Lou and I met on the professional show jumping circuit in what feels like a completely different lifetime ago – 20 years to be precise. I’d seen Lou around but I’d never really dared speak to her as although she was the ultimate at her job, she was also a little stern looking at times.
Professional. Immaculate horses. Always on time. But sometimes looked grumpy!
I was the newbie – the rabbit in the headlights and she seemed to have it all under control. If I’m honest I was probably a little intimidated by her – until the day she got a whip launched at her from across the collecting ring… by her then boss.
Immediately the ice was broken and I was on her side… How dare he..? WTF was he thinking? Obviously I let my feelings be known. I was so cross on her behalf.
I soon realised that Lou wasn’t scary and we had more in common than I initially thought.
Through our mutual friend and fellow groom Heather, we became firm friends. Lou was no longer scary and I was no longer as annoying, wide eyed or out of my depth.
As our lives moved on from being full time grooms we found ourselves at opposite ends of the country, but still we spoke every day. This was in the era of ‘emails’ on desktop, well before social media and smart phones were even invented (yes we are that old).
We chatted freely about our lives, boys, ponies, work, how we missed being full time grooms and anything else that was grating our goats on that day!
In 2013 Lou called me (this was not unusual) after a lightbulb moment… when I say lightbulb ‘moment’ that is probably a bit hasty. Lou’s lightbulbs go off and then she considers, thinks a bit more, plans the logistics and then voices it.
I’m the complete opposite. A total spontaneous nightmare who regularly speaks before she thinks and comes up with a whole range of crazy ideas which I then drag poor Lou along to do!
Anyway… I digress… Lou had come up with an amazing idea… a three day residential riding camp for adults. The idea was brilliant until she revealed that I was going to teach at it.
I laughed… and immediately said no. I agreed that the idea was innovative and wonderful, but there were a so many people who taught in the area, they were well-known, had more letters to their name, had competed at a much higher level, they were (and are) more experienced than me. Basically just better than me. Why would anyone come to a camp to be taught by me?
In a nutshell it was a big fat no!
Lou did what she does best and kept drip feeding me the idea of camp over the coming weeks and months. It turns out that Lou has a great way of doing this as you will find out again shortly.
Eventually I said yes to ONE and in July 2014 we hosted our first camp under the brand of ‘Harlequin PR’ at Lindores Equestrian, in Scotland.
Before our first camp I was feeling apprehensive. There was lots to organise, and lots of additional things to think about. Would the format work? Would the facilities be OK (at that point we had no shower facilities, no arena and a toilet that once housed a calf!)?
Would we deliver on people’s expectations – come to think of it – what did they even expect..? And my biggest fear… what if they didn’t like ‘me’?
At any other camp I had taught at there was always more than one coach – so in the unlikely event that you don’t gel with your coach, there are options. We didn’t have options. They only had me.
As I stood in front of 12 pairs of equally nervous eyes to start our inaugural camp I introduced us and chatted about the format and the ethos. A fun, supportive community in which you can develop new skills, push your boundaries in a safe way, be vulnerable without being judged, share your highs, your lows, make lots of new supportive friends and most of all – have fun with your horses.
Camps were born and out of one friendship we have created so many more. We are so incredibly lucky to have met such a wide range of amazing people and shared so many raw, inspiring and incredible moments – it is truly humbling and I think of myself as one of the luckiest people around.
The last eight years in terms of camps have been INSANE. I can’t even begin to put into words the enormity of what our campers have created and how much it means to us. For those who are currently thinking ‘shit – what about camps’ – stop panicking – we have no desire to stop!
But as the camps have continued to grow so have our lives. The addition of small people, the logistics of Lou living so far away, a small person at school (500 miles away) and not to mention; I have three different jobs (coaching isn’t my full time profession) – all in all stacks up to a temporary ongoing challenge.
I still had some reservations, especially regarding the admin side of Equiteam, and so we are delighted that we have joined forces with a new team member. Just to confuse you all she is also called Liz!
Liz Somerville and I have worked together for many years, and like Lou and I, we are firm friends. Liz also started her career as a professional groom and went on to run and manage an equine vet practice so brings with her a whole new set of much needed skills.
As I write this is all sounds so simple to take Equiteam online… I can assure you that it is not! But it’s pretty bloody awesome – even if I so say so myself!
With podcasts to record, videos to make, editing of me and my mistakes(!), blogs to write, images to take and edit, downloads to create, the finding of contributors not to mention the building of an insane website (well done Lou), marketing and launching our new project – all around juggling our already jam packed lives – it has been a pretty intense few months!
But here we are and once again I excitedly and apprehensively await your feedback (please be kind and constructive!). We hope that you enjoy the concept and will enjoy sharing the next chapter of Equiteam.