I was first introduced to Susy when through some mutual friends, they recommended me to work with Susy on illustrating her books. It's a small world as I realised Susy was an instructor at one of our local riding schools! (Susy is based near Reading, Berkshire)
I'd love you to meet Susy too:
1. Could you introduce yourself, a bit about what you do, what you offer?
My name is Susy Stark and I`m a horse riding instructor in Berkshire. I learnt to ride in South Wales and was inspired to train to become an instructor by a work colleague when I gave her little girl a lesson on my pony. I had been wandering aimlessly through life since my A-levels, so it was a welcome bit of inspiration. After taking my BHS Stage II in Wales I moved to Reading and became an apprentice at a busy riding school, where I was trained up to my BHS AI and Stage IV exams. After widening my experiences working at different riding stables I decided in 2014 to go it alone, and become self-employed. Whilst I was working at different yards I began a blog, The Rubber Curry Comb, documenting all things equine. Whilst I gently wrote and promoted the blog I gained confidence in my writing skills, and then with a push from a friend, I tried my hand at writing a children`s book.
I always loved reading as a child, and used to get very fed up of technical inaccuracies in horsey books. Looking back, I realise that I always enjoyed creative writing, but disliked the dissection part of English lessons so never thought of it as my strong point. After talking to some relatives I discovered self-publishing, which made my books seem more achievable.
2. Why would people would benefit from professional riding tuition on their own horse?
Now I`m a freelance instructor I am enjoying training riders on their own horse - you can really see the continuity and the partnerships develop. Unfortunately I find it is a common misconception that people, assuming they no longer need lessons just because they own their own horse. You never stop learning. An instructor may point out something to you that you cannot see because they are on the ground, and you are in the saddle. They make explain something using different terminology , which enhances your understanding, as well as providing you with new exercises to practice which motivates you and introduces variety into your riding. Seeing people progress with their own horse is probably one of the most satisfying parts of my job. I love it when they tell me about their first competition, or they have such a great schooling session they can`t wait to text me ... even if it is in the middle of the night!
3. Could you tell us a little bit about your horse, Otis?
My hobby is, I guess, part of my work. I train and compete my own horse, Otis, who I`ve had since he was 18 months old. He will be nine this year! We compete at Novice and ELementary level dressage, and have a go at Intro and Pre-Novice one day events. I think of competing as my down time and only do it for enjoyment.. It focuses my training, encourages me to get training for myself, and increases my repertoire of exercises and explanations which are transferred into my teaching.
4. Introduction of your books – what was your inspiration for them?
When I was younger I lived in a dream world, with lots of exciting stories spinning around my head. My books, Awelon Tyn Stories, are based loosely on my childhood riding stables, but the characters have been dragged from the past and present and mixed up a bit to create, what I hope, is a likeable and mixed bunch of people and ponies. The stories follow a group of ten year old children on their riding lessons as they learn about the ponies and how to care for them. I aim for my books to be educational as well as entertaining so that my readers come away more knowledgeable. With 10 year old protagonists, the books are really suited for children just beginning to read independently, but have been enjoyed by children as young as two who have been read them by their parents.
5. If you could give one bit of advice/top tip to someone who’s looking at working towards a riding goal or overcoming a horsey problem?
Horse riding is a very goal orientated sport. As I said before, you never stop learning, so you are constantly pushing back your boundaries and creating new goals. Sometimes they are targets you didn`t dream of last year, but now you have the groundwork to try. My advice is to never have too big a goal. It is demotivating when you can`t achieve it and sometimes the daunting prospect of it means we never attack it face on. Instead, break up your big goal into several different targets and as you hit them the big goal comes into sight. Be clear on what you want to achieve with every schooling session, and don`t be afraid to ask advice. Sometimes a different phrase or term can give you a lightbulb moment which makes all the difference between success and failure.
Susy also has a fab special offer for you all!
Special offer: The first three books are available at 10% discount (£11.22 instead of £13.97) until the end of February when Daydream Equine Art is quoted!
Books can be purchased from Susy directly, or can be found here on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=Susy%20Stark&search-alias=digital-text&sort=relevancerank
To find out more about Susy, her lessons or books, you can follow her journey through:
Contact details can also be found on those sites.
Here is a short snippet from one of her books:
"The sand arena was behind the stables, with a beautiful backdrop of green Welsh hills. Once there, Sian showed Tilly how to ask Norman to stand and then walk on, and to steer him left and right. They practiced walking in and out of some cones. Norman seemed to have a mind of his own and it took Tilly a couple of tries to do it without missing a cone. Next Sian told Tilly about trotting.
As Gemma showed her, Tilly held on to the front of the saddle while the older girl led Norman off into a trot. Giggling away, Tilly tried to keep her bottom in the saddle as Sian had instructed.
“Oh my gosh, that was bouncy” gasped Tilly, as Norman slowed to a walk. “Can we go again?”
“Why don`t we give Gemma a little break and you can show me how you`re going to stand up and sit down next time you trot” said Sian, coming over to Tilly. She pushed herself out of the saddle, as tall as she could, before wobbling back down. Once Tilly could stand up and sit down slowly, using her hands on the saddle to push up, they tried walking and doing it. Then Gemma clicked Norman up into a steady trot, with Tilly trying to rise and sit down in time to the pony`s strides. To begin with, it was difficult to go up and down quickly enough, and Tilly kept losing her balance."