In The Country Magazine
Equestrian In The Country Lifestyle

How did I start a livery yard?

Welcome to my world. I spend the majority of my time now, down at the yard and I LOVE it. As a first time livery yard owner, it has been a learning curve but one which I have loved every moment of. I have always had horses and ponies growing up, and obtained a Diploma* in L3 Horse Care and Management at college, but starting and running your own yard was totally new to me, and yet it felt so familiar, so natural.

Growing up, I always dreamt that one day I would have my own yard, though as real life set in I parked this dream, believing it was just that… a dream. I’d never be able to find/rent a yard, let alone purchase one (that one is still a dream), or be able to afford to start up and run one. But, I was wrong… life had other plans.

I do believe in fate, and I can only describe how I came back to Littleheath, to run it as my very own livery yard as fate.

I now run Littleheath Stables as a full or part stabled and grass livery yard, with up to 12 horses. In addition, I produce horses and ponies to sell to loving, family homes. Dee was my first project, who has now found a loving, fun family home locally. I am giving myself the winter off, given it is my first winter managing the yard, and will start up this side of the business again in the Spring.

Some background info:

Littleheath Stables, my idyllic little yard is nestled at the foot of the South Downs, comprising of 14.5 acres, 6 loose boxes and open paddocks. It is hidden down a private rural dead end road, lined either side with glorious houses, one of which, opposite the yard, I was lucky enough to grow up in for 16 years.

I discovered my love of horses here. As the young, pony mad little girl I was, I often wished that one day I’d manage this very yard when I grew up, and when I take a second to really reflect on this whole opportunity, I cannot believe my luck.

My dad and I would often walk over the road and just admire the horses, I’d spend weekends or afternoons poo picking the fields in return for a groom of one of the horses, until I was old enough to have a pony of my own, who I kept on the yard too. She was the cheekiest 14.2hh bright bay Connemara mare, called Molly. So, it’s not hard to understand that this yard is extra special to me.

So, how did I secure the yard?

I would often drive past the yard on my way to wherever, and over the years it was full with DIYs, and more recently a sole use individual who had a large amount of horses, who sadly trashed the yard completely. One day, driving past, I saw the yard was empty, the horses had gone, I didn’t think much of it, but then a month or so later, I drove by again, and it was still empty. My mind began to whirr, the dream I had put to the back of my mind was coming to the forefront. The stable block looked sad, neglected and lonely.

I went home and wrote out a note, to the owner whom watched me grow up from that (likely slightly intense) pony-mad little girl to an ambitious teenager, and drove down and posted it through his letterbox.

Two days passed, I hadn’t heard anything, yet my brain was already making plans and dreaming up how it could be, I confessed what I’d done to Dad over a coffee, thinking he’d roll his eyes and dismiss the latest wild plan of mine, but he surprised me – I was wrong. Another nod in the direction of fate.

He told me to get down there the next morning (Saturday) and follow up on the note I’d written. And so I did. Though when I arrived, I was greeted by a strange gentleman I didn’t know, who informed me that the chap I knew, no longer lived there and hadn’t for the past 18 months or so, and that the letterbox had been sealed for the same amount of time. Kindly, he pulled out a drill from the back of his truck and unscrewed the postbox, retrieving my note for me and directing me to the house who now owned the yard. 

Without his kindness, things likely would have hit a dead end.

I marched myself round to the house that now owned the yard, a house I used to play in growing up with the young girls who lived there, nostalgia was rife that day. 

Thankfully, the owners were looking to rent the land, and I left my note with them, in hopes they’d call me back so I could arrange a viewing. Less than an hour later, I received a call from the owners, eager to explore this opportunity, I organised a visit later that afternoon.

Molly and I, on the yard over 15 years ago.

During the visit, I showed the owners, this photo… of pony-mad me, and Miss Molly, which I think contributed to me being given the opportunity over the other contenders. Have I changed much? Here’s hoping!

Transforming the yard:

The yard needed A LOT of work, but I thought that just made the project all the more of an adventure. I didn’t have a big budget, but I did have a small pot. I knew I couldn’t go all out in the beginning, that this wouldn’t be a yard full of world-class facilities, but knew it would be a place people would want to be and the horses here would be happy and cared for.

The yard was run down, the stables had been left with old muck in, the storage around the back had been used as stable space using Harris fencing and baling twine.

The ‘school’ was non-existent, the fencing surrounding it was falling apart held up by pallets and baling twine in some places. The paddocks were open fields, and I knew for me to run this as the livery yard I had in mind, these needed to be divided up into individual turnout paddocks, and so, with the help of some good friends and family – we did. You can read a bit about some of the early progress we made here.

I will share more on the yard soon! But for now, for those of you asking HOW, here it is!

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