Tag Archive: charity

  1. Horse rescue: rehoming horses and ponies

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    Following a move to a new home in the country a few years ago, I began scouring websites for ponies for my two daughters. But with price tags that made my eyes water, I started to wonder whether taking on a couple of rescue cases wasn’t the answer. We could offer space, knowledge and plenty of love.

    A work colleague recommended World Horse Welfare, which had a base not far from my home, and after filling in my requirements online and talking to a member of staff a couple of times, we found ourselves nervously driving towards Glenda Spooner Farm.

    I say nervously because my journalistic career had taken me towards London and away from horses for almost 20 years. Making a commitment to rehome a pony was a big, life-changing decision for my entire family.

    We were shown two ponies on arrival. The first seemed lively and not suitable for my inexperienced seven-year-old daughter. Then we viewed Dill, an attractive five-year-old grey who had been a part of a large consignment of neglected ponies rescued by World Horse Welfare, all of whom were named after herbs. Dill was the first one ready for rehoming. Some of the others were so traumatised the staff doubted whether they would ever be able to leave Glenda Spooner Farm.

    Dill made my heart miss a beat. You could say that it was love at first sight — for me rather than my daughter. He had endured quite a journey to reach the point where he would accept a saddle placed gently on his back and a snaffle bit in his mouth — one of the requirements for borrowers is to tack up your prospective pony in front of centre staff.

    Dill had initially been so nervous that it had taken the caring staff at Glenda Spooner Farm months to even get within yards of him, and yet more months to break him in. When my daughter, Chloe, tried him, she was used to a lazy riding school pony and one almighty kick launched him into canter. Thankfully he was on the leading rein with a member of WHW staff holding tightly onto the other end.

    Fast forward six years and we still have Dill. He has proved himself a typical Welsh Section A —bright, cheeky, wilful and loving. He never fails to neigh when we appear in the field. Chloe, now 13, loves him and she is the boss in their relationship.

    But it hasn’t always been this way. In the early days, she found herself on the floor quite frequently. He was sharp, with a buck to match. But he was worth persevering with. Together, they attended Pony Club mini camp twice, the second time finishing sixth out of the entire camp in the dressage. The prize-giving was an emotional moment for me. For a pony who had once probably been starved, possibly beaten and definitely treated with callous disregard before being rescued by WHW, it was a magical moment.

    Now Chloe has almost outgrown Dill. When we go hacking, her legs hang down beyond his belly, where once they were barely touched the bottom of the saddle flaps. When we steel ourselves to return him to WHW — as we will surely have to one day, so that another child can have hours more fun with him — we will do so safe in the knowledge that he has a lifelong commitment from the charity to be in their care.

    Since Dill, we have rehomed two other ponies. The 20-plus-year-old Poppy, who came as a lead rein pony for my younger daughter Daisy, died of colic in 2010. Her replacement, the quirky black mare Bella, is now approaching her 20s.

    Both she and Dill have sweet itch, a skin irritation sparked by the humble midge which is not unlike human eczema. WHW’s thinking behind loaning us Bella was that, apart from knowing her rock-solid temperament was suitable for a rather nervous child, we already had experience of dealing with this debilitating condition. It means that, instead of buying one rug, we buy two (generally every two to three years), but we have saved some pennies this year by making our own fly spray with essential oils. It has worked a treat and the ponies are less itchy than they have ever been before.

    As a borrower, we receive regular, unannounced visits from our friendly, knowledgeable WHW field officer Phil Jones; we take out ChampionPlus membership, which gives us various benefits, including excellent insurance cover, and, should we ever need it, there would always be someone at the other end of the phone to advise us. It goes without saying that we look after the ponies to the best of our ability. They are shod regularly, their paddocks are poo picked every day and they are checked in their field twice a day. Taking on a horse or a pony, charity or otherwise, is a huge daily commitment.

    What you receive from WHW — and from other charities too, I’m sure, although I have no experience of rehoming from any organisation other than WHW — is a ‘warts and all’ description of the horse or pony you are rehoming. This is the element I liked the best. We knew what we were getting and there was no wool pulled over our eyes.

    So would I rehome another charity pony? You bet. It’s a rewarding experience and I love to think that three ponies have enjoyed all seasons in a scenic field in the shadow of the beautiful Alfred’s Tower — albeit with limited grazing to prevent their weight from ballooning.

    Charities like World Horse Welfare are creaking under the weight of the volumes of horses they have to rescue, so even if you can commit to just one horse or pony in your lifetime, you are creating space in a centre for one more deserving equine who might otherwise have faced an uncertain future — or maybe no future at all.

    Horse rescue: How to rehome a horse or a pony

    1. Contact the charity of your choice online or by phone — there are several, including Blue Cross, horses4homes, Redwings, the RSPCA. Check which is in your local area to cut down on transport costs

    2. Visit the charity and try the horse or pony

    3.If you feel it is a perfect match for you, the charity will usually arrange a home visit to check your facilities

    4. You will usually need to pay a rehoming fee

    • You may then have to arrange transport for your new horse

    • Depending on the charity, the horse may come on probation

    • Some horses will be signed over to you, others will belong to the charity for life and you will be subject to unannounced visits from field staff

    • Should the time come when you no longer require the horse or pony, contact the charity. Some will be able to ‘swap’ your outgrown child’s pony for a larger model, depending on availability.

  2. The Eventing Family to hold charity auction

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    Eventing has always enjoyed a reputation for its close-knit community and camaraderie between riders, owners and followers of the sport.

    That special bond will be underlined by a fund-raising event in Devon later this month, courtesy of The Eventing Family, which has been established to raise money for four charities associated with friends and families within the sport of eventing who are facing challenging times.

    The charities set to benefit from such an impressive initiative, which is set to raise thousands of pounds, are the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Cancer Research UK and Teenage Cancer Trust and Spinal Research, with The Eventing Family’s inaugural party, which includes a live auction and takes place at Bicton Arena on Saturday, August 22.

    The Eventing Family is the brainchild of eventer Aaron Miller, who was left seriously injured in May following a car crash. With the sport also rocked by other sad news — including four-star event rider Ben Hobday and 17-year-old Hannah Francis both battling cancer, and Bicton Arena manager Helen West’s mother suffering from motor neurone disease — friends rallied around Miller to support him and form a committee to create the fund-raising party.

    “The last few months have been very difficult, but it has helped to be involved in something so positive and to get such good feedback and support,” Miller said.

    “When something like this, which is out of your control, happens, it is good to make something worthwhile come from it. It was an idea which took shape and has now grown beyond my expectations.”

    Andrew Nicholson, William Fox-Pitt, Sam Twiston-Davies, Paul Nicholls, Phillip Hobbs, Sharon Hunt, Lucinda Green, Nick Scholfield, Lucy Wiegersma, plus Badminton and Burghley Horse Trials, are just a few of the names who have pledged prizes in support of the event. Other lots include a holiday in Salcombe, bespoke tack, designer cushions, training sessions and life membership of British Eventing.

    Twiston-Davies said: “I am delighted to be able to support such a worthwhile event by donating a morning on the gallops at Grange Hill Farm. The circumstances surrounding the evening are so sad, and supporting the nominated charities is just one very small way that we can help.”

    British Eventing technical advisor Andrew Fell has taken on the role as director of the committee, and is being helped by Sophie Richardson. They are spearheading the event, with additional help from West, Bicton Arena assistants Beccy Barrett and Gemma Cooke, Debbie and Alex Jackson, Miranda Collett and Lucy Johnson, along with many more.

    “We have been overwhelmed with the level of support we have received,” Richardson said. “Eventing is an incredible sport where everyone pulls together, and it’s fantastic that we are receiving a huge amount of support from the racing community as well. The common denominator in all this is the horse, which pulls us all together to raise money for four fantastic charities.”

    Tickets for the event have been priced at £70.16 — the price of a BE100 entry fee — and include a champagne reception, buffet dinner and live music from Joey The Lips, plus the chance to bid in the live auction. A second option to join the after-party is also available at £20 per head.

    ‘Slaves’ will be on sale during the evening and include West, Dani Evans, Tim Rogers and Coral Keen, who said: “It’s the least I can do to support The Eventing Family, although I am not quite sure how good a slave I will be!”

    More information, including how to buy tickets and take part in the online auction, is available on www.eventingfamily.com.

    One of the lots to be auctioned is a day with Andrew Nicholson. Image by Smudge 9000, CC-BY 2.0

  3. Ben Maher visits the Ebony Horse Club

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    The Ebony Horse Club is one of British equestrian sport’s great success stories.

    Based in Brixton’s Coldharbour — one of the most disadvantaged inner-city neighbourhoods in the country — it provides young people with the opportunity to gain new experiences and to benefit from the powerful, life-changing influence that contact with horses can bring.

    Through the support and experiences members have at Ebony, all are encouraged to exceed their own expectations, and many are inspired to go on to college, university or horse-related careers.

    So it was another red-letter day in the South London-based club’s history this week when London 2012 Olympic showjumping team gold medallist and Land Rover ambassador Ben Maher took time out from his London Global Champions Tour preparations to offer riding tuition and horse-care advice to some of the club’s younger members.

    “I remember starting riding on a Shetland pony called Dougal. I got the riding bug, and it started from there,” said former world number one Maher, who won gold at Greenwich Park three years ago alongside Scott Brash, Nick Skelton and Peter Charles.

    “Horses always bring you back down to earth — I am learning something new about them every day — and it is a nice way of life. I get to do the job I love to do, and I think they really enjoy their job too.

    “To have the Ebony stables is a fantastic idea, and it was a real privilege for me to visit. I met some wonderful young people, some of which have great riding skills and horsemanship. You can’t underestimate the effect that horses can have on people, and so for these kids to be able to regularly partake in this sport right in the heart of their inner-city community is brilliant.”

    Among the facilities at Ebony Horse Club are stabling, a floodlit manège, turn-out paddock and classroom facilities, all sandwiched between tower blocks and a railway line in the corner of a small park. By 2010, the club — a registered charity — had grown from five to 46 members, and that figure continues to rise.

    Susan Collins, Chair of Trustees at Ebony Horse Club, said: “One of our aims is to encourage involvement in sport, especially for teenagers, where the drop-off rate is the greatest — young people living in this area are most at risk from gang culture, drugs and other negative influences.

    “It is inspiration for them to have an athlete of Ben’s calibre to visit.

    “Within the three years that we have had our centre, 10 of our members have moved on in to further education, nine of them in equine studies. This is quite an achievement for kids growing up in Brixton.”

    As well as giving some riding lessons, Maher presented some much-needed new horse equipment to Ebony Horse Club, donated by Land Rover, including horse rugs and saddle pads for the 10 horses and ponies that are stabled in Brixton.

    The club relies entirely on donations, grant-giving trusts, foundations and corporate organisations, so for more information on how to donate visit www.ebonyhorseclub.org.uk

  4. Why it’s neighhhhh fun being small!

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    Pedro, a pint-sized Shetland pony, is one of the most popular character at the Ebony Horse Club in London. Most new members of this inner-city riding club have never seen a horse before and can be a little nervous but Pedro always makes them feel at ease – partly, it has to be said, due to his diminutive size.

    While his short legs are good news for his human friends, they are creating rather a problem for him – he can’t see over his stable door. “Although he spends a lot of the day outside, he is very inquisitive and likes to see what’s going on when he is in his stable,” says a spokesperson for the club.

    Last week club members came up with an ingenious solution. They designed a periscope enabling Petro to watch the action on the yard. The device, christened “the Pedroscope” was created by Stockport-based printing firm Print & Cut. “We’ve had some strange requests over the years but never anything like this. It’s the first we’ve ever heard of, let alone made for a pony, but we jumped at the chance to help,” says Andy Morris of Print & Cut.

    The periscope is a brilliant but temporary measure, according to the Ebony Club spokesperson. “It can be used when people are on the yard, but we need to find a permanent solution,” he says. “We have looked into several options, such as a smaller door, but have decided that the best thing is to purchase a miniature stable. Not only will this be great for Pedro but it will free up his stable for a larger horse to accommodate the increasing numbers of Brixton teenagers who ride with us.”

    • Anyone wishing to help can text PONY44 and an amount of £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070 (eg PONY44 £2) to 70070.


  5. Rescue horse: A happy ending for a neglected foal

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    Star, a small brown foal, made newspaper headlines after he was found suffering from deep wounds to his face and head and his owner was prosecuted for animal cruelty offences. He has now been found a new home thanks to World Horse Welfare and is our Rescue Horse of the Week.

    Star Full Front low resSadly Star will be left from some scarring and damage to his facial bones from the head collar that had been left on for so long that it had become deeply embedded into his face.  Swollen and encrusted with blood, poor Star had been suffering for weeks as the head collar tightened into his flesh and bone as he grew.

    After surgical removal of Star’s head collar and extensive rehabilitation at one of World Horse Welfare’s four Rescue and Rehoming Centres, Glenda Spooner Farm in Somerset, he is now a happy, healthy young horse who can lead a normal life.

    The World Horse Welfare field officer, Nick White, who was first called to Star’s aid alongside the RSPCA, describes Star’s condition back then as “the worst kind of neglect.” His owner, Pascale Musk, was charged under section four of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 with failure to adjust or remove the head collar which led to Star’s injuries. She received a three-year ban from owning or keeping horses.

    Once Star had undergone extensive rehabilitation with vets and World Horse Welfare’s expert team and was ready for his new home, applications came flooding in. He has now been successfully rehomed with 22-year-old Charlotte Shepherd.

    “I heard about this case in the local news and had followed it from the start. I just couldn’t believe anyone could do this to any animal, let alone a foal. I thought to myself, I can actually give this pony a home – I’ve got the means, the space and the land,” Charlotte says. “The story made my heart bleed so much – I just couldn’t help offering him a home.”


    Star Neck low res

    Charlotte had to wait until Star was well enough for rehoming, so checked in World Horse Welfare every Wednesday for five weeks. ” I was actually the first person to apply for him which was really nice because I know a lot of people would have wanted to take him in. It just so happened that he and I were well matched. If I go to the field to catch him, he comes to call. Considering what he went through, it’s amazing that he still has trust in humans. I think it just goes to show what a little TLC will do – he cannot get to the gate quick enough. When I look at him now, I just think that his treatment was so avoidable – he didn’t deserve to go through such pain. It makes me mad that someone could have allowed Star to go through so much trauma when he was so vulnerable.”

    Star Close Side low res

    Star is now fully settled into his new routine his adoring new owner. “He’s in his new little rug now and he thinks he’s the business! He’s so happy,” Charlotte explains. “You can tell because when I first met him he was nervous of me because I was a stranger. Now that he’s in his new home and we’ve spent time together he’s not fazed by anything and happily eats at the hay with my three other horses. He’s my little superstar.”

    It’s Star’s chance to shine this year as he’s the focus of the charity’s special Christmas appeal ‘Happy Ears’. The appeal encourages the public to give what they can to help the many horses who will need rescue and rehabilitation by the charity this winter. If you can help by rehoming a horse or pony please contact World Horse Welfare.

    Find out more about the appeal here