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Ask the equine expert: Dawn Cameron of Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa near Bath

By Ina Yulo Stuve on 20th September 2020

A true jewel in the Wiltshire countryside, Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa has been a refuge for guests looking for a quieter, slower-paced life for over 300 years. A member of both Relais and Chateaux and Pride of Britain, Lucknam Park delivers the very best in dining, relaxation, and luxury country living upon its 500-acre private hotel, spa, and estate.

One of the standout features of the estate is their Equestrian Centre, managed by British Horse Society instructor, horse breeder and all-round expert Dawn Cameron. Lucknam Park has 35 horses of all sizes, skills, and temperaments, so that beginners and advanced riders alike can find a partner to take out for a hack or show jumping lesson.

“Whilst being very good for you both mentally and physically, horse riding offers a form of escapism from the stresses and worries of day-to-day life,” says Cameron.

LLM – Luxury Lifestyle Magazine writer Ina Yulo Stuve speaks with Cameron about her passion for horses and how the Lucknam Park Equestrian Centre is helping guests to experience that magical connection for themselves.

Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa is a luxury rural retreat in the Wiltshire countryside

In your opinion, what are some of the most common mistakes horse riders and owners make when it comes to dealing with difficult behaviour? 

Usually difficult behaviour comes from owners misunderstanding what drives their horse and what its nature is. Often difficult behaviour comes from an unconfident horse being handled by an inexperienced or unconfident rider. We often see people buying the wrong horse for the ability of the rider with the rider not having the skill set for the age or level of the horse. It is really important to seek experienced, qualified help when buying a horse.

What were some of your favourite parts of being a riding instructor? 

I really enjoy meeting new people, sharing my knowledge and love of horses with them, and learning new things from other people. I love that I am always learning and no day is the same.

Some people have a fear of horses or horse riding due to past experiences. How do you deal with individuals who have these traumas and help them in overcoming them? 

We never put people under pressure and offer them a unique one-to-one experience to suit their desires and expectations. We go at the rider’s pace and find out about their past experiences and personality traits to match them to a suitable, confidence-giving horse and instructor. Usually an instructional ride works best as the wonderful surroundings of the parkland puts everyone at ease -rider, instructor and horses – along with a fabulous backdrop, good conversation and instruction.

Equine Connect is a form of holistic equine therapy which empowers the nervous, fearful, anxious person and enables them to confidently communicate with the horse by observing their body language and using the herd instincts.

Dawn believes that horse riding offers a form of escapism from the stresses and worries of day-to-day life

Lucknam Park is truly an outstanding British retreat. What are the key reasons it has been able to uphold its high quality of service and redefine the idea of luxury for so many years? 

Lucknam Park combines luxury with quintessential English country living yet is a home from home for many, as they drive down the mile-long avenue bordered with enormous lime trees, the Georgian country home comes in to view and all your worries instantly fade away.

You talk about running the Lucknam Park Equestrian Centre like it was your own business. What were some of the mistakes you made in the 20 years you’ve been there that have shaped your management philosophy? 

Maybe not mistakes but trial and error and doing things for the right reasons, listening to people and what they need. We have the most glorious setting; the horses are happy because they live as naturally as possible, with the best forage/feed and live outside most of the time in their own herds. They are very happy and content and this shows in how they work when ridden.

I have a small staff who are all like-minded in that they love their job, the horses, and sharing their passion. We work very much as a team sharing the responsibilities, decisions and the dirty work involved in the running of the Equestrian Centre. I think you should be kind and treat everyone as you would wish to be treated, be inclusive to all, and most of all, provide a place where everyone is welcome.

Guesta are offered a unique one-to-one experience to suit their desires and expectations

Who is the typical guest at the Equestrian Centre? What sorts of offerings do you have for beginner riders to those who are more advanced? 

We have visitors from all walks of life; some just visit to talk to us and the horses in the yard and come to see us whenever they visit for a catch-up or to see the latest foal. We have regular guests that come to stay in the hotel because they enjoy the riding so much and some who come to take part in the show jumping clinics we run in April and October. Many people come to escape city life for long weekends, some to celebrate special birthdays with several generations of their families, some just to get away from work for a complete chill-out as they can totally relax in the hotel and surroundings, never having to go out of the grounds.

You have a fabulous group of horses at the centre to cater for all types of riders. Could you tell me about a few of your favourite equine residents and what makes each so special? 

We are very lucky to have known some wonderful characters over the years. My favourite horse is Patch who was recently retired at 24 years, off to a quiet, gentle hacking home to be pampered in his old age. Patch was four years old when he first arrived, and his cheeky character never faltered. He was ridden by beginners to more experienced riders and always had a smile on his face. He would greet everyone on the yard with a whicker and a scratch of his little Poirot moustache. We are very glad he is enjoying his well-earned retirement.

We have so many lovely horses here ranging from Smokey, who has taught so many tiny children to ride, to Mr. Dependable DJ, through to Blue and Solitaire, our home-grown talents that many guests have enjoyed seeing grow up from foals.

The horses are happy because they live as naturally as possible, with the best forage/feed and live outside most of the time in their own herds

Could you explain what the Equine Connect programme at Lucknam Park is and what the experience entails for participants? 

Equine Connect is an exciting new experience to view a horse in its natural state whilst observing the dynamics between horse and human. You ‘connect’ with your horse through observing their body language and using the herd instincts. This form of holistic Equine therapy has proven to alleviate stress, anxiety and many other conditions through communicating with the horse. It is used for establishing leadership skills based on mutual respect, trust, openness and understanding as well as improving general wellbeing. These are approximately two- hour groundwork sessions; a minimum of two people observing and participating.

What do you believe are some of the main benefits of horse riding in a post-lockdown world? 

Horse riding post lockdown will give people the opportunity to experience nature in safe surroundings. Whilst being very good for you both mentally and physically, horse riding offers a form of escapism from the stresses and worries of day-to-day life.

Factbox

Address: Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa, Colerne, Thickwood, Chippenham SN14 8AZ
Phone: 01225 742777
Website: lucknampark.co.uk

All images used in this article credit: Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa