Behind the scenes at the Blue Acre Horse Rescue & Rehabilitation Centre
PUBLISHED: 00:00 01 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:54 01 April 2020
We caught up with fund-raising manager Sue Turner
Where are you based?
We are a registered charity based on Ham Island in Old Windsor, a few miles from Windsor town centre and very near historical Runnymede.
Our farm consists of 42 acres surrounded by the River Thames, where the horses go to drink and cool off in the warmer weather and they come and join us when we have barbecues and let our young volunteers loose on the river in kayaks or to swim. We see a wide variety of wildlife on the farm – water birds, kites, kestrels, pheasants, rabbits and hedgehogs, to name a few.
Berkshire is a fabulous mix of small villages and major towns, of which Windsor is probably the most famous, interspersed with beautiful countryside.
Tell us about the work you do
Our main concern is the rescue, rehabilitation, care and possible rehoming of abused, neglected and abandoned horses and ponies of which we currently have 47, ranging in age from seven months to 35 yers old. Many of them are with us for the rest of their lives due to physical or behavioural issues and our pledge to them is that they will be cared for and loved until their days are over.
We also have several rescued dogs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats and pigs, all of whom have free run of the farm area during the day.
It can take years to gain the trust of those that have been abused or neglected by humans and we work with each one at their own pace as we often have no knowledge of their background. The minimum we ask is for them to trust us to catch them from the field, bring them into the yard area and allow us to handle them all over so we can check them for any injury, illness, groom them and assess their wellbeing. They may need to have veterinary treatment. We then assess whether we can pursue further training and rehabilitation with a view to rehoming.
We have a wonderful team of volunteers (no one at the Rescue Centre is paid) and many of us are supporting one or more of our horses so they get consistency and learn to build relationships.
Our younger volunteers are amazing; they are at the farm weekends and in school holidays, in the cold and wet weather and they learn every aspect of how the farm runs and how to care for all the animals. They have been responsible for changing the lives of several of our ponies by teaching them to be ridden. It’s wonderful to see the difference from the scared and malnourished animals they were on arrival and to see how our young volunteers become responsible adults.
How do you raise awareness on responsible pet ownership?
We use social media to promote our charity and regularly post pictures and stories about everyday life at the farm so that people can follow the progress of our animals. Of course, we can’t do stories about all of them as there are too many and we are a small team. We have identified the huge value in people coming to the farm and seeing what we do. We have had feedback on how children who may be shy or having a tough time at school have started to come out of their shells and grown in confidence by visiting the farm and spending time with some of our ponies. This is something we would love to do more of but due to limited funds we haven’t yet been able to improve our facilities to accommodate this. It’s a priority for us to raise funds to make this happen so we can engage with local schools and special needs centres to encourage more young people to come and see our animals. That is, in our experience, the best way to raise awareness of responsible pet ownership.
Any animal stories?
There are so many. When we show visitors around the farm we take them out into the herd and introduce them to the horses and tell them how they came to be at Blue Acre – it means so much more when they can see the animal in front of them and see how they have changed.
Summer came to the rescue at a little under one year old and had already been beaten and had a broken hip. She still has scars on her knees from some sort of abuse and is very nervous of having her head and ears touched. She’s been with us five years and now she’s grown into a beautiful girl and is being ridden very successfully by Lucy, one of our young volunteers who has totally gained her trust.
Spectris was left in a horse box for 24 hours in a company car park on one of the hottest days of 2019 with no hay or water. It turned out she was in foal and we cared for her but unfortunately the foal was stillborn immaturely a few weeks ago.
Teddy, Max and Storm, three youngsters about one year old, were found running loose on a busy road in October 2015. All of them were riddled with lice and worms and two of them had severe liver damage due to malnutrition and being neglected. They are all still with us and living happy lives.
Each and every one of our horses has a story to tell.
How can people help?
We are always in need of donations, we would love people to help us fund-raise, people can sponsor a horse/pony, or come and volunteer, or we are always in need of handymen/women to fix things for us. blueacrerescue.co.uk