1. How did you come to think about getting into the world of horses and horsemanship? What drew you to the Marchador? I’ve always admired horses, but it wasn’t until I met Dr Adrienne Scheck at a scientific conference in London in 2014 that I got properly introduced to them and to the world of the Marchadors. Adrienne and I hit it off straight away as we shared the same passion for our work and we talked regularly thereafter via Skype. Adrienne had the same passion for the Marchadors as she does for her science and our conversations were very much about both subjects every time we spoke which was pretty much every week. I finally got to see them in the flesh a year later when I was invited by Adrienne to give a talk at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. I had never been to Phoenix before and all I could think about was wanting to see the Marchadors and in particular her baby, Gaia do Summerwind. Gaia was absolutely stunning and her other horses Ruger and Dixie were so sweet. I was thrilled to meet Lynn and John Kelley on my visit as I had heard so much about them from Adrienne. They were both so welcoming and showed me their herd of beautiful Marchadors. I instantly fell in love with Hawke do Summerwind, he was so gentle and I felt so calm around him. I was hooked at that moment and I hoped that some day I would be lucky enough to have a Marchador of my own.
2. Describe the journey so far. Have there been any surprises along the way? My journey of owning a Marchador began at another conference meeting with Adrienne in Philadelphia back in Nov 2016. She explained that she would breed Gaia when she was a little older and I just joked saying “wouldn’t it be great if I could have Gaia’s first baby”. I made this remark as I had just moved from living in London to the country side where horses are a common sight. After much apprehension mainly due to my very limited knowledge of horses this remark became a reality when Gaia was bred in 2018. (to Fole de Maripa using imported frozen semen from Agro Maripa) I had visited Phoenix a few more times before this decision and even rode a few of Lynn and John’s horses. They shared their passion for this breed and I knew this was the right decision for me, and I was excited about being part of the Marchador community.
3. What was the most enjoyable or funniest part so far?
The whole experience has been enjoyable but the most memorable was when I switched on the cameras at 4am UK time on the morning of March 27th and saw Nola do Summerwind laying on the floor next to her mother being admired by Adrienne, Lynn and DJ. I had been watching all night in the hope of seeing her being born and turned the cameras off only for an instant to grab a quick nap. Even though I was so far away, I felt I was a part of the whole experience. I could see Adrienne adjusting the cameras so that I could get the best view possible of this adorable new bundle. The funniest part was when I saw Nola running off with Adrienne’s hat during an early training session which she had just pinched off her head. I knew then that Nola has a great sense of humour.
4. Have you learned anything new? What have you learned about yourself and horses along the way?
Everything I’ve learned about horses so far has been new and I’m learning something new almost everyday. They are such amazing and intelligent animals that can be both gentle and powerful at the same time. I feel really calm around them and they bring out the best in me and I know that if trained well they can be your best companion. I’m really looking forward to having that connection with Nola.
5. Tell us about your foal and the experience of meeting her.
Meeting Nola for the first time was the most exciting and the most daunting experience at the same time. I felt incredibly proud that I owned such a magnificent animal but also so worried that I would not do her justice as an owner. However, those negative feelings were soon replaced by overwhelming feelings of wanting to do my best for her. Just thinking about her puts a smile on my face and I can’t help talking about her to everyone I meet. Luckily for me, I live in a horse community and they are only too happy to hear me going on about how amazing Nola is. They are all intrigued about the Marchador breed, which they had never heard of before and really looking forward to meeting Nola.
6. Please give us something about yourself and your life – professional or family – whatever you wish to share.
I live in the UK, in the country surrounded by beautiful green fields and very near to the coast in Suffolk with my partner Mark Curtis. We have 3 beautiful dogs: Simba the Alaskan Malamute, Sasha the German Shepherd and Zeus, the Shitzu. We also have 3 alpacas, Dylan, Hugo and Oscar who we rescued two years ago. Since we imported Nola, we have added 2 additional companion horses as well.
Growing up in Scotland I always wanted to be a vet and live on a farm with lots of animals or be an athIete. I loved sports at school, particularly atheletics and looked forward to sports day in the summer. I grew up with dogs, cats, chickens, goats, rabbits and guinea pigs and even had a few geese and peacocks to add to the mix. I loved looking after them and spending time with them and I would often take my pet goat Herbie for a walk in the local park, much to the amusement of passers by. My ideas of becoming a vet or athlete were soon overturned when I heard a talk in my final year at school given by a scientist about a type of cancer called Burkitt’s lymphoma. That talk really inspired me and set me on the path that I am on today, a cancer scientist. A path that has also led me to meet Adrienne and the world of the Summerwind Marchadors. I currently head a brain tumour laboratory at Imperial College London where I am trying to find new treatments for brain tumour patients.
More About Nel Syed PhD: As a cancer research scientist at Imperial College London I am the lead investigator of a brain tumour laboratory. My lab consists of post- doctoral scientists, PhD students, technical staff and a lab manager. We liaise closely with the clinical team which includes neuropathologists, neurosurgeons and neuro-oncologists. Together we make up the centre of excellence in brain tumour research at Imperial College London.
The research focus of my lab is to identify novel therapies for the most aggressive type of brain tumour in adults – glioblastoma. This is a grade 4 primary brain tumour for which there is currently no cure and no effective treatment options. Upon diagnosis patients typically survive no longer than 12-15 months with current standard of care which includes maximal surgical resection and chemotherapy. My lab is interrogating the altered metabolism of this tumour to find its Achilles heel using a variety of molecular techniques. My research is primarily funded by the Brain Tumour Research Campaign (BTRC) and Brain Tumour Research (BTR).