16. "Build it and they will come!"

Blog 16 – “Build it and they will come”

I really enjoyed the freelance coaching, I’d get my yard and my horses done early, arrive at the first yard and teach one, two or three lessons, get a little down-time to re-boot time in my Jeep, go to the next yard, coach more lessons, and so on then back to my horses and home.
Life was a happy cycle of eat, coach, shit shovel, sleep, repeat.
Noni was 7 or 8, very happy in school and at home, and enjoying riding a number of loan ponies that fortuitously came our way.  

She took care of her own pony and helped at the yard.  

At weekends she’d come out coaching with me or go to pony club rallies and various competitions with Chris and had fun riding in Shetland Grand Nationals with a client who took her under her wing for a couple of years.

However my husband was increasingly unhappy in his work.  His manufacturing business had grown too big, he had a factory, numerous outlets, a lot of staff and a lot of responsibilities and it was making him ill.  

Chris, who is a wonderful Dad, wanted to have another child and to be honest I wasn’t so keen.  I had had a lot of time out due to injuries and was loving my work so it seemed crazy to me to slow down doing what I was doing to care for another child while Chris would have had to push himself harder doing something he didn’t enjoy to support a growing family.   

Things needed to change.

And while freelancing I became increasing aware that some of my clients were not always supported in the changes they were making by other people at their yards.  

There is a lot of discontent within the horse industry and my fortnightly or monthly visits might provide some respite but I wanted to support people in a more tangible way.

In the meantime I was writing for equine magazines and my reputation and freelance work had grown to the extent that I was struggling to get around to see everyone as often as they wanted lessons.  This resulted in a group who were a long way away coming twice-yearly for 2 or 3 day courses at the yard that I was renting.  After a couple of years I noticed that this group were making more far-reaching and lasting changes than those I was seeing for “hit and run” lessons.  

In researching with clients I came to the conclusion that this was because the courses afforded them the opportunity to really focus on their learning and their horses without the distraction of day-to-day life.  Squeezing lessons in around hectic work and home life means that there is a lot of potential for slippage between each lesson and the total immersion experience of “getting away from it all” for a few days was profound for them and infinitely more satisfying for me.

We negotiated a deal to buy some arable farmland adjacent to our house, applied and fought for planning permission and a business loan and Ashen Equestrian Centre became a reality.

I was pregnant with Max, Chris was winding down his business so that he could become a full-time Dad and he designed and built (with the help of friends and family) the yard.

This was a big risk, we were going from two incomes to one, I didn’t know whether Chris would be 100% happy in his new role as full-time Dad and, compared with the costs of running the Jeep and renting a small yard we now had the huge costs of business loan and running our own yard.

We were fairly sure it was the right thing for us as a family and for our clients but what if it all went wrong and no-one came?  Of course we discussed this at length and agreed worst-case scenario was if everything was re-possessed we had lived happily in a caravan before and could do it again!  I shared my concerns with my dear friend Verity Tidmarsh, Verity is a coach, livery yard and riding school owner and film buff, “Build it” she said, quoting I think from the film, “Field of Dreams”, “and they will come.” And they did!

Next time "Wet, Wild, Windy and Labour!" published 2nd April.

For those searching online for more “instructional” resources than offered in these blogs please make use of my video downloads www.ashenec.co.uk

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