A horse whispering business in County Durham has diversified to attract a wider market share amid a growing demand for its niche services.
Husband-and-wife team Clive and Alison Johnson have successfully grown their horsemanship training business from its East Hedleyhope base, near Tow Law, in County Durham.
Alison Johnson Horsemanship employs three people full-time and has grown its offering from natural horsemanship techniques, colloquially known as horse whispering, to western riding techniques and a structured horsemanship academy.
Alison Johnson started the business in 2004 having trained in horsemanship alongside some of the country’s top professionals, including notable horseman Monty Roberts.
Her business specialises in training troubled, young and “last chance saloon” horses - and more recently their trainers.
Mrs Johnson explained: “We’ve had a lot of experience over the years and spotted a need for horse owners to be involved in the training process.
“Our services have evolved a lot to incorporate more understanding of the psychology of the horse and the psychology of the owners.
“Nothing like this is being done in the North East - you have to travel to the South East to be able to access this training - and so far it has proved extremely popular, with a lot of our customers returning.”
Together with her husband, Mrs Johnson devised the academy model - which offers structured courses to further people’s understanding of horses.
The scheme offers customers take-home course notes and video as reference to their studies after they have finished.
Mrs Johnson added: “You get a great feeling when you help someone to form a better connection with their horse. We have a lot of customers who are struggling with their horses and nearly at the end of the road. It’s nice to be able to nurture that relationship and make for a happier horse and a happier owner.
“The majority of customers find us by word of mouth. There’s always a connection in this type of world, which has played to our advantage.”
The Johnsons now plan to raise funds to build an indoor training arena at the business’ home, Low Hedleyhope Hall. Planning permission has already been secured and now the couple are busy preparing finance for the project, which would ultimately allow them to continue training throughout the winter months.
Mrs Johson added: “Around this time of year we would normally be starting to wind down, but this year that hasn’t been the case. We’ve still got at least four or five horses in each week - and that just goes to show how much room for growth there is if we can get this indoor facility up and running.”