Behind the scenes at LG Sport Horses in Mottram St Andrew
PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:46 02 May 2017
A passion for horses and a human romance is behind the success of a Mottram St Andrew equestrian business, writes Mairead Mahon
LG Sport Horses, in Mottram St Andrew, is a state of the art equestrian stud facility with a national reputation for producing, training and developing young performance horses. It includes a dressage and show jumping arena and is owned and run by a married couple, Mike Battersby and Rebecca Fallows-Battersby. However, if it hadn’t been for Mike’s decision to pop into a café for a coffee and a quick browse through a horse magazine,it might never have existed.
‘Rebecca spotted me and, as she’s a horse fanatic, introduced herself and asked what I was browsing for. I told her that I was looking for a horse but couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. She suggested going along to her mother’s yard where I fell in love: first with a horse and then, very deeply, with Rebecca,’ smiles Mike.
That led to the pair, who both have farming and equestrian backgrounds, deciding to open their own top class facility: a dream which led to them standing, one cold and wet day 17 years ago, in sixty-five acres of land, in which the only structure was a dilapidated cowshed.
‘It was daunting but, you know, we’re both Cheshire people and Cheshire is known for its concentrated level of equestrian events, so we never considered basing ourselves anywhere else. The land itself was good - a high concentration of sand meant it drained well - and it was tranquil: an essential requirement for any equestrian facility, especially one involved in breeding. So we took a deep breath, girded our loins and took the plunge,’ explains Rebecca.
Today, that cowshed has been converted into a stunning home, full of light and with far reaching views across the countryside.
‘Yes, it is fantastic and we really appreciate it especially, as it was the very last thing to be built. For years, we lived in a log cabin relying on flannel sheets and a single log burner to keep ourselves warm. The horses were the priority and their facilities came first,’ says Rebecca.
And not just any old facilities either! The horseboxes have mood lighting and air conditioning and the stables, complete with golden finials and ceramic heaters, are made by the same firm who build stables for The Queen. Heat lamps and massages are the order of the day and premium quality haylage is produced in house. It’s no surprise then that LG Sport Horses holds the prestigious Best Equine Establishment in Cheshire Cup 2016: a competition which it has entered three times and won twice. It’s a pretty through judging though: the whole establishment is carefully inspected.
‘One of the judges even checked that our hanging baskets had been watered properly,’ smile Rebecca.
So, just what goes on in this top class facility?
‘Well, we have fantastic world class stud horses for our own breeding programme and for clients who want to use our stallions. Mares come here from all over the country but first, we do have a detailed and extensive chat with owners and that’s where our expertise comes in. We want to find out what an owner is trying to improve in the next generation: for example, if a mare moves plainly on the flat, an owner might be hoping to inject a little more flamboyance. If one of our stallions isn’t the best match, we think about using another. Honestly, we take much more time and care with matches than many a dating agency! Once impregnated, we keep mares here for four weeks until a live heartbeat has been detected before sending them home,’ explains Mike.
One of their most famous studs is Denver LG, who not only has his own Facebook page, he also has two and a half thousand followers.His foals are already on the horse world radar and include Axel Rose, the highest placed British Dressage Foal. This gorgeous bright bay stallion has been given approved status by the important Anglo European Stud Book, who described him as having ‘extraordinary presence’, something with which Mike wholeheartedly agrees.
‘We love all our horses here at LG Sport Horses but I have an especially close bond with Denver. I sing to him each morning and, despite what Rebecca or our staff think, I know he really looks forward to it,’ says Mike who also competes with Denver at dressage events.
Footloose LG - his everyday name is Jack - is another stallion which has a great reputation. His sire is the world famous Numero Uno and he currently competes in British Show Jumping under Chris Smith. He isn’t quite so keen on Mike singing to him; although he hasn’t yet used his remarkable length of stride to remove himself from the dulcet tones.
High quality horses from their own breeding programme are available for sale but Mike also travels the world in order to find horses for clients.
He said: ‘I’m really proud that clients trust me to do this bespoke scouting service and I love it. I know what breeders around the world have before it becomes generally known and if it meets expectations in looks and temperament, then I make sure it is 100% clinically correct. Mind you, I’m also an expert now in making sure that our agreements protect clients who do buy a horse from abroad: even when you fall in love, you have to keep your head,’ says Mike.
Mike and Rebecca’s love story with each other and with horses, has been a triumph and they sealed it in 2013 by getting married in front of their home, with Denver as special guest of honour. Now, they have a little girl and luckily she takes after her parents and loves horses too: it’s definitely a case of it all being in the blood!