As a continuation of my Supporting Local Equine Businesses project, I have booked in a handful of shoots and interviews, across the year, with people who own or manage equine businesses in my area. And I couldn’t do this without including my lovely friend Lauren.
Lauren and I went to Writtle College together, lived together in halls and off campus and were the closest of friends whilst we studied for our equine degrees. However, as often happens, life got in the way more recently and we don’t see each other much these days. We caught up for this shoot last week, put the world to rights over a cream tea and it was like we’d never spent any time apart.
I wanted to interview Lauren, who is partial to a tall, lanky, ginger Thoroughbred, as she is the head girl at Stratford Hills, a big livery yard in Stratford St. Mary, near Colchester and I thought she might have some pearls of wisdom to share with anybody wanting to work in that sector of the equine industry. And maybe because her horse, Zac is so damn handsome, too! 😉
Sophie: Ok. Start by giving us three interesting un-horsey facts about yourself.
Lauren: I was born on the same day as Princess Beatrice; DOB. 08.08.88
I love to cook for friends and family (when I have time) and am actually quite good at it.
I would always prefer to listen to music than watch television.
S: Tell us a little about Stratford Hills.
L: Stratford Hills offers full or part livery and has 40 stables. We have beautiful on site hacking, with wooded areas and magnificent hills, with the most outstanding views of Constable country and a fabulous cross country course that spans across 40 acres. The yard has good links to the A12, is fully staffed from 8am-5pm, 7 days a week, with a live in groom for emergencies.
S: What is your role, as head girl?
L: I love my job. I am the first point of contact for the liveries, about the care of the horses. I run the yard on a day to day basis, ensuring that everything gets done and to the correct standard. I will also make any changes that I feel are necessary to a horse’s daily routine, with the consent of their owner. I make sure the yard is correctly staffed, I place feed orders and make arrangements with the vet and farrier, for the majority of the horses here on full livery. And I also organise shows here, throughout the summer.
S: Tell us about your staff.
L: I am very lucky to have a dedicated and experienced, small team of fantastic staff. They all have different areas of expertise and experience, which means we work well together. As a team, we are always happy to help or offer advice when needed or requested.
S: How did you get the job?
L: I was approached by a friend to work as sick cover, initially. A permanent groom role then came up and I was approached by the management, about it. I eventually took this role on when the previous head groom left to have her second baby.
S: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to anybody looking to work with horses?
L: Make sure that you are dedicated and enthusiastic. It’s hard work!
S: Tell us a little about your horsey history.
L: I have ridden and been involved with horses for as long as I can remember. After completing my A Levels I decided to study Equine Studies and Business Management at Writtle College. After completing my course I became a freelance groom, often looking after clients’ horses whilst they were on holiday.
S: And how about the horses you have now?
L: My sister and I bought Charlie after knowing him for many years at the riding school which we used to go to. He’s a 16.2hh, chestnut Thoroughbred and is now 19. We have owned him for 9 years and he now enjoys a sedate life, being ridden twice a week. I used to do riding club activities on him and he loved to jump! He was always tricky to load and can be very grumpy, especially when being tacked up, but we love him.
Zachari (pictures) is my beautiful 17hh, 8 year-old, chestnut Thoroughbred. I have owned Zac since he was 2 years-old and he has a massive personality. Everything he does, he tried his hardest for me (even if he does try patience a lot of the time, too). He is a very happy horse who loves attention. He is cheeky, a little naughty and playful, too. He likes to put everything in his mouth and his speciality is stripping the stuffing out of his (and the other horses’) rugs and costs me a fortune in repairs!! He loves to jump, but is often over enthusiastic and forgets that Mum is on top and actually knows best. He is amazing to take cross country and is my horse of a lifetime!
S: What is your top tip for running a happy, well organised yard?
L: Always keep a smile on your face.
Preparation is key.
Prevention is always better than cure.
S: What is your favourite part of the job?
L: I love being able to organise and run events, at the yard. It’s also great seeing the liveries overcoming problems and seeing them do well.
S: And your least fave?
L: The unpredictable and extreme weather!!
S: What are your ambitions for the future? Both with work and your own horses.
L: Hopefully I will event Zac, successfully, to a decent level. I just want to enjoy him.
And at work, it would be to organise and run lots of successful equine events.
S: So, if we want to find out more about Stratford Hills online, where can we go?
L: We have a website, at http://www.stratfordhillsequine.co.uk/ and a Facebook page, at https://www.facebook.com/StratfordHillsLiveryYardAndCrossCountry.
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