A few weeks ago, I headed up to Scotland, just outside Perthshire to be precise! I'd been chatting to the lovely Karen from KA Equestrian for quite a while now, so I was very excited when she invited me up for the weekend!
After almost 7 hours on the train, including the last hour or so crammed on to a 2 carriage train from Haymarket (Edinburgh) to Perth, rammed full of commuters. People were sitting on top of each other, in the luggage racks, the toilets and on their suitcases. I found myself sandwiched between a lovely lady and the guard! My voice had slowly been dipping in and out over the past week, however much to my horror, as I stepped off the train and greeted Karen and her two children at the ticket barrier, it had gone completely!
I was eyeing up the countryside from the train, looking out across the Lake District in particular, thinking to myself (I'm a bit sad and obsessed haha!) where I'd position a horse with those gorgeous hills in the background and the grey stone walls! With my Style Reins magazine in my hand, and plenty of food to keep me busy, the journey passed by much sooner than I expected.
Karen was so welcoming, it's strange, we've never met, but I felt like I'd known her for quite a long time. I hopped on Facebook most mornings and had one of her daily vlogs playing whilst I was editing, so I guess in a way, I did "know" her, or atleast, it felt like it! Anyway, along with Callan and Cora, we hopped in the car for a short drive towards where their beautiful yard is in Drum, along the way stopping at a lovely local restaurant!
Chris, Karen's husband joined us, along with her parents Gordon and Moira. Whilst I couldn't contribute much to the conversation with my lack of voice, it was so lovely to meet everyone! The food was amazing, we all had pizza! After dinner, the children were dying to give me their "grand tour" of the house.. so with an excited greeting from KR their Jack Russell, the kids got underway showing me around the house, finishing up with the most important room at all - the play room! We sat playing with the model horses, Cora was busy plaiting their tails whilst Callan loaded them up and drove them around the floor in his tractors!
The following morning, I enjoyed a nice lay in before getting up and joining Karen on the yard where I got to meet some of her lovely liveries! Karen was busy prepping the yard ready for Sunday's open day.. whilst we filled haynets and swept the yard we were all chatting away about everything equestrian - from our favourite riders, to our favourite events and we spent alot of time talking about the drive and mindset those top riders must have!
As the day progressed, my voice slowly started to come back. Once the children were home from school, Karen and I went and caught their ponies - Katie and Bertie! Karen and I got to work with her Eqlusive brushes removing the layers of mud that they'd managed to get under their rugs! I know there's been a lot of hype on social media around these brushes, and yes, I was a bit sceptical, but honestly the shine that those brushes allow you to produce were amazing! The SleekEZ brush was my particular favourite, the amount of hair I got from underneath Bertie's coat was just incredible!
Once Chris was home from work, we took some family shots on the driveway with the brick stable barn behind, as well some photos of the children up on a walk towards the fields.
However, by Saturday morning it had completely gone again! But, I was up bright and early because I was SO looking forward to my shoot! I'd met the lovely Eleanor the day before, where she introduced me to her handsome gelding, Buddy! The plan was to head over in the trailer to Loch Leven just after sunrise! I was so excited to get to play with the beautiful scenery, I'd been teased with the gorgeous views out of my bedroom window and the backdrop of the hills behind the arena at KA Equestian. Stuart and Eleanor had everything ready and were just loading up the trailer - Buddy loaded like an angel and off we drove! It was a half an hour journey or so to the Loch.
Once we arrived, we headed off down towards the Loch, on the way, stopping to take photos on the way. The sheer amount of open space was just amazing, we had such a great morning! I was in my element with all of the stunning scenery, we don't have much like this at home to play about with! Having no voice did prove challenging but luckily with some inventive sign language and messages being passed on by Stuart we didn't seem to have too much of a problem!
Back at the yard, Izzy was waiting for us, Eleanor's other horse, a beautiful 6 year old warmblood. Buddy, the ex-racer has had a number of small setbacks over the last year or so - Eleanor has known him since he was in training where he raced over hurdles. Both horses accompanied us up towards the top of the yard.
I love the set up of Karen's yard, it's been built so that you don't actually have to leave the yard if you don't want too! With onsite riding tracks, a cross country course and an all-weather gallop track, I couldn't see why you would need to venture out too often! With a number of young riders as liveries, she wanted to provide a safe environment for them all to enjoy their horses and ponies. With acres and acres of lush grazing, the horses thrived, with a brilliant balance of social elements and education thrown in for all of her liveries. Every one of them was so welcoming and I felt like I too, at known them all for much longer than just a few days!
My morning with Buddy and Izzy finished up with some black background photographs in the barn, before I headed off for some lunch ahead of my other shoots for the day. Emily made the drive over from Blairgowrie to pick me up from Karen's. Emily is an osteopath and I was so excited to talk about all things anatomy related on our journey back to her yard to meet Harvey! Her son Ben was asleep in the car so that gave us plenty of time to talk about something that really fascinates me - I love learning about anything to do with the equine body. It was amazing to hear all about the many things Emily had to say, I can't even begin to tell you about all the little links between everything from farriery to feed that contributes to your horses way of going and their physical health and how it all links together. It was also incredible to learn about all the factors that compensate for another thing, so Emily's big question is always: "why?" So if they're showing soreness in their SI region, what's the reasoning for that, is it an issue they're compensating for higher up, or in their front limbs, or is it because of a change to another part of the body that they're showing these symptoms. Honestly, I could have sat and questioned Emily all day long, but I knew I could look forward to her demonstration and talk at the Open Day! And thankfully, she's also writing a lovely blog post for me to share with you all soon!
So, back on to the horses, Harvey was waiting for me in his stable, all groomed and plaited up for his shoot! Harvey is a stallion but you would not have even guessed that from his personality or temperament. Emily turns him out with mares, geldings and even lets her son, Ben handle him. He really is a credit to her and an example how the correct nurturing of a horse can lead on to such amazing characteristics.
Across the road from Emily's yard, which she has big plans to expand in the future to become part of her stud, was a driveway from a neighbouring property, which we had permission to use. Harvey stood and posed like an expert. Emily wanted to show off his awesome temperament and the family feel and values behind Harvey as a stallion. With that in mind, we took the time to take some photographs of Emily and Ben with Harvey.
Recently broken in and only aged three, his attitude was phenomenal. He stood and waited, he wasn't phased by anything - a trait that many breeders would love to pass on to offspring! Emily soon hopped on board and we headed back over to the driveway, as Ben was pulled up on to Harvey's back, he didn't move an inch or even flinch - what an amazing horse! We then headed down to the mares and foals at the bottom of the yard, one of the fillies even stole my purple octopus and stood there waving it for us! Back at the yard, Emily got Harvey back out of his box - she wanted some up to date photographs to use on her website and social media pages for her work - EC Therapies.
On our way back to Karen's we passed at little garage, I dashed inside and grabbed one of everything that might help my throat! Strepsils, Lemsip.. you name it! I was determined to have my voice back for the Open Day!
Once back at KA, I met up with Shannon - she keeps her dark bay, Mario on livery with Karen, but she also has more horses at home! They've recently moved to a farm with the most amazing views, especially at golden hour as the sun bounces off the valley of hills either side. The horses at home were 4 Shetlands, and Custard the cob. The ponies haven't been there long, in fact only a week or so. They were fenced off in to a smaller paddock whilst building work commended on the house and eventually, a small yard - they seemed to be in absolute heaven!
The 4 Shetlands were: Tip Toe, Ginger, Twinkle and Holly! They all had their own unique personality and it was just starting to shine through as they settled in to their new home. The ponies all lived in a herd together, so it was lovely that they were able to stay together!
Usually, the idea of photographing this number of horses together would fill me with dread, especially when you added Shetlands in to the mix - but, needless to say, we actually got there pretty quickly. The ponies pricked their ears forwards like little pro's. Once we'd arranged them in a way that they were all happy, as they had their own herd pecking order, it was a totally breeze. It was then turn for each pony to have their photograph taken with Shannon. The warmth of the low evening sun cast the most gorgeous golden light across the fields. On the way down, Shannon had been telling me how much she loves photography but has recently lost her confidence sharing her work with others, so Karen told her to pick my brains in the car!
Custard was Shannon's early birthday present, she'd seen him and fallen in love instantly, and before they knew it, he was at home with his herd of girls! He was a little nervous to begin with, but Shannon kept him calm and reassured him. Skye the Retirever and Brooke the Cockerpoo were also keen to get involved in the shoot! Brook was adamant she was going to steal the octopus, and yep, she managed it! Poor Hazel and Shannon were then chasing her around the garden to get it back!
Sadly, we'd spent too much time playing with the ponies and we were just on the verge of loosing the light before Mario was able to have his little shoot. However, we both agreed to get up early the following morning and walk Mario up on to the top of the hill just behind the stable block and finish up the shoot. Mario is a typical cheeky cob, mainly driven by food, Shannon said she just loves his sweet nature! She said it might be a challenge to get his ears forward but he was amazing!
It was time for Shannon to start Vlogging for the open day, so I headed off with Amber and her three children: Abbie, Sophie and Charlie, along with their horses: Aero and Teddy. Amber had seen one of the photographs from earlier on in my visit and loved them, so she filled up my last slot of the weekend.
We all headed up towards the hill again, Teddy stopped a few times along the way for a picnic, but apparently that's nothing unusual! He was Abbie's pony originally, but she's now outgrown him, so her younger sister Sophie gets the ride now! Abbie and Aero are a relatively new partnership and together they love showjumping! Charlie, who doesn't ride, was involved in the photos too. Amber wanted a lovely family picture with all of her children, so he couldn't be left out! The horses coped very well considering what was going on behind us, the horses in their fields got rather excited at what we were up too! After some individual photographs, we walked back down to the stables for the Open Day.
The Open Day gave the chance for outsiders and liveries alike to come in, have a look around the yard, chat to Karen about KA Equestrian and her coaching, as well as for Karen to show off and celebrate the many professionals she works with both personally, and for the yard.
There were also many other Small and Supercharged members there to meet too!
The marquee was up and the visitors started arriving, I was introduced to Katharine from TopSpec who had come along to share her nutrition knowledge as well as weigh in some of the livery horses. Karen has noticed such a difference since switching her horses over to TopSpec feeds!
I also got to meet Jane Brindley from Horse Riding with Confidence Scotland, Emma Rocca with her gorgeous oil paintings, as well as several others. Loch Leven Vets were there as well as Louise's Tack who brought along their two mobile tack shop trailers! APT Cavalier were there with their range of technical clothing garments, a brand that has taken social media by storm!
Karen started off the demos with a lesson with Abbie on Aero, then with Fern and Harry. Karen worked on straightness with Fern and explained the fundamentals behind the scales of training and how they can be used every day to improve your horses schooling and way of going. Karen had such a positive, informative way with working with the girls, challenging them enough without putting them too far out of their confidence zone. The riders clearly have a great working relationship with Karen, that allows them to get the best out of their coaching sessions!
Chris kept everyone fed and watered from the KAfe, and there was some delicious fudge and sweets for sale inside the barn. The day concluded with the raffle. Everyone had their favourites they wanted to win, some were lucky enough to get the item they had their eye on! Emma had all the stubs in the bowl, she mixed them round as Karen pulled out a ticket. There were some fabulous donations, with the proceeds going to World Horse Welfare. With donations from Hiho Silver, Toggi, APT Cavalier, Loch Leven Equine Practise, Louise's Tack, Emma Rocca (which Karen was delighted about because she won a large print from the collection!) Tail End Jewellery and many more.
The highlight for the day for me has to be Emily's talk. Karen't ex-racer Bobby was on hand to model as Emily explained various practises and common problems she sees in horses, as well as highlighting the niggles that Bobby had. She was then able to show us how she works with horses, as an Osteopath. As she worked over his body, she informed us of what she was picking up, the areas of tension and how these could possibly collate to other areas of weakness both within the musculoskeletall areas but also internally - who knew that different vertebrae and regions correlated directly with internal organs. It's not something I've ever really thought about but it does makes such huge sense!
Karen's highlight from the day was seeing everyone chatting and interacting together as well as giving her the chance to catch up with friends and liveries. Of course, Cora said her favourite part of the day were the sweets on sale! Callan also took charge of the microphone at one point, as he whizzed around on his Gaiter!
Another highlight of the day was getting the chance to chat with the liveries and catching up with the girls that I'd photographed the days prior. I also loved listening in on all the conversations of the various professionals working and discussing their ideas, building and developing upon their ideas and working out ways they could collaborate and work together.
I spent another hour or so chatting with the girls in the barn after most of the others had gone home. Shannon was telling me all about Blair and some funny stories from various events they've been too! Karen's parents are lucky enough to live on site too, just a short walk from the house. The recently built house had the most gorgeous panoramic views across the fields. As the horses grazed away, with the sun just beginning to set, it looked picture perfect. Everyone chipped in to the conversation over dinner, filling in about their favourite parts of the day and sharing stories. Once again, our conversation seemed to turn to mindset, discussing what must drive the competitors at the top of their game - from formula one driving to eventing, the topic was fascinating as it continued to grow!
Cora and Callan had put together a sock-puppet show behind the sofa as a conclusion to our evenings entertainment! I think everyone was knackered and super keen to get in to bed! I felt quite sad as I began to pack away all of my clothes in to my suitcase. I'd had such a brilliant week, Karen, Chris and their family were so welcoming and I felt right at home. And of course there were the picturesque scenes from my window, suddenly what I thought was spectacular scenery back in Reading, seemed minute in comparison. I will definitely take up their offer of coming back, I already can't wait to go back to see them and explore more of the beautiful landscape up in Scotland.
Thank you SO much to Karen and your whole family, I loved my first visit to Scotland!