Ebony’s Blog -  Life at The Shelley Centre






   December 2021 (No 148)






The fundraising committee has pulled off another brilliant result: the Christmas Raffle consisted of a whopping big hamper so full of goodies that the lid can’t shut (see the photo) and eleven runner-up prizes, raising over £1,000 for the Centre. Behind this effort is one of our coaches, Jan McKillop. Not only is she a coach, but chairman of Fundraising. Adapting to changing times because of the pandemic, the committee has continued to raise money to keep us lucky horses going. Thank you to the committee and to all the punters who bought the tickets. Here is a lovely photo of Jan in her comfy shoes at the end of one of her lessons.Despite all the Friday helpers and riders watching the draw take place on 26th November, the hamper was won by a Wednesday volunteer from Bildeston. Congratulations, Amanda!

The stable block is to be reroofed in the holidays. After 32 years the time has come to cure the leaks and remove the incumbents who have taken up residence above us. It will be an interesting operation for me to watch from my room. I bet the live horses and ponies will be astonished! The firm Chisnell’s is doing the work so we shall be in safe hands, they know us!

This will be my last blog on the old familiar webpage. Andrew Gourlay has kindly operated it for us over 20 years of pro bono work for which we are extremely grateful. Just as he began to want to retire, another wonderful person, Jennifer Price, offered to build us a new page that is compatible with phones, and has a great new look. It will be live before the new year.

The yard is well decorated for the festivities. Alfie stands below the tinsel to wish you all a very happy Christmas from the horses and ponies. Many thanks to Lyn for supervising the decorations and lighting up the dark afternoons so gorgeously.

Now all we have to do is enjoy the last week of our term, take a break from the work and hope so much that all our friends and supporters stay well. May you all see your loved ones as planned and have a very HAPPY CHRISTMAS



November 2021 (No 147)

I’m going to show off a little bit because these two photos of a Wednesday rider on me make me look quite good! Not only am I wearing my saddle for this boy, his Coach has switched on the video for him to look at whilst riding. It is such fun seeing the countryside from up high on horseback as it were, whilst enjoying being undercover. The rains have arrived so every lesson, like this one, is an exercise in dodging the elements.

We don’t ask either adults or children to get soaked through, and none of the horses want to wear a rug on top of a very wet coat before going out to the fields at night. We are not like the keen souls who hunt during the winter. Talking of hunting, our rabbit population is beginning to take over the Shelley world again. The large field shelter in the boys’ field is like a Dutch cheese with all the holes in the ground those pesky bunnies make. Anyone for rabbit pie? Ferrets? Lurchers? Don’t wait to be asked!

Our first half of term flew by; hopefully the next five weeks will give everyone a chance to enjoy the therapy and improve their skills. Various riders will be asked to take part in our Nativity service over the coming days. This year’s Carols will take place entirely at the Shelley Centre, keeping everyone out in the open and safe. All the usual music, singing, readings and blessing of the live herd will happen as usual, but the mulled wine and mince pies will happen at the end of the service, when it will be dark and the Christmas lights look their very best.

November 5th might mean fireworks to some of you, but for the RDA family it’s a celebration of our Patron’s 50 years of service to this organisation. HRH the Princess Royal will be visiting the RDA’s National Training Centre that day and viewing the photographs and personal recollections of the many, many groups she has so consistently supported. I can’t resist putting up this photo of Princess Anne here with us at Shelley last year!


October 2021 (No 146)

Remember we had a Fun Dog Show back in September? I’ve just caught up with the winners of the ‘Craft Competition’ that was part of the day’s fun. Here’s a picture of the two winners, Mia and Lily, receiving their rosettes from Squidgy last month. Congratulations you two! More pictures below.......




Since then the fund raising team has organised another Shelley Walk. This second walk of the year was well attended (thank you everybody) and of course the rewarding slices of cake were much appreciated The famous Quiz Night had to be cancelled due to low take up of tickets so I guess you humans are still being cautious about indoor gatherings. Quite right, we shall just have to keep to outdoor fun and games, won’t we?  The wonderful supporters who do come to events keep us horses going. We couldn’t work without you.

The wintery weather has spoilt some rides for our people but I’ve been working flat out. Wet weather means riders come and limber up on me, indoors, before being put through their paces with a team of volunteers learning about horse care, stable management, and tack. It’s like learning a new language, all the peculiarities of horse-speak without the grammar ha ha.

I’m told that all our rides are full and we have a waiting list. We are feeling slightly short of instructors, so if any Pony Club parents are reading this, might you be able to spare a half day each week during term time to help out teaching people to ride? The exciting prospect of doing something with the skills you already have, being welcomed into the RDA family, and eventually being certified as a COACH for us must surely whet your appetite? We’d love to hear from you.

The new Tea With a Pony has been going for a month now, and I enjoy the chatter outside my room. So far the weather has enabled our guests to sit outside whilst the bustle of work in the yard continues around them until the last lesson is over and the ponies go out. That’s when the Shetlands come into the yard for their Tea With A Guest, which they seem to love.

The clocks will go back before we know it, and the last rides of the day will be by spotlight. It seems to have happened very quickly. Be careful all you Trick or Treaters, we don’t want to lose anyone whilst All Saints are on the march!


September 2021 (No 145)

Well, as I write the plans for next term are well under way and riding for the disabled begins on September 6th. We are so excited!

There have been 11 new rider applications over the holidays, all needing to be slotted in where possible, and one person we had to disappoint because, sadly, as we do not do carriage driving any more. Then four more members of the public have offered to help with our rides which is brilliant. I’m looking forward to meeting you all.

Did anyone clock the Paralympics in Tokyo? Here’s where our team members started their riding careers:

The UK Paralympics Equestrian Team
•        Sir Lee Pearson (Grade II)
•        Georgia Wilson (Grade II, started at Clwyd RDA)
•        Natasha Baker (Grade III, started at South Bucks RDA)
•        Sophie Wells (Grade V, established Papplewick RDA)
And not forgetting others from RDA beginnings:
•        Michael Murphy (Grade I, started at Penniwells RDA, competing for Ireland)
•        Laurentia Tan (Grade I, rider at Diamond Centre RDA, competing for Singapore)

We feel very proud of these people. Congratulations to Lee, Natasha and Sophie for beating the Dutch team to Gold by the smallest ever margin: 0.656%. Phew. Just look at their faces. (with thanks to Horse and Hound magazine) Of course its congratulations to their horses too.

Sir Lee Pearson visited our Shelly Show a few years ago to demonstrate his dressage skills, I’m told it was very inspiring. Pity I couldn’t see him, there were too many spectators blocking my view.

I am so excited that my own riders are coming back. We shall have to be extremely careful to keep them Covid free in my room, lots of fresh air blowing through and my helpers in thermals I expect. Muscles will have weakened, and joints become stiff over the long absence of my physiotherapy so we shall start very gently and help the riders to regain their balance and suppleness. It’s going to be great.

Good luck with the start of term my friends and keep the virus firmly in its box. A safe September to you all.


August 2021 (No 144)

The ragwort digging party took place in a rare moment of heat wave at the beginning of the summer holidays. Half the band of wonderful volunteers scoured the boys’ top field, and half tried to clear a pony paddock for the girls. After two hours of hard work Lyn called a halt and refreshed her victims with Pimms. A moment of camaraderie where the exhausted diggers relaxed in the shade and congratulated themselves on a hard morning’s work. Our grateful thanks go out to them. I hear there is more ragwort growing of course..........

My ears listen out for more gossip but I’m a bit locked up at present. Security is important obviously, but Babs and I don’t get much of a look in at present. I listen to the Maintenance Team chatting, repairing things and discussing their schedules. My photo shows a bit of a refit going on to the kitchen door!

2021AugBlog1Our fab Fund raisers are active whilst I rest my circuits. There is to be a FUN DOG SHOW here on September 11th with lots of other attractions: A Fete, a children’s craft competition with a horse theme, a second-hand tack sale, and refreshments. Look out for the posters.

Our RDA Chief Executive Ed Bracher, pictured here, is running in the London Marathon to raise funds for the Grants to Groups programme, helping RDA groups recover from the pandemic. “Help me to spread the word, if you can, by getting your RDA Community to sponsor me by sharing the JustGiving link below. Perhaps 26 of your supporters could donate £1 each?” https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/EdsRDAMarathon

Enjoy the start of term my friends, and don’t forget to keep smiling. I’m looking forward to seeing our regular riders again and meeting the all new ones. Cheerio!


July 2021 (No 143)

Isn’t it Murphy’s Law that when we are starting to work normally the Centre closes for the long summer holidays? Well, we are enjoying having lessons with more than one rider in them. The ponies tell me that they like working in a group as well; certainly the volunteers prefer being busy on their chosen sessions at Shelley. It’s been a grand start to the summer despite us only being open until July 9th. My first photo is of the end of one of Debs’s lessons where her riders are nicely lined up, ready to dismount.

Next its hello to our two most senior citizens, seen here sheltering from the rain. Now both in their mid thirties, Camilla (on the left) and Squidgey are sisters who have worked tirelessly at Shelley with our smallest riders. They both have Cushings disease and Camilla is a bit arthritic, it’s a credit to Lyn that they are still active up here. Neither of them is able to feed comfortably off the grass due to wobbly teeth so they have a delicious short feed; they queue up at their gate for it with pressision timing If the yard is empty they come in together and share a bucket. Note their fashionable face masks!

From the smallest to the largest worker, here is Parys with Beatriz on board. Nice to have a photo of blue sky and sunshine. Our newest recruit is Roddy, a palomino, seen here at work in the arena, as if he were born to the job. Well done, mate. We feel very lucky to have such a great four legged work force enabling people to have a happy experience here whatever their needs. Thank you, team for all the hard work and dedication, and to financial supporters of the Centre for making it all possible.


June 2021 (No 142)

I wanted to express our thanks to several kind souls who have donated to the Centre anonymously recently because of course we can’t say it to their faces. You know who you are, and how very welcome your donations are.

We are gradually getting more riders back, but at the time of writing there is no hope of opening for our wheelchair users until September. So please get your vaccinations dear readers and help everyone to participate in normal activities again. I am pleased to be at work again, and Max has allowed me to picture him for you. He’s not just trotting along, but having to work on the elastic bands whilst in the saddle. No way will his instructor Jan let him off the hook. tBrittany is riding Alfie in the arena with David leading. Alfie looks a tad stationary to me, but its not easy to get him walking fast. Unlike me, where it’s a button on my shoulder that changes my pace, Alfie needs plenty of encouragement. Tilly, on the other hand, with Bradley in the saddle, is quite a mover (and shaker). Bradley is carefully transporting a ring towards a bucket by wearing it, such a clever way to keep it safe.

Volunteers form the Centre will be helping to steward Stratford Hills Horse Trials on June 19th & 20th so say hello if you pass any blue shirts with this logo (above) in white! Then on July 6th we shall have the Centre’s AGM, outside of course, followed by a great BBQ in the yard. May the gods be kind with the weather for all your plans and ours; keep yourselves safe, see you next month.


May 2021 (No 141)

Lets just look at Val’s beaming smile for a minute!

Joy of joys, we are gradually getting back to normal with our two Wednesday ladies actually back on live horses at last. How very different from May last year when we were closed and worried about our Shelley ‘family’, not to mention the rest of the world.

So we have about three rides a day at present, with three participants at most in each one. No riders that need mounting by a full team of helpers, and no riders who have to use our hoist, are back yet, and neither are our special schools, so we are still a bit under used. However it’s a start and we are the better for it.

2021-MayBlog-bluebellsMy next photo shows Jacquie about to enter the arena on Bryn. Both he and Parys are being made to work by these two ladies and its great to see ears pricked and legs stretching out. (The horses and the riders)

Lastly our photogenic Belle is standing by her recent rider, Ruby-Blu, who had a quietly lovely lesson also on Wednesday and whose pink jacket really cheered up a chilly greyish morning. Thank you Ruby-Blu.

I have had some of my own riders back in, and its great to see them again and to be able to help loosen those ligaments that have tightened up during lock down. Our volunteers are doing a great job of cleaning and disinfecting hats, boots and tack. I hear them whisper that there is a lot of hanging around now, so we hope they won’t give up on us! It will get busier. This is the month when restrictions are due to lessen, we are all looking forward to that.

My last photo is of the bluebells in the valley called ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ up which those supporters ‘Striding out for Shelley’ will go on May 2nd. Thank you to everyone who participates in this latest fund raiser, may you dodge the much needed rain!




April 2021 (No 140)

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.


My pictures show Daniella back on Alfie, enjoying her exclusive lesson. Daniella has been riding with us for most of our 30 years at Shelley, and everyone was so pleased to see her again!

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.

I enclose a photo of the washing up, just to show you how many mouths there are to feed each day. All the horses and ponies lived out throughout the snowy days of last month, and remain fit, well and rearing to go. They tell me that little bits of grass are beginning to grow; their lips are constantly searching for this delicacy.



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?

Just as a surprise contrast to what life is like for all riders out there now: here’s a photo of Bryn taken in early July! Looks a bit cheerful, wouldn’t you say?

The Centre planned to open for riders on 11th January but we know that can’t now happen. We’ve all had to learn how to rearrange our plans, haven’t we? I know what you humans are like, you like your own friends, just like us horses, and you don’t like not seeing them. I listen in to the gossip and hear of so many Christmas gatherings being cancelled and feel sorry for you all. Being inanimate objects sure makes it easier for me, and Babs, to switch off entirely whilst the pandemic rages.

The season of deep mud is upon us, the valley below the Centre is a lake, and Lyn’s team of able-bodied riders continues to splosh through the gates to bring the horses and ponies in for a clean up and some proper exercise. One of the new arrivals is suffering from lockdown in that he has become extremely naughty. Without the regular discipline of work he is trying all the pony tricks in the book. Lyn is very cross with him for his bad behaviour and he may not be able to stay. We shall see.

Management of the Centre carries on behind the scenes, and the maintenance team has not let up, we are in good shape. Our grateful thanks go to the Hadleigh Young Farmers who are raising money for us by collecting people’s Christmas trees from their doorsteps in the IP7 area. No need to struggle to the tip with your prickly cast off if you ask them to visit you, and we shall be the beneficiaries. The herd still eats hay, needs shoeing and gets jabs from the Vet. so every donation is most warmly received.

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.




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