I have ridden from an early age and competed in most disciplines. I also ran for many years the largest stud in the North of England standing up to 7 stallions simultaneously. This involved natural services and artificial insemination (AI). AI entailed collecting the semen, inseminating the mares on the stud and preparing semen for despatch. I also did embryo transfer both surgical and non surgical, and all aspects of foaling, including a very rare successful caesarean section resulting in a live mare and foal. I liaised closely with Johanna Vardon MBE from the National Foaling Bank and facilitated many successful adoptions. I am also still on the panel who provide emergency mare’s milk replacer. This is voluntary and involves responding to emergencies day or night, advising and occasionally ‘hands on’.
My passion (apart from bitting) is breeding and starting my own young horses, many of whom have become well known competition horses, including Donna Somma who is on the UK under 21 Dressage Team and has recently been awarded World Class status. My stock have also been shown and won at many of the major Warmblood shows, both here and in Germany taking Championships. In fact two stallions were graded into the German Stud Books.
Over the years I have done much remedial work taking on ‘lost causes’, many of which were considered beyond redemption. All of whom I have re-trained, turned around and successfully re-homed.
Another hobby of mine has been rehabilitating racehorses into a happy new career. One example was Chase the Ace (racing name No-Aman), who was bought out of training as a four year old and went on to compete Advance (working PSG at home), and was also graded into the British Warmblood Society , and the Sports Horse Breeding of Great Britain. Whilst standing at the Marbach Stud in Germany he was also graded Trakehner. Now thankfully the plight of the redundant racehorse has been recognised and we have many charities doing a fantastic job in this area, including Rowena Cook and her team from Equine Management and Training, who also use and endorse the Neue Schule Collection.
My awareness of the impact on bitting became apparent during my childhood with one of my own ponies. Nobody could diagnose why the pony was irritable, the head tossing was present at all times but accentuated during downward transitions. This resulted in me receiving two black eyes! Through a process of elimination I discovered that this was due to mouth discomfort and subsequent trauma. The pony, who was a coloured (before they were fashionable), possessed a very large, fat tongue, and the single jointed mouthpiece was not suitable. There were red marks either side of her tongue and also in the upper palate. In order to address this I tried a French Link, and although there was some improvement it was still obviously uncomfortable. Upon close examination of her tongue I noticed that there was trauma where the loops securing the link were digging. At that time there was not the choice that there is today and I therefore had to enlist the help of my farrier. I asked my farrier to shape the original snaffle mouthpiece in order to reduce the nutcracker action and he did this over his anvil. As soon as the newly curved snaffle was introduced my pony’s way of going changed dramatically. A pony that was about to be sold became our family superstar and lived to the ripe old age of 34.
Since this childhood experience I have been passionate about bitting comfort and promoting the connection between horse and rider. This culminated in me setting up the first Bit Bank in the UK and for many years I worked with all the well known brands such as Myler, Sprenger KK, Kangaroo etc. I also designed and customised many bits to eliminate discomfort and bitting evasions. I ran the advice line full time giving bitting advice and bit trails. The advice I gave was on all activities from pleasure riders to Grand Prix. During this time I recognised that there was much missing and so much room for improvement on metals and design. This was how the Neue Schule brand developed and evolved into the global brand it is today.
I now have a team of Neue Schule Bitting Consultants working with me, all of whom are riders themselves sharing the same mindset and ethical approach to bitting. We run the very popular Neue Schule advice line and to enable us to provide informed advice it is useful if you refer to the Help Section on our website under E-mail Bitting Team for useful information on you and your horse before contacting us. We also do Bitting Clinics, many of which are organised by the BHS, and are also available for consultations at many top events, such as Badminton, Dressage at Hickstead, etc. I have been invited to write editorials for many well known magazines, and am the resident expert for Your Horse magazine’s Question and Answer Section. I also host the Bitting Clinic at the annual Your Horse Live Event. To find out more about our activities please visit www.nsbits.com and look at our event calendar.
In 2010 I was invited by Michel Assouline, who is the Team Coach for the Para-Equestrian Dressage Team to attend their regular squad training at Stow in the Wold. This was so that I could assess the horses’ way of going and give bitting advice. The support I offer them is ongoing.