Last word in care for riders and horses

SET in the heart of the rolling Northumberland countryside, Pastures New is a new livery yard offering deluxe equine accommodation for the discerning client.

SET in the heart of the rolling Northumberland countryside, Pastures New is a new livery yard offering deluxe equine accommodation for the discerning client.

Built by the Robinson family at their farm near Belsay, north of Ponteland, the yard has 12 top-of-the-range Monarch loose boxes, as well as all-year turnout, a secure tack room with facilities to make refreshments, and indoor and outdoor wash facilities.

It is being run by event rider Zoe Bell (née MacLean), who is happy to pass on her knowledge and expertise to people keeping horses and ponies at the yard.

Livestock and arable farmer Ian Robinson, supported by his parents Nicholas and Anne, decided last year that he would like to convert one of the buildings at Bog Hall Farm into stables and set up a livery business.

He explained: “We have so many bridleways and tracks running around the farm and the neighbouring countryside that setting up a livery yard, where people could take advantage of all this off-road riding, looked like an ideal opportunity. So many people want safe places to ride their horses, away from busy traffic, and we knew we could offer this.”

Ian decided to build his yard in one of the farm’s modern buildings, which was not being used at the time, and he set about planning his business. Once he had a draft sketch of the stables he went to visit his neighbour, racehorse trainer Michael Smith, of Toft Hall, for some advice.

“He just took one look at the plans and tore them up,” laughed Ian.

“Then he came round to have a look at the building and came up with a new plan. It was a lot more ambitious than the design we had come up with, but he has so much knowledge of the equine industry that we followed his vision to the letter and I must admit the extra hard work has been worth it.

“We are delighted with the results and so were our first customers.” In fact, one of the customers, Zoe Bell, was so impressed she approached the Robinsons and asked if she could lease the yard and set up her own equestrian business. Mrs Robinson said: “When we first opened a few months ago, we offered DIY and part livery but then Zoe asked if she could lease the yard and we knew that she could take the business even further. We’re so lucky to have someone as knowledgeable and professional as Zoe and she can offer the clients so much more.”

Zoe has been brought up with ponies and horses, graduating through her local Pony Club, where she represented the South Northumberland branch in dressage, show jumping and eventing.

But her love lay with eventing and, when she left school, she went to train with top event rider Charlotte Ridley as a working pupil, where she had even more opportunities to compete in her favourite sport.

Although she has competed successfully up to intermediate level, Zoe also takes great pleasure in bringing on young horses and, having passed most of her British Horse Society (BHS) exams, she is now concentrating on gaining her assistant instructor’s qualification (AI) so she can work as a professional instructor.

With help from the Prince’s Trust and Business Link, Zoe is keen to develop Pastures New so it can cater for all levels of ability and provide a flexible approach so that keeping a horse, be it for top class competition or just hacking, is possible for people whose time is limited by demanding jobs or family ties.

In addition to DIY and part livery, Zoe is now offering a full livery service where, in addition to what she fondly terms “chucking out and mucking out”, she is happy to exercise her clients’ horses if they can’t find time during the week.

She will also prepare horses for a morning’s hunting or for a competition, so the client can arrive to find a groomed and plaited horse, ready to load in the trailer or wagon. Zoe said: “I want to adopt a flexible approach so that I can cater for everyone. I appreciate that some people have very demanding jobs and can’t get to the stables to exercise their horses every day, so that’s why I’m offering a tailor-made service. It gives people more options.”

And Zoe is also happy for people to book their horses into the yard, for a short period, if they are going away or are unable to ride for any period of time.

“Going on holiday should be a relaxing time, but if you’ve got a horse, then you’ve also got the headache of who is going to look after it while you are away. But I’m quite happy for people to bring their horses here for their own holiday, where I will look after them and, if they want, exercise them,” said Zoe.

“The same also applies to people who have to take a break from the saddle, for whatever reason, but want to keep their horses fit.”

Next year, Zoe is planning to expand the business further, by holding events at the yard. But in the meantime, she is happy to help people prepare their horses, and themselves, for the coming winter season, be it show jumping, dressage or hunting.

Pastures New is about 15 minutes from Ponteland, Hexham and Morpeth.

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