LIZ Kidman has swapped text books and white boards for feed sacks and fork lifts.

Six years ago, the former geography teacher took over a popular animal feed shop and has not looked back. “I love it - our customers are fantastic. We get an amazing, eclectic set of people who are very different but have one thing in common - they love their animals.”

Liz enjoys the busy comings and goings of people and their pets. “People bring them in. Dogs get a little sausage when they walk up - some won’t go past the end of the lane because they know about the sausage,” she laughs. “I tend to know people by their dogs.”

For many years Liz taught geography at Queensbury Academy, where she became head of department.

She later worked for Playing for Success, a Government-funded scheme which by held out-of-school-hours study support centres at football clubs and other sports grounds. It aimed to raise literacy, numeracy and information technology standards among pupils aged between seven and 14, who might struggle at school.

“We had a classroom at Keighley Cougars - it was very rewarding.”

After being made redundant she returned to the classroom, retiring at 55.

A neighbour suggested she take on a part-time job, so she joined Wilsden Animal Feeds. Based in the old stable block of a long-gone manor house, the shop specialises in horse feed but also caters for farm animals such as pigs and sheep, and domestic pets - dogs, cats and other creatures. It also sells food for wild birds.

“I originally came for one day each week, then took on the horse food side, and then, when the shop became available I took it on. We are in the ideal place, surrounded by horse country.”

The patchwork of fields stretching around and beyond the village of Wilsden, is an equine wonderland, home to countless stables and paddocks.

The shop provides feed to local racing stables including Tjade Collier. “We know them very well, and we also supply Barton’s show jumpers.”

They sell around 50 different types of horse food for old, young, barefoot - unshod - competition horses, and many more.

Liz and her team are clued-up on the nutritional aspects of different foods. “I have learned a lot since starting here,” she says. “Horse feed companies such as TopSpec and Dengie have helplines you can ring.

“I always say to people ‘start with the basics and see if that works - you can spend hundreds of pounds on horse feed. We talk about individual horses - a big, fat, hairy cob does not need as much as a thoroughbred. It depends upon how much work a horse does. I recommend linseed as good for the coat over winter.”.

She praises her “lovely, hard-working staff”. There’s Stuart, who drives the delivery van accompanied by his Jack Russell terrier Magpie who goes everywhere with him; there’s Jane, Lyn, Joe, and Saturday staff Erin and Immy.

“Erin came to buy a saxophone from me, and paid for it by working for me - and carried on.”

The shop is divided into sections - horses, farm animals, dog food, wild birds, the cat corner and small animal corner.

They are regularly asked about keeping chickens. “Quite a few people took on chickens during lockdown. Stuart keeps chickens on his allotment so he knows a lot about them. I have had people ring and ask for Stuart, to talkt about chickens.”

The staff buy large sacks of bird food and bag it up. “It is cheaper to buy it by the ton and bag it. “We also put it into four-pint milk pots - people find them easy to use when filling up bird feeders. Jane’s mum collects them, washes them out and dries them for us.”

Wilsden Autos , a business located where the Manor House used to sit, is the landlord of the business. “They are brilliant - they look after us,” says Liz. “If the van breaks down they sort it out.”

Customers like the friendly atmosphere and banter. “We have a lot of laughs. Customers come in and we have a chat. We have customers who have self-isolated and pay over the phone, then we deliver.”

The shop became increasingly busy during the first lockdown. “Supermarkets ran out of dog food and we picked up a lot of trade,” says Liz.

Pip the shop’s cat is usually to be seen sleeping in a pile of hay or a sack of feed. “Children come in looking for her.”

Liz is used to dealing with budgets. “I had a large budget when I was working at Playing With Success so I am used to that,” she says.

At 63, Liz does not intend to retire but when she does she knows the business will be healthy. “It will be a viable business for someone in the future,” she says.

As you would expect of an old stable block, with double doors open to the elements, it gets perishingly cold in winter. “We have to wrap up warm,” says Liz. “I’ve got four layers on today. Heated gilets are the new thing - they come with their own power pack.”

*Wilsden Animal Feeds, The Old Stables, Main Street, Wilsden BD15 OHY Tel: 01535 274431;