Lisa and Debs first became friends over the stable door, both sharing a passion for horses, and both with young families. During lockdown they chatted frequently, discussing how to cope with the worries, challenges and demands this brought to all aspects of their lives.
Not having so much freedom to be with the horses, managing young children, dealing with homeschooling and keeping family life ticking over during such a difficult and unprecedented situation with the pandemic. Being in Spain as they were during the lockdown was strict, movement was prohibited apart from essential food shopping trips which only one adult could go on. The children were confined to the house for two months – not allowed to even leave their home for a short walk.
Roadblocks with armed police were a regular sight and shopping lists or full shopping bags had to be shown to justify the reason for leaving the house. Visiting and riding their horses was prohibited (only the yard owner could go to feed and tend to the horses). So Lisa and Debs spent lots of time chatting on the phone about how the digital age was being forced upon many, online classrooms, grandparents having to learn to use video call and many being introduced to a home working environment.
For Lisa as an online marketing specialist, there was still some work, although it was affected. Debs, a BHS qualified riding Instructor, had no work at all because no one could visit their horses.
A few years ago after the birth of her daughter, Lisa had an idea – and this came back to her at this time. She’d had to have a caesarean, so after her daughter was born she could not return to riding her horse as quickly as she would have liked. She moved to a livery yard temporarily to help make things easier while she recovered and found her way as a mummy to a beautiful little girl. But new routines and sleepless nights made it challenging.
While there were experienced instructors on the yard, Lisa found it costly and difficult to organise times for lessons as she would often have to find a spontaneous moment to get down to the yard to begin building up her riding once more. She discovered some small snippets of inspiration with online videos, but by the time she got to the yard most of the information had left her head. Trying to watch a YouTube video while bringing a rather fresh section D mare back into work also proved a little challenging.
She often used her phone to listen to music while riding to help distract her from the fresh four legs underneath her. It was then that the idea came to her – what if you could listen to an audio guide from the saddle with some instructions and suggestions to help keep focused?
After the initial Spanish lockdown, restrictions on travel remained strict and many fellow riders missed their usual lessons with their instructor. This brought the idea to the surface once more.
Lisa had been having lessons with Debs and they found they shared the same sense of humour and the lessons were equally fun for both of them. So they began chatting about the possibility of combining their skills to bring Lisa’s idea to life. Lisa had the technical mind and Debs had a wealth of knowledge and information to share about horses, riding and confidence-building.
So the hard work began. Frequently they would share their childcare between them so that they could each in turn find quiet uninterrupted moments to work on the many challenges their exciting new project would bring. Such as Zoom meetings with developers while gently nudging children out of shot, apologising for high-pitched demands for help in the toilet during crucial moments, and trying to remain professional in front of the app builders… Occasionally all would be quiet – until they would notice a giggling child in the background hiding under a blanket or then there’d be a disagreement between children that suddenly got out of hand and came into full shot on an important video call.
Lisa had the mammoth job of organising all the technical requirements, building the website, working out the functionality and taking on the design, marketing and branding. Many very late nights and early mornings were spent while the children were in bed sitting at screens writing the transcripts for the numerous audios and designing all the images that were needed.
Finding times when the house was quiet for recordings was a huge challenge and some of the audios were actually recorded in the very middle of the night, the only time when the house was guaranteed to be quiet. But early mornings soon became ruined due to the local cockerel who frequently interrupted the recording process. His vocal outbursts usually began around 4am and all too often seemed to come right at the end of what until then had been a perfect recording.
While the project had its many challenges, the drive and determination to create an app to help riders across the world and bring much-needed inspiration to many saw them through. So Lisa and Debs persevered and they finally made it all come together – with the launch of new app Rider Guider in August this year.
Yet they had further moments when they organised a film crew to make a promotional video. One of the usually amiable horses decided that he did not like the cameraman near him or the drone camera – and put in a pretty impressive performance, much to the film crew’s surprise and amazement. Debs managed not to fall off and they put together some fabulous footage of the horses looking wonderful to explain and show off the new functionality of Rider Guider.
“It is important to have a clear goal of what you want to achieve before you put your foot in the stirrup,” says Debs. “Plans do not have to be totally set in stone and can be adapted according to how your horse and you are feeling on the day. But an idea or an outlined plan with an end goal in mind is essential.
“Riders need to take small steps to achieving what they want and the key thing is being motivated and putting in the practice. Everything is hard until it becomes easy and standing in the barn getting distracted or chatting is not going to do you any favours.
“So make a plan, enjoy the valuable time with your horse, put in the work and the results will follow. There is always time for a chat and cup of tea afterwards while your horse enjoys their hay!”
Lisa recalled how the app idea came about: “I would often start off with good intentions and then when I would get into the arena I would ride a few 20 metre circles – and then struggle to think of what to do next. I would be frustrated with myself for not making the most of the time with my horse.
“Rider Guider is great as you can personalise your playlist and listen to the audios on what you want to work on that day. With more than 40 to choose from across four categories and new ones coming every month, there’s something for everyone to get stuck into. Whether it’s warm-ups, groundwork, flat work or dressage, you can mix and match all the audios to create a perfect session for you and your horse whatever level you are working at.”
Rider Guider is free to download and available for both Apple and Android phones and tablets. You’ll have access to selected free audios and the others can be unlocked for an affordable subscription fee. Audios can also be downloaded within the app if you find that your arena is in an area with poor signal.
You can listen to the audios with earbuds, headphones or simply on your phone’s speakers. You can skip and pause tracks making it easy to work with as you ride. The app is designed for all levels of riders and can be used to brush up on existing skills, practise between sessions with your trainer or as a way of introducing something new into your work with your horse.
Debs and Lisa are delighted with the end result and have already received an overwhelming amount of testimonials from riders thanking them for bringing this to the market.
“The launch of the app has been better than we could have ever dreamed,” says Lisa. “Actually seeing it for the first time on my phone was surreal. We thought ‘we actually did it, we built this!’ Easy functionality and attractive layout all add to its appeal.
“This is unlike any other training program on the market and we have kept the subscription fees low to make it good value and something accessible to all riders. All contained in a handy app you don’t have to worry about downloading or using tons of storage on your phone and as it is updated with new audios each month there is always something new to work on.
“Many of our users have used the audios time and time again – each time getting something new from it and working to perfect movements and groundwork patterns with their horses each time they use it. That it is already helping so many people who felt just like I did is a great one.”
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