My name is Karen McConnell, I’m 36 years old, wife to Chris, mum to 5 year old Cora and 3 year old Callan, and the owner and manager of KA Equestrian, a busy backing, schooling, training and livery yard set in 70 acres of beautiful Perthshire, Scotland.
Growing up I was like any other pony-mad child, spending all my spare time at the stables, pinning pictures of ponies from Pony Magazine on my bedroom wall, cantering around our garden riding imaginary rounds of jumps when I wasn’t doing the real thing, and the highlight of my summer was pony club camp. I don’t know if back then I ever thought I’d be doing what I do now….
KA Equestrian was launched in earnest in September 2009 offering backing and schooling services from a rented yard on the side of my ‘real’ job co-ordinating projects in the 3rd sector. I had always done freelance riding and grooming work on the side of University and other jobs but after being signed off work for 3 weeks with suspected bird flu (I was fine after 3 days but had to stay off work just incase!), I set up a website and a Facebook page and our business was born.
KA Equestrian has grown and evolved over the years and 6 years ago, almost to the day, we bought our own purpose-built facility that we’ve developed since then. Our brick-built stable block houses 21 large stables, we have 45 acres of well-maintained paddocks and fields, an all weather surface floodlit arena, large grass jumping paddock and international-sized dressage arena, mini cross country course and on-site hacking trails.
Our initial core business of backing and schooling horses for clients is still a large part of our current business. Educating horses, whether they are young and needing started under saddle, older horses who are missing a part of their education or needing a ‘problem’ ironed out, ex-racehorses needing re-habilitated and re-trained when they leave racing or competition horses working their way up the levels, continues to be what I spend most of my day doing. I love working with all horses, helping them better understand what it is we are asking for them. My approach is simple, consistent and calm, knowing that all horses want to co-operate with us and when problems do occur they are either due to pain, anxiety, confusion or commonly, a mixture of all three. I am passionate about training horses so it’s no surprise that dressage is where my heart lies – I am extremely lucky to have a number of lovely horses to compete, my own horse ‘Native Spa’, Michael and Sandra Smith’s ‘Orsippus’ and Lochlane Stud’s ‘Nibeley Top Diva’.
Education is a theme we’ve continued into creating The Academy at KA Equestrian, an arm of the business that offers coaching, clinics from approved outside instructors, lectures and workshops. One of the things I love most about working with horses is that I’m always learning. Every horse, owner and professional I meet brings something I can learn from, no-body knows it all, and our Academy is as much for my benefit as it is for our clients. The more we expose ourselves to as equestrians, the more knowledgable we can become. One of the exciting projects we’re recently launched through The Academy, is BHS Stages Preparation Courses in partnership with the super-knowledgable and talented Rowan Tweddle (BHSII SM). The provision of high quality and practical training for future equestrian professionals is extremely exciting and we’re now in the process of working towards becoming a BHS approved training facility to help us further expand this area of our business.
There is so much going on here at KA Equestrian – no day is ever the same and I’m always doing something new but I hope that gives you a little insight into who we are and why we do it. Having been a Toggi customer for years I’m so excited to join their team of bloggers and to share with you my #LifeInTheSaddle.