It is February in 2023 and I find myself in the grip of a frenzy of sorting and editing many things in my home and my life!
As our dear Teressa (fellow director and manager of the sales side of BALANCE) will testify, I am, by nature a hoarder. She, by contrast is not, and would happily order a skip and have a high old time filling it up with everything that had been gathering dust for a couple of years.
In fact, in 2020, when I took the decision not to renew the lease on the large office building that had been BALANCE's base for 15 years, we had to get a very large skip! We had made full use of the 7 offices and a large stock room, and to be honest…. there was not a lot of spare space in any of them!
After Carol's death in 2018, it made no sense to be paying the rent, insurance and heating costs for such a large space, although we did love it. Keren had, by then, also relocated to Liverpool and was doing her work at the Technical Support office, remotely.
We did consider a smaller building at Westcott Venture Park, that could have worked, but the Management Company who run WVP wanted almost the same amount of rent for a space less than half of the size of our building. So… I took a leap of faith and decided that something better would turn up and advised the Park that we would be moving out by the end of June.
The right decision at the right time.
As it happened and as things unfolded in 2020, I felt like someone had been watching over us and guiding me to make the right decision about the office. We all know what happened in early 2020! Everything stopped and we got confined to our homes for many weeks, but it made it possible for Teressa and I to go to the office at separate times, to start the sorting process and find a safe storage facility.
With all of the Covid restrictions around the world and little to no opportunity for most people to ride, let alone have saddle consultations, there were no saddle or pad sales for many months, so had I signed a new 5 year lease on another office at the Park, I doubt that BALANCE would have survived!
However, by the time we got to June in 2020, we had sorted through everything and were able to empty the considerable contents of the building. Either to relocate, give away to those who could make good use of certain things, or to go into the enormous walk-in skip. The only thing that stopped me from trying to keep more things ‘that might come in useful one day’, was the fact that the skip company recycles almost everything.
Teressa does love a skip and a bonfire 😄
It was at this stage that I had to keep an eagle eye on Teressa! She loves a skip and loves a bonfire! I reckon if I had handed the whole job over to her, she would have done an amazing job, but would have needed two huge skips. To be fair, she was very patient and tolerant of my reluctance to let go of a lot of boxes of historical and archived paperwork and only rolled her eyes a few times.
Having saved/rescued these boxes it led to my having to find space in my home to store them, and this brings me back to where I started this ‘story’, and my current impulse to look at it all and maybe even edit it again, to further reduce the volume of space it is taking up.
Re-living the past.
I have to say it is amazing to look at articles that I wrote 30 years ago. Magazines containing articles written by us, or about us in the early days of BALANCE starting its life.
I dug out one that was written by BALANCE co-founder Maureen Bartlett for the Equestrian Trade News magazine in 1994. This was/is the official magazine for horse related businesses in the UK, and so has a far reach within the industry.
Many tack shops, saddle manufacturers and saddle sellers were very bothered by BALANCE at the time, and all sorts of nonsense was being said about what we were doing. Maureen wanted to clear a few things up by writing an article from the proverbial ‘horse’s mouth’. Did it work? Maybe it calmed things a little, but certain individuals and certain organisations that had the most influence within the industry, continued to be obstructive and critical of what BALANCE and its founders were doing, for many more years.
Any acknowledgement that we were doing something with any merit was given very quietly and grudgingly. It wasn’t until 2017 that it was acknowledged officially.
Still standing, by some kind of miracle!
However, here we are in 2023 and heading towards the 30th anniversary of the formation of the BALANCE organisation. Still, till helping people helping horses… one horse (and rider) at a time, and providing education about the BALANCE method of creating a form of Functional Saddling.
I hope you can read the article I have added as an image, but if you can't here is a link to where it is stored on our website as a PDF download. Maureen's article pdf
In the article, Maureen explains that BALANCE was/is a "networking organisation, dedicated to promoting and encouraging owners, riders and trainers to take a more 'whole-istic' approach to the horse". She goes on to clarify that BALANCE "did not 'rush into the saddling subject" and that our research into the impact of saddles on ridden horses had started some 3 years before BALANCE had been formed.
Of course, the work with saddles did dominate our lives and became what BALANCE was/is best known for, but we always maintained that whole-istic approach, by helping horse owners to look beyond the saddle for ways to make the lives of ridden horses more comfortable, healthier and happier, with the resulting improvement in performance. In 2023, I find myself talking more and more again about the impact of the way the horse is ridden; the way its feet are managed, the way it is fed and the level of access it has to a natural lifestyle.
All of these aspects can have a supportive impact or a destructive one. All are equally important for horse owners to understand. So, the reasons that BALANCE originally started are part of our past, but also a reason for this work to continue into the future.
Meantime, I had better see what other ‘treasures’ I can dig out of my boxes.
All the best