Happy Easter dear readers, and may it be the last you have to spend alone. What good progress you are making to reduce the impact of the dreadful virus. Thanks to the onerous restrictions borne by our humans, things are looking up here at The Centre. We had two weeks of carefully controlled return to riding before the Easter holidays began, much enjoyed by all the participants and volunteers.
I have been back at work too. Some of my adult riders have been to see me, those who can mount by themselves have broken the long, long weeks of boredom for me and Babs. The last Friday of term was so windy (remember that?) I was substituted for the live ponies and had even more fun. O it feels great to be needed again.
Our fund raising committee is coming out of hibernation too. It held a very clever Zoom quiz in March, raising over £300. Next up is the May bank holiday walk from the stables here, around parts of the Brett valley. Only six miles long so anyone can join in, and instead of having to collect up sponsorship you just pay a fiver to participate on the day. All children and dogs go free. There will be CAKE.
When next I post my blog the summer term will have begun. Here’s to all our school age riders having a good time getting back into the way of doing what school children do. And here’s to all our adults being able to lead more enjoyable lives too. Keep safe and careful folks, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.......................
March 2021 (No 139)
Yeah! We have a plan for reopening. Its going to be slow and careful, but even before the Easter holidays there will be two weeks of riding for those clients that are able to attend with minimal help from the volunteers. Their Coaches will contact them to see how they feel about this.
Babs and I have to remain on the back burner as usual. So many of our riders need three other people to attend, and as its impossible for us to be outside we shall just have to wait for the warmer weather when we can have the door and windows open. Its great to look forward, isn’t it?
My blogs in the local press have generated a few donations to help feed the 10 equine workers who live here. Our grateful thanks go to you kind individuals, you know who you are. Especial thanks to Hadleigh Town Council that has sent us a donation of
The town has long supported us, supplied us with volunteers and sometimes sends its disabled residents here to find strength and recovery. We love being a part of this community and look forward to the time when the Hadleigh Show restarts and we can participate in it, and other town events.
February 2021 (No 138)
Here we are again, still closed and twiddling our ‘hooves’. We watch the daylight increasing and the snowdrops bursting open and are reminded that after this very short month we shall be able to look forward to Spring.
When you’ve all had your vaccinations we should be able to get going again, we can’t wait! Obviously we shall have to observe some restrictions far into the year, but you know our management team, it will ensure everyone’s safety when we do open.
Our small team of volunteers continues to keep the horses and ponies fed, watered and groomed. We know how lucky we are, lots of our human friends have less going on in their lives than we do. At least the live herd can see and smell their friends, and if sharing a field they can even nibble each other. I don’t think much has changed for them except the work routine.
The maintenance team also continues with its work, doing a super job even in the cold and wet, we can’t thank the good members enough.
As you can imagine, there is a big body of super people laid off from the Shelley Centre at present, all of them no longer looking forward to their ‘day’ up here with us and their riders. Sadly, some will not be able to come back when we do reopen, anno dominie having caught up with them or family commitments having changed. So if you are thinking about doing a half day volunteering with us once we are out of lockdown, please get in touch! We always welcome new recruits.
Well, Babs and I work on electricity so we are not a problem but I hear there is a hay shortage this winter! So to all you horse owners out there: good luck with finding supplies, and here’s hoping the wet weather abates for our fields to recover. Horse ownership eh?
Good wishes to all our readers and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. ‘Bye!
January 2021 (No 137)
2021:- Bless my circuits, we made it........ all the horses and ponies, real and mechanical, wish you A MUCH HAPPIER NEW YEAR! What ever will it be like?
Talking of the Vet, I hear you readers are to get a new vaccination in 2021! We are all willing this to happen quickly so we can reopen. We’ll make up for lost time when restrictions ease but meanwhile the message is to wait for your instructor to call you about restarting, and to keep well! Good luck everybody.
December 2020 (No 136)
The Centre only worked until 4th November, then we closed again. It was such a blow, after we had begun to get a few riders back in the saddle, and had so many sensible precautions in place. However I can’t complain, many businesses and charities are far worse off than we are. Whilst a team of good friends keep the live herd fit and happy Babs and I remain in our dark and lonely room with the door firmly shut, where my electrics are switched off, and Babs’s mechanicals are secure.
We shall hope to meet again in the New Year!
October 2020 (No 135)
Better news from the yard this month: we do have some of our riders back in the saddle at last. It has taken a great deal of organisation. A new approach was needed.
Our volunteers take on the task of delivering uncontaminated boots and a hat (off the ‘green’ table) to each rider as he/she arrives, and the parent or carer helps get them dressed. After the ride has finished the carer or parent takes off the things that belong to us here, and places them on the ‘red’ table outside the stable block. That’s where a volunteer collects them for deep cleaning. Then between rides all the tack is disinfected and cleaned by other helpers. The number of rides we can give is severely reduced, obviously, but the volunteer army is still needed for all the cleaning and sanitising that is required. So a big thank you to everyone for making this possible, however trying it all is.
Am I back in work? No, not yet. I did show our royal visitor how I work, thanks to Mia being able to mount me unaided. She and I did a good job of our moment of fame, and I’m sure the Princess thought we were great. It would have been too crowded in my room to have had the photographer in as well; she took this lovely one of Mia and me later, just for the record.
The only other black equine on the yard besides me is my friend Squidgy. She is our hard working Shetland, also on furlough like me because her usual small riders need supporting whilst they begin their journey to strength here. Squidgy, aged 29, has a problem with her teeth. (Don’t we all!) She finds it impossible to chew grass. Her Mum, Lyn, gives her two delicious feeds a day so she still thrives, and she still keeps her sense of humour. As she needs to be alone with her feed bucket she gets the run of the stable yard during her meal times. She takes ages to eat so the humans go off and attend to other jobs whilst waiting for her to finish. But Squidgy has one eye on the yard whilst those old teeth eat, and she can spot an unfastened door a mile off. Last week, when Lyn came to take her back to the field, she was nowhere to be seen. Lyn thought somebody else had taken her back until she noticed a little black ear through the glass door of the office! Madame had quietly squeezed through the open crack and found a picnic. Those wobbly teeth had demolished one apple, one pear, and as Lyn caught up with her, a chocolate brownie was disappearing, complete with wrapper. This shows form, wouldn’t you say?
So here we are in October already, and facing a tricky winter if what I hear is right. More courage and steadfastness is going to be needed by our lovely humans, and the horses will do their bit as usual. Some of our school children will get a half term break this month, and some will be hoping to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve. Lets hope they can. Keep up the good work everyone and stay safe, we are all in this for the long haul, wobbly teeth or no.
September 2020 (No 134)
Despite all the restrictions imposed by this pandemic, the Hadleigh branch of the Ipswich Building Society has yet again done the most amazing fund raising for us. My photo shows Peta presenting Jan Derbyshire with a cheque for £3,364 on August 7th. Watching eagerly is Chris Southgate, the fund raising treasurer for the Centre. None of the ladies wanted to be pictured in their face masks so the ceremony took place on the pavement outside in 30C heat! Such a great gift, we are truly grateful to the staff for all their efforts in these very strange times.
More hard decisions have had to be made about our re-opening in September. At present the premises will open on 7th, with the first week devoted to helpers only; there is much for them to learn about the new way of operating. Then, unless there are significant changes to the Covid-19 situation, only our riders who are able to mount and dismount by themselves will be able to return, as I said in my last blog. The helpers will not be allowed to have that close contact required on the mounting ramp. This is very stark news.
As you can imagine, BABS and I are also out of the picture for the time being. Our humans are trying to come up with a cunning plan that will enable us to get going, so watch this space!
Some of our volunteers got together at the end of August to remind themselves that they still exist. You can see them social distancing on Jan’s terrace, the glass of Pimms is purely decorative of course as everyone was working hard to get a grip on the Covid-19 situation.
Many of our riders will be returning to school this month. We wish them all the best, and hope they love being back amongst friends their own age again. Sadly we shan’t expect many of our special schools to be able to come up here straight away, everyone has to wait and see how things work out in each individual setting. Rest assured that when it is safe to do so we shall be here with an enormous big welcome to you all.
Stay safe everyone and obey the rules; I can smell the hand sanitizer from here you know.
August 2020 (No 133)
Well hello Readers, welcome to my aptly named ‘quiet room’ where I stand, all my circuits switched off, the curtains drawn and the door firmly closed.
Lyn told us about the new arrival on the equine team, he is called Snoopy and is a little piebald fellow, here to take over from Cindy who has gone to a new home. Snoopy and Buzz (who is his field mate) were at the AGM watching from the arena. Lyn said a big thank you to her team of able bodied riders and maintenance people who have all kept the Centre and the horses in tip top condition these last silent months.
Our most upsetting news is the retirement of Margaret Fowler, Vice Chairman of the Trustees and Jan Derbyshire’s right hand man in all things to do with running the centre. Most importantly for me, she is MY special instructor on two days of the week and has taken care of my riders for me whilst I give them a work out. Her’s will be a hard act to follow. Naturally she was presented with cards and gifts at the meeting as my picture shows. Is Jan wiping her eye there? I know I am.
As things stand at present, we shall only be allowed to open for riders who can mount/dismount by themselves and ride without side walkers. This is very stark news.
Opening up to our other riders will entail some training for the riders’ parent or carer, so that he/she can do the mounting and side walking that we, as non family members, are not permitted to do.
July 2020 (No 132)
It seems strange to be wishing you all a happy holiday since we have been on holiday for 4 long months already! In August the Centre will hold its delayed AGM. At this meeting the management committee will be planning how to reopen for our riders in September. It’s going to be quite a challenge: we’ll certainly rise to it.
Did you know that I’ve been at the Centre for 13 years now? I, and my ancient friend BABS, know we are integral to the therapy the Centre offers, and provided we get our annual service, we don’t really age. However the same can’t be said for the live horses and ponies. The make up of the herd inevitably has to change as some of the horses need to retire from active work.
We are wondering whether the knock on effect of this Corona-19 pandemic and the subsequent loss of many incomes has led some horse owners to rethink their options? The Shelley Centre has given many years of comfortable living to several early ‘retired’ horses and ponies, whose owners have had to find new homes for them for many different reasons. So if any readers out there are contemplating a new approach to their horse ownership, we’d love to be able to discuss options with you. Lyn Bensusan, our mum, is a very experienced horse woman and always puts our health and well being above everything. The herd is really well looked after by an able-bodied team, keeping all the horses and ponies fit and mentally stimulated. (See the photo of Bryn in the river)
Our fields are on the slope of a hill which the ponies like, they live out all year round, only coming in to the stables for a rest when necessary, or to be got ready for the day’s work. The equine team feels itself lucky to be here, and it looks forward to welcoming new recruits to the herd when our dear ‘pensioners’ depart.
We could all be wearing face masks by the time this goes to print. Tilly would like you to admire hers in this photograph. Hopefully I shall have a bit more gossip to report next month, meanwhile stay safe and cheerful. Happy holidays.
June 2020 (No 131)
Well here we are again, and no getting back to our Shelley normal for another three months!
Our umbrella organisation has come up with a cunning plan for riders to start getting back in the saddle; unfortunately they are deemed unworkable here. With our client base and our special volunteer army, the logistics of keeping a 2 meter distance become crazy and unsafe. Then there is the business of disinfecting tack between each rider, having more hand washing places, and using a rider’s main carer to do the side walking with them. We know a few of our parents/carers wouldn’t mind, but there are those who feel very nervous of horses! The majority of our volunteers are in the risky age group, or have family members who are equally vulnerable, so at present it’s a regrettable NO. However the RDA is busy keeping our riders engaged. The RDA website, not ours, has plenty of downloadable material for riders, courses and competitions.
If you want something to smile about, watch the film of our members doing Hobby Horse Dressage on YouTube. ‘Dressage Anywhere’ ran a dressage competition for people using hobby-horses; they were filmed in their own gardens, driveways, bedrooms and fields. Some dressed up very smartly indeed, a la the real event. They paid an entry fee, begged sponsorship and amazingly raised almost £2000. Coupled with the auction of the smartest ever hobby-horse called Valegro II (pictured) a one legged replica of Charlotte Dujardin’s famous Olympian winner, (pictured together) they sent nearly £4K to the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 appeal. What a brilliant effort.
Our life here continues very happily. We are well looked after, the weather is lovely, and the country is looking fantastic. Best of all, our water buckets are kept filled up by the team. So guess what we’ll be saying soon? The grass is looking a bit sparce and the 10 members of the herd outside will be asking for RAIN to green it up again. Can’t win!
Stay safe our humans, look forward. We shall get back to work eventually.
May 2020 (No 130)
Hello friends, welcome to my blog, and thank you for your visit.
As I write there is talk of a gradual easing of the lock down, and a slow return to normal. You humans have had it tough this last month and we horses don’t have any idea of what you are going through but we can pick up on humans’ anxieties. Its something to do with our flight mechanism, if anyone in the herd has a fright we all catch on and want to run! It’s a wonder we can be taught to behave at all, really, and it goes to show how trust between a horse and its owner can make all the difference. So we here, at the Centre, have infinite trust in Lyn and her team to keep us safe. It’s not all about filling our bellies, despite how it looks. Behind the very important matter of food and water is the backroom team, the ground maintenance people, the able bodied riders, and of course the volunteer help for the rides.
Which brings me to what I’ve heard about you people out there. Unlike us, you have a choice in how you operate. Despite the fact that you feel worried for your safety, and that of your own herd, you do your work. You may not wake up feeling brave, or that you are going to change the world, but none the less you go to work to keep your fellow men safe, healthy, fed and watered, and maintained in as normal a way as possible. You have something much more important than the mantle of heroism: a sense of duty, a sense of loyalty to your role, a sense of compassion and a sense of determination. I think that’s brave.
So many of our volunteers at Shelley are retired and of a certain age, confined to barracks. So they are missing out on family and friends, and all the activities that kept them young in heart. I do hope most of them can get out and walk around, enjoy the sun and wind, and keep their courage up.
The live herd here just keep on eating, strolling around our lovely fields, creating work for the human team and waiting for things to get back to normal. No worries, as they say.
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