Even though she has never ridden one in her life, Little Mudlet is horse mad! I think this mostly stems from her hero worshipping of her adored oldest sister, Eldest Mudlet, who, as regular readers of my blog know, has her own rather special horse called Prince. Whenever she speaks to Eldest Mudlet, it is always Prince Little Mudlet asks about first, firing question after question about his wellbeing and what he’s been up to and it can be some time before she remembers to ask after her sister and her sisters’ fiancé.
Little Mudlet has been feeling a little down in recent weeks and months, having had a difficult year at school, and as the start of the new school year comes ever closer, her worry levels have been increasing and so I decided to find somewhere for a day out to try and lift her mood, somewhere SHE would really enjoy and as I googled places to visit within a reasonable travelling distance from our home, I came across Bransby Horses Rescue and Welfare centre.
Reading through the website, I felt this was definitely a place Little Mudlet would love to visit and so this morning the girls and I set off on what was for them, a surprise visit. To be fair, Middle Mudlet had figured out not exactly where we were going but that it would involve horses because I had said this trip was aimed more for the youngest child, although I thought Middle Mudlet would enjoy the experience to, but after quietly asking me if she was right, she kept her conclusions to herself so that her little sister would get the full impact of the surprise when we arrived.
As we approached the turn in to the road leading to the centre, Little Mudlet was delighted to see field after field of horses and could barely take her eyes of them, very nearly missing the Bransby Horse Centre sign. In fact there was a split second between her spotting the sign and realisation dawning that we were turning down the lane, in the direction the sign was pointing.
“Are we going to the Horse Rescue Centre Mum?” she squealed extremely loudly in my ear, bouncing with delight within the constraints of her seatbelt.
Well I have to say Bransby Horses is well worth the visit, especially if you have a horse mad young person in your household. Admission to the centre is free although donations are gratefully received and the centre is open 7 days per week, 362 days per year from 10am although the closing time is seasonal. Entry is via the gift shop which is tastefully stocked with good quality gifts ranging from stationary, to toys and household items, all at reasonable prices.
There are various events run throughout the year and I chose to take the girls today because there was a ‘Meet the Foals’ event during the morning and I knew that both girls would love that. As it turned out, quite a lot of people wanted to meet the foals which are kept in a more private part of the grounds, obviously to shield them and to give the staff time to acclimatise and socialise them, as these babies have often come as foals at foot with their neglected mothers and need just as much attention as the adult equines.
Needless to say both girls loved being able to stroke the foals and their mothers and the way in which these babies were introduced to the visitors, was done with their wellbeing 100% to the fore, with the fence between the visitors and the horses. At each paddock, the youngster and its’ mum were led up to the fence by staff members, a brief history of the mother and foal was told and then visitors were able to take it in turns to fuss them. We were introduced to 4 mares and foals in total and we were also taken to see the older brother of one of the foals, who had arrived as a foal at foot to a mare who, when she arrived at the centre, was already pregnant with one of the foals we had met earlier.
After the ‘Meet the Foals’ we spent a further two hours wandering around the carefully maintained walkways which create an easy to negotiate network of paths through the numerous paddocks.
And there were loads of paddocks with various signs explaining why some horses were wearing blankets or face coverings and with numerous signs asking visitors NOT to feed the horses because some of them are on special diets, or are on medication, or suffer from conditions such as laminitis and, as a result, have restricted access to grass. Little Mudlet asked about laminitis and so I explained. A little while later she got quite upset to see some visitors pulling up handfuls of the very lush grass which grows alongside the pathways but is, for the most part, out of reach of most of the residents, and hand feeding this to some of the ponies. It was very frustrating and I can imagine the staff and volunteers must get equally frustrated by the actions of these well meaning, kind hearted individuals who obviously do not understand the harm they could be doing.
Each paddock had at least two equines in it with the larger ones having small herds of four or more animals in it. Little Mudlet was particularly enamoured with the miniature Shetland ponies many of whom who were quite cheeky, sticking their heads through the fences demanding attention from the passing visitors. She also loved the donkey paddocks, as well as the Arabs, Shires and Clydesdales but I preferred the riding horses, with one reminding me strongly of a lovely bay mare I used to ride and I loved the Irish Draught horse as well.
Other facilities included a play area for children, outdoor door picnic areas some of which had awnings over the tables to give some much needed shade, a small tearoom which is outdoors and overlooks some of the paddocks and a larger café in the main reception building next to the gift shop.
Back in the gift shop and Little Mudlet had trouble choosing what to spend her trip money on. One thing she was absolutely certain of though was that she was going to use £10 of her money to adopt one of the miniature Shetland ponies she had met, fallen in love with and had been delighted to discover was part of the adoption scheme. Half an hour later Little Mudlet was the proud owner of an adoption pack for Twiggy, a rosette with Twiggys’ name on it and a small cuddly pony which reminded her of her adopted pony. To my utter surprise, Middle Mudlet had seen, set her heart on and bought a larger cuddly toy foal within 5 minutes of arriving at the centre and so after an enjoyable few hours and with both girls happy with their purchases, we headed for home ….. and the complete annihilation of the peace and quiet Mud had been experiencing whilst we were out!