Lizzie Platts and Graham (Carrot) Hartley

The move to pastures new

Lizzie and her partner Graham (known as Carrot) used to live in Bradwell on Sea in EsseCarrot and the maresx, from here they would have to travel at least three hours each way to competitions.  Ten years ago, they considered buying in a more central UK area, but that wasn’t financially viable, so they extended their search.  In Brittany, not only was land more affordable, but there were more Rides within an hour’s drive than in the whole of the UK.  They were pleasantly surprised to find how high profile Endurance is in France, with widespread support and recognition. It was the ideal location to establish a base for breeding and competing their Arabs.

First encounter with WOW 1998

They were amongst First Thought Equine’s early customers. David Kempsell and Maggie White were working with the Kings Troop supplying Flair air flocking to their saddles where they met Lizzie and Graham in 1998.  Having used and appreciated the difference made by the Flair system, they were one of the first to have WOW saddles as soon as they became       aHUELGOAT_20160529_4473vailable.  The worth of this innovative saddle system was proven by their first horse Moon God.  They had had real difficulty fitting a saddle to him, but their troubles dissolved when they put Flair air flocking into his saddle.  Moon God went on to be selected for Team GB, completing 160km  in Dubai in 1998 with Graham.  They are in no doubt he could not have completed in any other saddle.

Today’s horses

Around their businesses running gites and providing building services, Lizzie and Graham fit in a quality breeding operation, Misty maresand are currently competing 5 homebred young horses. All sired by their own stallions Waywood William, who is closely related to Moon God, and E.A.Dadu, their horses carry the Blackwater prefix. The 8yo, Xanthus Adulaire is targeting a 2* this year.  The two 6 year olds, Blackwater Shukran and Blackwater Shaheen, (in the image below) aHUELGOAT_20160529_3491 webre comfortably completing 90km now, and qualified to go 1*.  And the two 5 year olds Blackwater Abraxus and Blackwater Raahid are happily learning their trade at shorter distances.  With two 4 year olds and a 3 year old Blackwater Azaar, Blackwater Jameel and Blackwater Aladdin waiting in the wings, Lizzie and Graham have their hands full of quality horses, all ridden in their WOW saddles.

Lizzie says: “We were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, to learn of the work David and Maggie put into the development of their unique modular saddle system. It meant we could compete successfully at a World Championship 17 years ago on a horse with particular saddling issues. In the years since, WOWs have been fitted perfectly to all our horses of whatever shape, enabling them to compete and do well at the highest level of Endurance”.


Reflections on two paths to the BD Winters

WOW Saddles caught up with two of our Ambassadors at the BD Winter Championships at Hartpury.  Kim Young made the long journey from her base near Dumfries for a busy three days, contesting the Novice Open, Novice Freestyle and Elementary Open on First Miss Sunshine AS. Lesley Peyton-Gilbert on World Exclusive presented their PSG Freestyle test as part of the Friday night Gala Evening.

  1. Your first pony?

Kim: An amazingly well-behaved little white grey pony, called Paddington Bear.  He had quite the fluffiest ears you’ve ever seen.

Lesley: I didn’t get my first pony until I was 11. He was a 14.2hh Arab/Connemara cross called Jester, and a great show jumper.

  1. Your first dressage test?

Kim: I did my first test on Bear when I was 6 or 7. We scored 8’s and 9’s – I think they must have added cuteness to the scales of training.

Lesley: I was a late starter. When I was 15 I had an eventer, so I had to learn to do dressage.  I eased myself in by doing a Prix Caprilli test first.

  1. Why dressage?

Kim: I evented as a teenager, which was great fun but expensive. Then I started having lessons with Lady Joicey, who was inspirational. She didn’t care if your mount wasn’t flashy, as long as you wanted to learn.

Lesley: I find it fascinating, the intellectual demands it makes, the attention to detail that’s needed. I think it appeals to my OCD tendencies!

  1. When did you first meet your Winter Nationals horse?

Kim Young Scot Winter regKim: I went to Holland in November 2013. Merrie had only arrived at the backing yard a week earlier, but she had a kind temperament, moved well – and was within my limited budget!

Lesley: Wex turned up on my yard one day, as a 6yo. His owner had bred him, and was working at Novice, but had hurt her back and couldn’t ride. She knew of me through a mutual friend and thought the horse would suit me.

  1. What is your favourite thing about him/her?

Kim: She is a total worker, always tries for you.  I just need to be careful not to do too much.

Lesley: Mine is the same, he has a great work ethic, always giving everything he’s got. And he only needs a short warm-up, then starts working immediately so I never spend long on him.  That will really help his longevity.

  1. What does he/she find easiest?

Kim: We’re just progressing lateral work and starting changes, and she honestly finds everything easy.

Lesley Peyton-Gilbert - World Exclusive

Lesley Peyton-Gilbert – World Exclusive

Lesley: Again, I’d make a very similar comment. Wex finds everything easy, my only problem is that he can try too hard. He has a lovely walk,  a great foundation to work from.

  1. What are your future competition plans?

Kim: We’ve already qualified at Novice and Elly for the summer regionals. I’d love to get her qualified in the 6yo classes, and get at least to the semi-finals.  My goal is be competing at medium this Autumn and Advanced Medium next year.

Lesley: This is only his fourth PSG, and we’ve already completed his first Inter 1, with 70%.  I’m planning an Inter 2 by the end of the year.

  1. When you are not riding this horse….?

Kim: I run my own dog grooming business, The Grooming Room, in Dumfries.  I work the hours that suit clients – so that usually leaves me time during the day to ride.

Lesley: I’ve a 22-horse livery yard, a mix of eventers, dressage horses, and riding clubbers. I teach at home and for clients – I’m off tomorrow to do two days with the Kings Troop. I’m also a Futurity judge for the BEF, and Young Horse for BD.

  1. What is your horse’s favourite treat?

Kim: Every 10 days or so we box up and go with a friend for a long hack on quiet lanes and forest tracks.  It totally unwinds her – and me.

Lesley: Wex is addicted to carrots, and loves his regular physio and McTimony sessions

  1. And your favourite treat?

Kim: Prosecco!

Lesley: Prosecco!

Reign’s first Championships

Bonnie Chivers took her young horse Diamondgraaf Reign Dance to the British Riding Clubs’ KBIS Novice Winter Championships.  We asked her how they got on in their first big class together.

“We  went to the KBIS Novice Dressage Championship yesterday. Myself, my husband and Oliver (my baby), along with Reign of course, left home at 5.30am for a 2.5hour journey to compete for the Wokingham and Bearwood Riding Club as an individual.

She started warming up very well, very relaxed – until I asked for canter when she decided to become a rodeo pony… Thank God for my amazing WOW saddle as that is all that saved me! I worked through the unscheduled movements, carried on warming up and went in to do my test. She actually performed extremely well for a 4yo, so I was delighted!

Reign Novice Winters 2016

We had two other arenas running next to ours with horses coming and going but she just knuckled down and did as I asked. She scored 7’s and 8’s but I made a few little errors which the judge really penalised us for (fair enough). I was over the moon that she scored the highest collective marks for the class, it just underlines the potential I know she has. And if I had  got it right she would have finished around 2nd place in her first Championships. And to cap it all, when I got my sheet, the judge commented that she is “oozing potential”.

I’ve so much to look forward to”.

Lesley prepares for Winters Gala evening

We caught up with Lesley Peyton-Gilbert during her busy preparations for the summer season.

Spring is trying to spring!

I’ve just returned from two days away at my trainers at Jubilee Farm and Paul Hayler. I try and get there for two days every month. This is such a great boost for me and keeps me on track, not just looking at the present and the coming season, but for the future of both of my horses. World Exclusive (Wex) continues to delight and his step up to small tour and the training development of the Grand Prix work is so rewarding. My new ride, Rob Roy, has been with me three months now and has changed physically and mentally. 16 months ago he was a show jumper in Germany and now he’s small tour working on GrandPrix movements too. As his physique improves so does his confidence , although he is very green when confronted with ‘busy distracting arenas’ but this will come as he’s such a lovely charismatic boy. The only sad thing is he is up for sale and really I’m working on creating a happy confident horse to, I’m sure go on to great things in dressage! Until then I will give him my best and work towards championship qualification and inter11 in the autumn.L P-G dogs Pie 10 weeks

So the two days away on my own with two horses and two dogs ( one my 10 week old puppy Pie) was exhausting! Thankfully I managed to avoid the traffic carnage that was the M1 that Thursday! Phew!

Wex had a very good High Profile show series. Although  at the regionals he was squeezed into second in the PSG music, we still qualified for the winter finals at Hartpury in two weeks. I love this show, the atmosphere, especially in the Gala evenings which we will be taking part on the Friday evening is like a continental show and great to do (fun comes into it but usually after you’ve done your ride! And you’ve poured yourself a glass of something!!)

April also sees my start of the Premier League circuit and for Keysoe the first CDI of the year. Super exciting for everyone selected and for Keysoe. I will hopefully do an international with Wex later on this year but I have to remember he’s only done a handful of tests at this level, he’s taken to it like a duck to water! so it can make you a little greedy!!

I also have the BEF Futurity season, an evaluation of young sport horses from foals to three year olds. It’s a route for some of our breeders to get their horses on to the Equine Bridge but also to give them help and advice and see where their breeding strategy is taking them. I am also booked up to do a few BD Young horse classes and I’m really looking forward to this. There have been a few changes in how this has been organised and some changes to the tests and I think this is really beneficial for the horses and the riders . Should make for a great finals in the summer!

My yard is super busy( just how I like it) and on the whole we are ticking along nicely.this is always aided by my staff, family and sponsors .#wow saddles #uhip#H&F feeds

L P-G Rob Roy SupercoolThis is Robbie showing how lovely the SuperCool saddle cloths are. I have two in black and for competition, white( they wash amazingly and stay white!!!) I took Wex to the gallops the other Sunday and he only had sweat marks under his girth! They really help keep the horse cool and comfortable. I wonder if I could have a top made in it??😃 Going to the gallops with Wex was huge fun and so good for him to do something different. We are lucky to have a well-fenced, uphill 5.5 furlong gallop with a good surface. So good for the horses! He also hacks once a week, and lunge as I try to maintain variety  especially as the work load has increased. Even during the depths of winter and mud we turn out all the horses. I think this is essential for them physically and mentally . I don’t have or want a horse walker , which probably makes more work for us but generally I like to keep the horses as natural as possible.

So that’s us for now looking forward….. One of the reasons I just love Spring!

L xxx

Alex Norris – a great start to 2016

IMG_1448What a good start to the 2016 season!

Junior training: I had our first training session with the Juniors. Minnie Moo produced some good work, and having worked hard on the dressage all winter with Mum it was pleasing to have a very positive lesson with Rob Lumb before our first competition.

Combined training: We then braved the weather to do a combined training as our warm up for the BE Open Novice at Moreton, and it paid off with an improved dressage and a clear XC within the time.  Just an unfortunate 4 faults show jumping cost us a place but we were pleased with Minnie’s performance even if we were towed in and towed out due to the wet conditions!

First Intermediate: After some more fitness work we arrived at Aldon for my first BE Intermediate and Minnie Moo didn’t disappoint. She flew round the XC with a great clear and only a few time faults.  4 faults show jumping and a little tension in the dressage meant we finished 13th, which was very pleasing for our first time. My sponsor Nicola Nicholls of WOW Saddles (in photo) came to support me which was lovely. I couldn’t do it without my WOW!  Our next event together is a Junior Trial at Weston Park in April.

Other horses out soon: Riki (Dassett Two For Joy) starts the seasons with a BE Open Novice under 18 at Goring Heath, so we have been working on his fitness and Mum has been helping me with the dressage which is steadily improving. He was in great form cross country schooling and he too has a combined training coming up to prepare for Goring. We are hopefully aiming him for a 1* this year.

Frank, rising 6, is the newcomer.  His posh name is Lexico, by Remexico out of On Probation, and owned by my aunt Judith Leggatt. He has been out to an evening unaffiliated dressage as a warm up for his first pony club event in the Easter holidays. He did a good test despite it being past his bedtime! He really jumped well when we took him XC schooling so we are hoping for a good result at the event.

And more opportunities: Another positive is that I have been selected to attend an assessment day for the Pony Club Riders Development Pathway. Fingers crossed it goes well!

A new ride for Izzy Chaplin

Izzy tells us of the juggling needed to keep up with her studies and her riding.


Izzy Dora close up

Izzy and Tiajdora (“Dora”)



So much has happened since I wrote my last blog. After a few weeks at uni at the beginning of September I headed off to Cambridge to start my first 3 month placement working for the accountancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers. It was a great experience! However it did mean that I wasn’t able to ride as much as I liked and it took me 2 hours to get to the yard each time I wanted to ride! I couldn’t have done it without the team at Aspire Training and Livery. Thank you so much for keeping the horses going and in great condition.



The hours travelling were worth it though as Dora came back better than ever and we have finally had a breakthrough with the flying changes. It only took 2 years but our persistence paid off! Over the winter months, with the help of Henry Boswell, we focused on training Dora to start to have a lot more self-carriage and working towards some of the PSG movements. I never thought I would have a chance at PSG with her, but this is slowly looking like it could be a realistic goal, not a hope!

Izzy Dora Winter Reg 2016

Dora at the Winter Regionals

My first competition after this was to do the freestyle to music classes. I really enjoy these as I can create the floorplan I want to show off Dora’s strengths and pick the music that I like. I cut and adjust the music myself using a free piece of software, Audacity. Although it may not be of the same quality as one done professionally, I enjoy being able to create the whole routine myself and it makes it even better when we do well at the competition. We had a great 2 tests winning both of them with over 69% so already half way to being qualified for 2017 before 2015 was even finished.

A few weeks later I also had the great news that I had been selected as one of the BYRDS Ambassadors. 12 U25’s riders from around the UK had been picked and I felt honoured to be representing the Southern region with Holly, the other Southern ambassador. Hopefully I will be able to pass on my experience from the past couple of years to the younger, up and coming BYRDS riders.

Christmas meant the end of my placement in Cambridge and a chance for me to bring Dora back home to Kent for a few weeks. It was great being able to go from only being able to ride at weekends to being able to ride every day and I also managed to fit in a competition before the end of the year with Dora doing amazingly, despite refusing to go in the outdoor warm up as she didn’t want to get her feet wet… We came away with 2 wins in the Medium and Advanced Medium so we ended the year on a high.


Izzy on Vinnie.jpg

Building a partnership with Vinnie

Soon it was back to Nottingham and Dora was back up in Warwickshire and I had the most amazing opportunity. I still can’t quite believe it but I was offered the ride on Vincente II (“Vinnie”), owned by Coral Ingham, with the aim to take him out to Young Riders in the next couple of months. I never thought I would be able to ride such an amazing horse! I am now learning the ropes, as it is very different going from riding the same horse for a couple of years, to one which is trained to a much higher level and it used to legs that are twice as long as mine… But it is coming together and I can’t wait to get him out to a competition.

Izzy quilted cantle.jpgWOW then came up and made a beautiful saddle for Vinnie and I. I absolutely love the white contrast stitching on the back on the saddle, with the patent piping – it’s unique. The team in Canterbury also made the saddle flaps and knee blocks slightly shorter so it fits me perfectly. I am so impressed with the quality and the amount of time and effort that went into making the saddle, I really do have the best sponsors and Vinnie loves the saddle too!

I have a few busy weeks coming up with Vinnie’s competition debut planned so keep an eye on my Facebook page!

Zero To Hero: a WOW performer

Zero To Hero (‘Pete’) was originally produced by David Wadge BHSI. He had a WOW saddle fitted from the start – few other saddles were suitable for his unconventional conformation.

Pete naked.JPGDavid competed successfully at Prelim and Novice with him from 2004. Kim Young, a talented local rider who juggles her love of dressage with a busy dog grooming business, got him on loan in 2006. She soon asked Gaynor Ranshaw to treat him with shiatsu techniques, and help with his training. Kim thoroughly enjoyed riding Pete, and the partnership was very successful.


She bought him in 2007 in spite of him failing the vet, complete with WOW saddle – she always says he was free with the saddle!

Meet PeteFrom 2007 to 2011 Kim competed Pete from Novice to Medium, winning virtually everything they contested, including various regionals and Pet Plan festivals. She was also well placed at nationals on many occasions. Her support team included Jill Grant, who trained Kim from 2009, and Gaynor who had a dual role, continuing to shiatsu him and also work with them mainly on freestyle.

Pete was increasingly influential in Gaynor’s life. As a result of seeing the benefit of a WOW saddle at first hand, she trained as a WOW fitter, and now has a busy practice covering central & southern Scotland and the far north of England. Find her at And when in 2011, Kim thought he had reached his limit & needed an easier life she offered Pete to Gaynor on long term loan.

Pete CanterGaynor hadn’t competed for 5 years, but decided that as both Pete and herself were eligible for down grading they could have some fun at the lower levels. In 2012 the pairing won the Pet Plan Open Novice [& 3rd?], qualifying for the Championships at Open Elementary, and won the Open Novice Scottish Championships. Success continued in 2013, including reserve Scottish Champion at Open Elementary and Scottish Veteran champion. 2014 was a stunning year for the duo, dual winners at the Petplan Festival (Open Elementary and Medium), reserve medium Scottish Champion, and Veteran Scottish Champion again. In 2015 he contested 20 Mediums, winning 15 and coming second in the other 5. Gaynor’s principal trainer is Jo Graham, plus occasional clinics with Charlie Hutton.

Pete posie trot webAt the age of 18, and having been Scottish Veteran Champion three years in a row, Pete has now asked for some special dispensations: not to be ridden in awful weather, and voting to spend the night in his own stable, not on the road. But he is still fit, going well, and will be contesting Medium & Medium Freestyle classes in the spring.

Gaynor says:

“I am so lucky to have inherited such a fantastic horse, and have been able to benefit from the excellent grounding he had from David Wadge and Kim Young. The combination of my shiatsu and subsequent WOW fitting skills means I have been able to keep him going happily for the last 5 years, and hopefully for some years to come.”

Alex Norris, Junior Eventer, prepares for 2016 season

Alex writes: The 2016 season is nearly upon us and we have  been training hard all winter in preparation. My main ride, Minnie Moo, is going better than ever on the flat after some intensive training.  We will have to wait and see whether she keeps her cool, so she can perform to her full potential at competitions!  We have some Junior Training with Caroline Moore coming up, as well as a combined training.  Our goals for her this year are to move up to intermediate and aim for the Junior trial at Brand Hall in May.   Before that, we start the season with Morton Open Novice at the beginning of March and all being well Aldon Open Intermediate under 21 event.
Minnie Moo Goring 15 crop
Dassett Two for Joy (“Riki”) has also been training well, but due to logistics he is going to start his eventing season a little later. Our lovely youngster Frank has had an easy winter but is back in full work now and aiming for some BE90 classes. Roll on the first event!


Paul Tapner wins Retraining of Racehorses Elite Eventing Award

WOW sponsored eventer Paul Tapner is a big fan of the Thoroughbred horse, and he recently won the Retraining of Racehorses Elite Eventing Award with his mare Counterparty, described as the stereotypical ‘ex racing mare’; difficult enough to be known as ‘Piranha’ around the yard.


The seven year old mare was originally owned by Nigel and Penny Bunter who run Barbury Castle CIC*** on their gorgeous property in Wiltshire. Where, as it happens, Counterparty was also trained by Alan King during her racing days. “But she was very slow” said Nigel, “and we ended up giving her away to Paul to see if she could event. She turned out to be quite good at it, and this year at Barbury, after four days of competition, and a drink or two, Paul managed to sell her back to me and a friend, Jules Sigler!”

Paul Tapner was very pleased with the deal. “It was a good moment. And no, in the stable the mare is not easy; I feel sorry for Georgie (Paul’s wife) and the girls, but I dont get any of that when I am on her. She is a cross country machine, and if I was qualified, I would take her round a four star in the spring; but as it is, we will aim for Badminton 2017,” Paul concludes. Robert Cudmore, Hannah Goode, Paul Tapner, Joanna Mason, Linda Davies, Allister Hood, Charlotte Gibbens, Lynn Harvey, Lizzie Harris, Claire Balding _ Paul tapner's award ROR (II).jpg(Pictured at the awards: Robert Cudmore, Hannah Goode, Paul Tapner, Joanna Mason, Linda Davies, Allister Hood, Charlotte Gibbens, Lynn Harvey, Lizzie Harris & Claire Balding).

New video – when to use a curved girth

Here, David Kempsell, designer of the WOW Saddle, explains why you should check that a curved girth is suitable for the horse before using one.