see me with his partner Christian, he told me that, during one of his stays, I had made him so very angry. When yet again he had told me, he wanted to become a horse trainer, I had answered him in a very matter of fact way that he just wasn't good enough. 'I was so angry with you, but it was the very best advice you could have possibly given me.'
In another conversation, in which Toby was wondering what to study, one of the options being a veterinarian, I told him that I could not choose for him. But if he chose to study to become a vet, he would become a very good one.
A WALKING EQUINE ENCYCLOPEDIA
So now, some fifteen years later, after the official part of the wedding, we were sitting down for dinner, very convenient in the restaurant next door. The chair next to me was occasionally empty, because my neighbour, a tall and larger-than-life man with ginger hair, was regularly running off with his camera. Volker Dusche not only shot loads of beautiful pictures, but also turned out to be a walking equine encyclopaedia. Whenever he sat down he showered me with pedigrees of German and Dutch warmbloods. I really needed the breaks to recover when he was on another round of picture-taking.
OLYMPIC DRESSAGE RIDER LEONIE BRAMALL
Next to Volker sat his partner Leonie Bramall, Olympic dressage rider from Canada. Only eighteen years old, Leonie moved to Germany to train with Johann Hinneman. She rode at the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992 and again in Atlanta in 1996. Christian occasionally takes his horse to Leonie for a lesson, which has turned into a good friendship. How very attentive of Toby and Christian to put me right there.
Whether Leonie is possibly not the biggest talker, I will never know, because of the unbridled enthousiasm of Volker.
‘BRAMALL-DUSCHE GBR’: TOGETHER IS STRONGER
It wasn't that surprising that we drove to stud and dressage yard ‘Bramall-Dusche GbR’, the following morning. I forgot my hangover as soon as Volker, who calls himself the 'tractor driver', introduced me to the first horse. And he continued this from stable to stable. Again, I was told pedigree after pedigree and admired all, including the horse Leonie is competing at Grand Prix, the 9-year old Oldenburg gelding Queensland by Quaterback.
What struck me most was both Volker and Leonie's drive and their enormous pride about what they have achieved together. That 'together' is what makes ‘Bramall-Dusche GbR’ tick, makes them stronger. These two people admire and respect each other; one the trainer and rider, the other the breeder and organizer.
In the field, with three mares and foals, Volker pointed out the mare still from the line his father bred. In that respect Germany is not that different from Holland. The passion of horse breeding is passed on from father to son.
YARD WORK, BRUSHING AND TACKING UP: PART OF THE JOB
With over twenty horses in work, of which Leonie trains up to eight, and that next to a busy teaching schedule, there isn't a spare minute in the day. Still, when I asked her whether she still worked in the yard, I already knew the answer. Her strong arms and hands spoke for themselves. 'Yes, why not? Mucking out, brushing, tacking up, it gives me a chance to get to know them. We get quite a few quirky horses. Intelligent horses often have that side. It is in my own advantage to be around them and sort some issues out without being on top.'
CAN YOU SEE I'M GOOD-LOOKING?
Volker Dusche insisted to show us a two-year-old in the indoor arena. The chestnut had to be gelded, his too small testicles the reason not to be accepted into the grading system as a potential sire. Volker was sad about that, but in the end, here trotted and cantered a proud sports horse with great quality and the world at his feet. Out of their broodmare Rihanna (Sire: Royal Classic) by Galaxie, he stopped suddenly, turning sharply, putting his neck right up there and looked at us, as if to say, 'Hey, can you see I'm good-looking?'
WITHOUT ANY DELUSIONS OF GRANDEUR
No, no time for cappuccino, thank you very much, 'Herzlichen dank, wir mussen weiter!' Back in the car I still feel the electric enthousiasm of two great horsemen of the highest level, who are used to work hard, day in day out, proud of their achievements but without any delusions of grandeur. Quite seldom, these days.
THE VETERINARY COLLEGE OF HANOVER
Next on our way to the veterinary college of Hanover, where Toby is now a qualified equine veterinarian. When entering the modern building, I inevitably had to think of our trip of many years ago. my home-bred PSG mare Marie had developed a chronic sinus problem. I was referred to the veterinary college in Bristol and Toby happened to be there, so joined me for the trip.
Now, I was following Toby into a similar building, realizing that he probably had reached the same, if not higher, level as the veterinarians who had drilled a hole in the head of my beloved mare to have a little look inside.
Did I feel a touch of pride? I admit, Yes, I did…
COLICS, CHRONIC EYE INFECTION AND HEAD-SHAKERS
I saw horses with colic on drips, a stallion with a chronic eye infection and a very charming little cob mare with a cute little moustache who was a head-shaker.
Toby eyed up each individual case in his quiet and steady manner. It was his day off, but that didn't keep him from making sure he left the building knowing that all was as well as could be under the circumstances.
RESEARCH FOR HEAD-SHAKERS
Toby told me that one of his research projects is head-shakers. In the outdoor arena he will sit for hours on end, watching four individual cases being lunged with all kinds of different set-ups. This to see whether side-reins, high, low, longer, tighter or none, affect the behaviour. The slightest differences will be registered with the aim to produce new knowledge.
THE CRANE, SAFETY FIRST
The crane, which moves on rails from the ceiling through part of the building, including the X-ray unit and the operating theatre, is impressive and has changed the complex and dangerous process some of the horses must go through. It means that now horses under full anaesthetics can be moved in slings, completely safe from injury.
THE HORSE VIRUS CAN BE PAINFUL...
We had one more visit to make. Christian had to prepare the food for his Oldenburg mare Anna, at the yard where she is in livery. When Christian was doing the stable,Toby looked longingly at Anna. 'Hopefully I will be able to have my own horse next year...'.
I feel for my good friend who has been so patient. I was once his age. The horse virus can be ever so painful…
Top picture: Leonie Bramall with her Grand Prix horse, the 9-year old gelding Queensland. (Picture made by Volker Dusche)
Below that: Toby with one of the foals at 'Bramall-Dusche GbR'. (Picture made by Volker Dusche)
Below that: the two-year old gelding by Galaxie. (Picture made by Volker Dusche)
Below:Toby at the veterinary college in Hanover. (Picture is made in and belongs to the veterinary college in Hanover)
BUYING A WARMBLOOD IN CORNWALL? YES, WHY NOT?
ADAM ELLERY: KEEPING THINGS UNCOMPLICATED
Approved stallions are kept in separate paddocks. Artificial insemination for the mares is the safe way to go. By the time the foal is due the mare is kept in, at least at night, so the birth can happen safely and controlled. Isn't that the way you're supposed to do it?
No, actually, at least not in Adam Ellery's books. Adam finds a young stallion with breeding he fancies and starts jumping him. If he likes what he feels and sees, -and the results at shows are good- he throws him in the field with his mares, some twenty of them. No scanning, waste of money and most times it's fine.
The foals are born in the field, with the stallion there, as well. A lot less risk at nasty infections than in the stable and also not the mess when a mare accidentally injures her foal.
Well, what can I say? Not much, if it works, it works. And for Adam it seems that way. Why make life more complicated than it is?
EYE TO EYE WITH HEARTBREAKER AND CLINTON
Adam likes the warmblood horse. This was sparked even more so when, some years ago, he googled of the cuff some yards in Holland and just happened to come across Ilse Bosch from the well known and connected 'Gebr.Bosch' yard.
Typical, luck on his side! Ilse took Adam around the east of Holland and also 'popped' into the famous stud of Team Nijhof. Yes, that was quite something, to see Heartbreaker and Clinton at their home, the living legends of the international jumping world.
Adam ended up buying a young Eldorado from the Gebr. Bosch, now very successfully competing. I had to help him a bit with the name. 'Eldorado from the, uhm...'. 'Zeshoek', I said. Yes, that one! Why do Dutch breeders make the names of their horses so complicated for their potential foreign customers!
Adam's visit also brought him the contact with Dutch dealer Henny Schennink, where son Harvey is now training (see previous blog).
TRACTORS, TRAILERS AND OTHER FARMING IMPLEMENTS
Let's go back some thirty-odd years when I moved here. My very first pupil was Lorraine Ball, who had several young horses she bred herself. She used to bring them to Adam to be backed and they always came back happy and ready to go on. Apparently it was a bit wild up there. Not too many fences, and various horses were wandering among tractors, trailers and various other farming implements.
Hmm, I thought, if I did that it would turn into mayhem and the vet would be a regular visitor. I wonder what kind of a guy this is...
'SORT THE BUGGER OUT'
From then on I kept on hearing his name, generally connected to a horse with a problem. Next thing, my neighbours both got hurt when trying to clip their youngster for the first time. I went to cook for them that evening because neither of them were even able to put the kettle on, let alone cook a meal. They said Adam Ellery would come the next day and 'sort the bugger out'.
What time? Ten-ish? I'll be there.
NOT AN OUNCE OF TENSION
The clippers were humming happily, when I turned up the next morning, and the young grey was as relaxed as the guy holding the clippers. When I introduced myself, I immediately saw where Adam's strength was. Not a speck of adrenaline. Completely none! Just a relaxed grin without an ounce of tension.
Not long after that another rider, a pro, mentioned him. 'Adam rides everything on a long rein. No wonder they behave. He doesn't really ask anything.'
I had never seen him ride, so couldn't form an opinion.
BIG AND AWKWARD
Until I had a problem with my own horse. He was too big for me and increasingly awkward. I could not cope with him on the flat, but he jumped well, so I gave Adam a call.
I did understand that Adam possibly needed a little 'privacy' to tell my big boy that napping wasn't an option. So, I went inside for five minutes or so. When I came back, the horse was happily working away with a positive eye and Adam nodded his friendly grin.
The next weekend I drove to Poltimore, where my patience was tested to the extreme, with Adam turning up more than last minute (normal!), but just in time to jump a clear round (also normal). Whatever length his reins were, it worked.
A DECENT WEBSITE AND NEWQUAY AIRPORT
Back to the here and now. Adam is as busy as ever. Nearly not a weekend goes by or he is at a competition with several horses, also with his new stallion High Hopes Condor (Caretino X Capitol I).
Adam has a clever partner, Sarah, who has made a very decent website. 'Westcountry Sports Horses' sounds good and eyes professional. The fact that the yard is only a few miles from Newquay airport is a bonus. A few nearby B&B's add to an easy and pleasant stay.
This is how Adam ended up with a contact in the States with whom he owns a couple of horses. His contact pays some livery and competition fees, Adam trains and competes. When this foreign rider likes the horse he buys Adam's share and has it brought to the States for himself. When they both decide the horse is ready to be sold, they share the profit. What a super formula.
Adam likes buying from Mark Bosanko, of whom I regularly see good horses on my travels.
A LITTLE ANGEL ON HIS SHOULDER
It is obvious. Without the computer and Newquay airport it would have been impossible for Adam to be this successful in the furthest point of the UK. Also, I am convinced Adam has, other than being an excellent horseman, a little angel on his shoulder. When I told him that on my visit to the yard, he gave me that typical 'Ellery-grin' again.
A BRILLIANT HOLIDAY AND, POSSIBLY, A HORSE
It may seem a touch unusual, when you live upcountry or even abroad, to go and look for a horse in the furthest point of the UK. Still, it is so worth it. If anything, you will have a brilliant holiday. Cornwall is stunningly beautiful. And you may find that horse you were looking for!
Top picture: the stallion High Hopes Condor (Caretino X Capitol I)
Second: mares and foals
Third: 6-year-old gelding by Bamako De Muze
Bottom: Cornwall is beautiful!
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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...
My book 'THE FARMER, THE COAL MERCHANT, THE BAKER...' with the subtitle 'A Personal Impression of the Development of the Gelderland Horse World' has been received with more enthusiasm than I possibly could have hoped for. Click here to contact me and I will send you a copy. £7.50 + postage, or click here to order from Amazon.