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Sweet scent of success
F or most people, a full-time day job is enough and often more than enough. But entrepreneur Karen Bourdon is far from being most people'.
Her day job' is selling TV coverage of world-class sporting events such as darts, snooker and golf, for promoter Barry Hearn. She also runs several other compan ies dealing with complementary therapies and natural products for animals.
"E-mail has made life easier and cut down travel," Karen said. "But we attend global events like Sportel, the rallying point for the heads of sport for the world's TV stations. That involves meetings every half an hour for three days and a packed hospitality schedule on top. It is quite tiring!' One advantage for Karen is that she works, literally, in her own backyard, albeit a very upmarket one. Horsehays Farm, a swift canter from Middle Barton, looks as delightful as it sounds - 50 acres of flora and fauna in rolling pastures where no artificial fertilisers have been used for more than 30 years.
Grassland, water features and woodland areas are natural homes to muntjac deer, badgers, foxes and a variety of pond life such as ducks, frogs and newts. Bat, bird and owl boxes are placed around the farm to encourage conservation.
Domestic animals are much in evidence - horses, goats and sheep co-exist peaceably with dogs, cats, tortoises and even parrots.
Trained in human aromatherapy and essential oil therapy for animals, Karen was convinced of the benefits of natural treatments and, eight years ago, established her business group.
Integrate is part of continuing professional development for vets and runs the only western herbal medicine course in the world. The herbal medicine training is modular over 18 months. Physical therapy and nutritional therapy courses are on offer too, with a new acupuncture course added for this year.
"There is no doubt interest in natural treatments is growing among vets," said Karen. "But I have to say that the profession in general is still firmly attached to the traditional approaches.
"We find sometimes that the younger vets are keen to add these skills to their repertoire, then come up against the practice manager who is dead against it. It is a process of gradual education to change perceptions."
The Guild of Essential Oil Therapists for Animals is the self-regulating governing body in this sphere. Karen and her staff provide help and advice to members, a quarterly newsletter, an annual congress at Horsehay Farm, and an outside committee helps with governance.
Healthy Beast is a company with a number of strings to its bow. It runs a diploma course in essential oil therapy for animals, one weekend module per month for ten months. Full accreditation with a recognised college is almost complete.
The course teaches the use of essential oils in treating many common animal problems such as allergies, muscular strains and stress.
Vet Nigel Dodman lectures on a number of modules, passing on his wide knowledge and experience of the complementary treatments available at his own practice.
Karen and a colleague teach kinesiology, the interrelationship between muscles and the nerves and other vital body organs.
Muscle-testing can reveal information about the physical and mental aspects of the animal.
The company also offers one-day courses in essential oil therapy and natural nutrition for horses, dogs and cats.
New to Healthy Beast is a whole range of natural and eco-friendly products for animals. Solid shampoo bars, first-aid kits, tendon and wound gels all form part of the collection.
The shampoo bars contain natural colours and oils, the latter chosen to suit the personality of the beast. Thus Sexy Beast is for the stallion that needs a bit of calming and Woeful Beast for the animal down in the dumps. The range can be purchased online at www.healthybeast.com or at selected petshops.
When I asked if the new range had been developed by a third party, Karen shook her head.
"No, it was important for us to do it all in-house and make sure it was just as we wanted it. It's taken a bit longer, but it's been worth it."
That comment typifies Karen's unequivocal approach to excellence and her attention to detail.
A core element of Healthy Beast is the Equine Therapy Centre. The centre provides complementary treatments to horses with physical or mental problems - often quite severe or difficult cases - or a bit of R&R plus TLC for a racing or competition horse.
"Gradually, I am persuading owners not to keep a horse in training all season, but to bring it here for a rest," said Karen. "Often, even a healthy animal will have small sprains or cuts which we treat at the same time.
"Our stables are some of the best in the country. An injured horse will start off with box-rest. In stage two, we open the door to an outside corral which allows the animal fresh air, a good view and the chance to socialise with other horses. The corral is big enough for exercise but too small to let a horse build up speed and hurt itself again.
"Our vet monitors progress and we use essential oils that are inhaled or licked, not applied topically. Stage three is a build-up programme of exercises."
Karen's HQ is a purpose-built centre, just three years old. The first floor comprises the offices plus a huge training and convention room. The ground floor is home to production of the Healthy Beast range and Equine Therapy.
These are some of the most posh stables I have ever seen, complete with polished brass finials topping the metal uprights and rubber flooring in boxes and corrals. Two very bright-eyed horses occupy adjoining suites, not only chatting to each other over the fence, but playing volleyball with an orange rubber sphere with a handle.
Karen demonstrated how a horse will naturally inhale the oils, which takes the constituents directly to the brain.
Outside, there is a manege for exercise, an electric horse walker and even a custom-made ramp to allow an injured horse to exit the horsebox at gentle angles.
Karen has always been interested in horses.
"Since I was five or six. I used to ride out with the Household Cavalry at crack of dawn and I did have an amateur flat racing licence for a while. I only rode in one race though!' With the help of a gem' of a nanny, she spends quality time with her family, but admits to working seven-days-a-week.
What's next for this energetic and irrepressible lady?
Karen Bourdon can be contacted on 01869 349955 or visit the website: www.healthybeast.com