equestrian shop Lancashire

A brew with your brushing boots? Guest blog from Lofthouse Equestrian

An equestrian shop where you get advice, a biscuit and a brew – sounds perfect! That’s the sort of service you receive when you shop at Lofthouse Equestrian. I am delighted to feature a guest blog from owner, Sam, who tells us more about why she set up her business, her plans for the future and what’s next for her horses – the ‘troublesome trio’!

When did you set up Lofthouse Equestrian?
My husband and I started Lofthouse Equestrian, online initially, in January 2015. It was a steep learning curve as neither of us have a ‘tech’ background so setting up and designing a website came with some difficulties. It’s had quite few re-vamps over the years but we have finally settled on a style we like!

Why did you decide to open a boutique?
I’m really passionate about customer service, but it’s quite difficult to achieve the level I want when you’re just online. You can’t get to know your customers as easily. I felt the boutique would open this door for me and step things up to the next level. I also felt there was a local demand for a small shop in the North West to provide that ‘something different’. I became increasingly frustrated with the lack of quality, affordable yet ‘different’ items out there.

When did you open?
We opened the boutique in June this year with a Prosecco opening evening! I have to say it went down well! I found the little shop in November 2016 and after some negotiations collected the keys on Friday 13th January 2017, the day before our wedding! Everybody thought I was bonkers but I couldn’t wait to get the keys! Our wedding marked a massive change in our lives. It actually took us 6 months to renovate as it had been a florist for 15 years! It had no central heating, non-slip floors and required a kitchen ripping out to make way for a changing room! Thankfully I know some very handy people who only required food and alcohol for their labour!

equestrian shop Lancashire

What is your main ambition for the business?
I want to do so many things! I think my main one is to become a real social hub for people. I pride myself on customer service and would like to think, no matter what the issue, I can help in some way (the curse of being a veterinary nurse). I’d like to be the place that people know they can come for help, advice, a biscuit and a brew! I really believe it’s the little things that set us apart from others.

How do you plan on growing the business?
I think with regards to the boutique we will always remain fairly small. I’d like to get upstairs open early next year but I really want it to keep that ’boutique-like’ feel and remain personal. I would like to expand our events side both at agricultural and horse shows. Plus I’d like to hold more of our own events too (I have quite a list of ideas)! We are slowly expanding and soon I hope to be able to provide additional services such as hat and boot fittings. My husband has to remind me to take baby steps! I’m learning… slowly!

Tell us more about your own horses
Ah! The troublesome trio! Well those that read my blogs will probably feel like they know them quite well by now! I have two Dutch Warmbloods (Erik & Crunchie) and an Irish Draught x Thoroughbred (Mea). They are all completely different with their own quirks but it’s great that I get to ride such a variety! I mainly compete at affiliated dressage but we’ve had a couple of years away from competitions due to health reasons- no not mine! Mea is semi-retired now and Crunchie is quite quirky and needed some time to mature in a field before we pursued his career any further! Erik has recently recovered from a fractured pelvis after a nasty fall on concrete (thankfully no-one was riding him at the time). So after a lot of physio, vets bills and a lot of team work, they are all now fully fit and we are cracking on with training! Sam and horse Lofthouse Equestrian

 

What are your plans with your horses this year?
As the summer is now drawing to a close, I am focusing on training over the winter, getting them (and myself) fit and then to hopefully begin collecting our points for the Summer Regionals from December. I’d also quite like to take them on some fun rides like Somerford Park’s Farm ride or Crow Wood’s gallops as I think it’s really important to take the pressure off them and enjoy the ride. After all that’s what it’s all about! Enjoying it!

How do you juggle your business and your hobby?
I’m not going to lie, it’s difficult! Since we opened I’ve had to get into a totally new routine, which sadly means earlier mornings! I get to the yard first thing, get two of them ridden and all mucked out, then it’s back home and to the shop. Thankfully my sister can finish them off at night and do them at the weekend. I’ve actually got a bit more time at home in the evenings now….not sure if my husband is happy about that or not!!

To find out more about Lofthouse Equestrian, and to read Sam’s blog visit

www.lofthouse-equestrian.co.uk

Advertisements

Fake it ’til you make it

I’m delighted to have a guest blog published with Lofthouse Equestrian about dealing with nerves. You can read it by visiting their blog page.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Sam at Lofthouse Equestrian last week, so am looking forward to sharing a blog soon about her business, horses and plans for the future.

Your centre line face

Beaming smiles, frustrated frowns and visible sighs of relief – you’d be surprised what your final centre line reveals about you and your horse.

Having recently spent some time writing for a dressage judge, I was fascinated by people’s facial expressions after they performed their final halt and salute. The judging may be over by that point but those few seconds at the end of the test give so much away about the weeks/months/years leading up to that moment and the relationship you have with your horse.

Most of the time it is easy to tell whether the rider is relieved, upset, delighted, disappointed or furious. When I was writing, I felt those emotions through the glass of the judge’s box and I desperately wanted to acknowledge that I understood how they felt. Having ridden countless centre lines on a range of horses from lazy ponies to ticking time bombs, that final halt can be an emotional experience! In that split moment you can either feel like all the years of hard work have been worth it, or that you’ve had enough of the humiliation and are going to take up basket weaving instead.

Of course, the judge can only score what they see in front of them at the time, but how often have you wished you could give some extra context to your test? At the last outing with my horse, I wanted to say to the judge “Think that was bad? You should have seen my last test!” I’m not sure what my face looked like at the end but I tried to telepathically communicate with the judge that I was delighted with the improvement.

So, it got me wondering what else our facial expressions might say about us when we perform that final centre line. Here is my top ten:

 

  1. The ear to ear grin: Yes! We smashed it. Next stop, the Olympics.
  2. The sigh of relief: Hoorah – we stayed in the arena for the first time in months AND I remembered the test. Result.
  3. The confused expression: We’ve practised those transitions for months and suddenly he’s forgotten how to walk.
  4. The grimace: What a total arse. That is all.
  5. The wry smile: Yes, I know flying changes weren’t required – but wow what potential!
  6. The knowing look: Hit me with your lowest scores, I’m ready.
  7. The apologetic exchange: Mouthing the word S-O-R-R-Y to the judge.
  8. The quivering lip: You have no idea what we have been through to get here. I’m so proud, I love my horse (sob)!
  9. The final frown: That’s it I’m throwing the towel in and trading the lorry for a campervan.
  10. The nod to the stars: I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive!

Undoubtedly, there are many other stories being told as you reach that final halt. I’d love to hear what your centre line face says about you!

Flower pot monsters – and learning to deal with them

It’s been nearly a week since we ventured out to do our first Novice tests last weekend – I’m not sure where the time has gone! Here’s a quick run through of how it went:

I had a very civilised start time, so I was quite organised for once and arrived with plenty of time to spare. It was a very hot day but I wanted to give Rupert enough time to settle, so he would be nice and relaxed for the tests. But in the boiling hot indoor arena, it felt like we were warming up for ages and Rupert started to feel like he was flagging.

Eventually we were called for our test. I  did a little dance inside when he walked through the barriers and past the giant champagne bottles, bins and other ringside gremlins which have been an issue in the past. But I wasn’t prepared for the new monsters which had suddenly appeared in the form of FLOWERS which were neatly dotted around the arenas. Because there is very little room around the edge at Keysoe, we spent a very embarrassing few minutes (seemed like hours) reversing into white boards and demolishing the arena as I tried to persuade Rupert that the horse-eating blooms were nothing to worry about!

Eventually, with a change of direction, some swift repairs to the arena, and a huge pony club kick, we somehow made it down the centre line. But his mind was not on me at all and he spooked his way around the test. If swerving were a real movement, we’d have got 10s!

In the lead up to this outing, my main worry was how difficult the second test was. I soon forgot about that as I was faced with a much more basic problem of actually getting in the arena and going anywhere near the outside track! I wasn’t really looking forward to going back in and Rupert felt very flat in the warm up. But I was relieved when a kind lady agreed to read the test for me, as it was one less thing to worry about if we had navigation problems!

Surprisingly, Rupert was a lot braver about the flowers this time. They were still terrifying but we had more space to get round them in the second arena, so he didn’t panic. The test felt 100 times better than the first, still spooky and behind my leg but I was absolutely delighted with the improvement. I did ask for medium trot and canter but there wasn’t much gas left in the tank by then, so the marks reflected that. I didn’t dare let go for long in the give and retake the reins, as the flower pots were looming up ahead, but the counter canter was easier in the big arena than at home.

All in all, I felt it was a massive learning experience for us both. I warmed him up for too long because, although he was nice and relaxed in the warm up, that all went to pot (literally) when we went to the test arena. He was then behind my leg and not really listening.  I was pleased with how Rupert improved for the second test, as he started to accept my reassurance that the flowers were not out to get him – something to practise at home I feel.

The first test was a bit of a disaster but the judge’s comments were really supportive and encouraging, particularly on how I had ‘coped with the situation’! The second test was better for 62.8% but I felt a little disappointed with the marks and comments. I guess, to me the difference between the two tests was so immense I was expecting an award for actually doing a 20m circle! But it was a different judge and they have to mark what they see in front of them – there are no prizes for lack of swerving. I felt a little better seeing other people having similar issues getting into the arenas and riders exchanging supportive tales of woe – it meant we weren’t the only ones overreacting to the decorations!

With a qualifying score for the Petplan Area Festivals, I have been debating whether to rush out again in the next few weeks to try and get another two sheets before the deadline. But I’ve decided to take the pressure off a bit. It’s not so much the qualifying, but the Area Festival is the week after the Regionals and my husband will be away for both – making it more tricky with home, the kids, work and everything else. So, I’m just going to focus on the Regionals for now and plan ahead a bit more for our next Novice outings. Sometimes you have to think about the bigger picture, and I never even dreamed we would qualify for anything this summer. I’m delighted that we’ve come such a long way since our first competition back in April and thankful that all the things I worried about then, are not as much of an issue now. Onwards and upwards as they say…..

Bitten off more than I can chew?

Still experiencing the euphoria of Glastonbury, I decided to enter our first two novice tests next weekend. The reality of the situation hit home today when I practised the tests. Rupert has had nearly two weeks off so he doesn’t quite know what has hit him. Novice 37 is a bit of a slap around the face after the relative ease of Prelims – with a quick succession of movements, including counter canter, give and retake the reins, medium trot and canter, three halts, square serpentine and 10m circles. I know Rupert can do it but it’s a real step up and it will be a miracle if I can remember the test as well as Novice 23, which is a lot kinder!

Instead of stressing about how crap it might be, I am trying to take a more practical approach. I think I’m still tired after Glastonbury, as I am not panicking yet. Maybe that’s the answer – more festivals?!! Anyway, I’ve got a lesson tomorrow with the wonderful Tahley, who I’m sure will whip me into shape and I will practise as much as I can, on and off the horse. You Tube will be my friend this week!

Points, prizes and Petplan preparations

I snuck out to Keysoe earlier this week to do a couple more Prelim tests. I was hoping to gain one decent score so we could qualify for the Petplan Area Festivals but as ever, my mind was more focused on not making a complete idiot of myself rather than winning any prizes!

Rupert arrived pretty chilled and only needed a little stretch on the lunge before I got on. It was lovely and quiet, so we went straight outside to warm up and get used to the usual spooky monsters. He felt very settled, even to the point of having to get after him a bit – which was a reassuring feeling! We still had trouble getting past the banners entering the arenas but with lots of leg and a couple of taps on the shoulder, we body swerved enough to get past them and up the centre(ish) line.

In the first test, Rupert broke into canter a couple of times when I asked for a bigger trot but the rest was OK so I was really pleased with him. Our second test was only ten minutes later, so just enough time for a quick stretch before picking him up and going back in. He felt a little behind my leg but there were no major hiccups and it was a really positive step forward.

Our scores were way above what I had hoped for – 66.8% in the first test and 71.79% in the second! As long as my calculations are correct, and maths isn’t my strong point, that means we have qualified for the Regionals – something I had never thought possible a few months ago. Now I have the dilemma about whether to go out and do some novice tests to try and qualify for the Area Festivals as well. That means getting out a few times between now and the end of July to get three scores above 62%. And I was only just starting to remember where I was going in the Prelim tests!

Rupert is having a well-earned week off next week when I go to Glastonbury. Time for us both to let our hair down! When I get back, I’ll need to have a plan of action about what we do next. It just goes to show that a few positive experiences can really help boost your confidence, as I am starting to think ahead to the next goal.

One other thing on the priority list between now and then is to sort out his mane, as it was a flipping nightmare to plait!

The value of volunteering

I’m too busy. I don’t have the right skills or knowledge. I won’t know anyone. These are just some of the reasons why you might decide against volunteering. But even the smallest amount of support can make a huge difference to organisations which rely on volunteers to help them.

In the past I have helped out on school and local community centre committees but more recently I have joined British Dressage’s Eastern Region as the marketing representative. This was an ideal opportunity to combine my skills with my passion, and to get to know more people with a love of dressage in the region. I was worried about the time commitment and how I would balance that with managing my own business, but I was reassured that any time I could give would be gratefully received.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of British Dressage, like so many other equestrian disciplines. Each of the regional committees are run by volunteers and competitions simply wouldn’t be able to run without the scorers, stewards, runners, writers and many other supporters who give their time for the love of the sport.

Giving something back to a cause you are passionate about is a great feeling but there are all sorts of other benefits to volunteering. For example, having written for a judge at a competition, I gained a valuable insight into what the judge is looking for and how to ride tests more strategically to gain maximum points. There is so much you can learn from the people around you, so it’s a chance to improve your own knowledge and riding.

As part of National Volunteers’ Week, we are celebrating the vital contribution that volunteers make to British Dressage. You can find out more by visiting the Eastern Region’s Facebook page.