New award-winning riding, livery and therapy facility cements itself a place in the Cheshire equestrian elite
Newly opened in 2020, Higher Farm is the fastest growing equestrian centre in the North West and it’s right on our doorsteps, based here in Cheshire.
The vision of Laura Clarke and her family, Higher Farm, Byley, nr Middlewich, was previously a dairy farm and has now provided an excellent base on which to build their equestrian dream.
Laura explains, ‘the transformation from dairy farm to top-class equestrian facility began back in the summer of 2020. We started by addressing our grazing needs, installing 5 miles of fencing and re-seeding 60 of the 123 acres with an equestrian appropriate seed mix, then the remaining space was used to grow potatoes. Horses have different grazing requirements to cows, as they need lower sugar content in the grass, to protect from issues such as laminitis. Consequently, once this was addressed, we could take customers on our grass and track livery, and we were off.’
‘With the support of local groundworks business, ASHBROOK, we were able to install 3000m of track around the farm and repair a further 3500m. This has involved laying both recycled concrete sleepers, sand and hardcore tracking. The sand tracking has created excellent off-road hacking, including an hour loop along the river, and the space for fittening work. The hardcore and concrete areas allow us to move freely and more easily around the centre in the winter months.’
‘Whilst the field work was occurring, we were also busy installing our indoor and outdoor ménages, along with 47 purpose built livery stables, which were quickly joined by a hot wash area, solarium and horse walker.’
‘The 1st October 2020 saw us open our riding school, which has expanded quickly and currently provides over 90 group and private lessons, each week, to adults and children from a wide range of abilities.’
‘Summer 2021 has seen us open our equine rehabilitation and therapy unit, featuring state-of-the-art water treadmill and combi-floor duo. We welcome horses and ponies on a session or livery basis and have already had fabulous take up from individuals and vet practices from around the north west.’
Laura concludes, ‘after nearly 12months in business, which has included facing two national lockdowns, as well as the usual trials and tribulations that comes with starting a new business, we felt it was time to put our offering to the test and entered the Cheshire County Farms Competition in their equestrian category’.
The Cheshire County Farms Competition is one of the oldest established farming competitions held anywhere in the UK. The objective of this prestigious competition is to encourage pride and healthy competitiveness in all aspects of farming and associated businesses, thereby upholding the tradition of best practice.
To compete in the equestrian category the judges are looking for the business to clearly demonstrate, excellent, customer appropriate, management of the stables, associated facilities and land with a view to creating the greatest economic production available.
To ensure no unconscious bias, all judges come from outside the area and Higher Farm were pleased to welcome Christine Lockyer from Monmouthshire to the centre on the 7th July.
Christine had the pleasure of visiting the best equestrian facilities Cheshire has to offer and much to the joy of Laura, singled out Higher Farm as the winner.
Christine was particularly taken with the high specification of the work being undertaken and the vision for the future, which will see, not only the needs of equestrian customers delivered in abundance, but is also beginning to offer eco-therapy and support packages to children and adults in need.
Christine concludes, ‘this is an impressive set up and even though the facilities would suit a professional, there is a warm welcome to the pony club, young riders and their families. A very worthy winner’.