BRANTOME POLICE HORSES CHRISTMAS 2017 NEWSLETTER
2017 has been an amazing year although tinged with moment’s of sadness.
But before we talk about this year, it is so important that we talk briefly about work we must do next year, Although BPH is first and foremost a place of safety for animals, it is becoming more apparent that we are also here to help the two-legged variety.
We desperately need volunteers and facilities to help visiting children and adults, who have learning difficulties or other disabilities.
We are having increasing numbers of children who need our help and we need to do more. This was really brought home to me last summer by a small boy of around ten who was visiting with his parents on an open day. I (Roland), was bustling around as usual, when he came up to me and said, “Hello I’m autistic, I love your horses, can I cuddle them” He spent the rest of the afternoon with one of our wonderful helpers doing just that.
The look of happiness on his face was quite overwhelming. His Mum told me that her little boy could be quite difficult and it was rare to see him so happy. All our visitors get great benefit from meeting our beautiful horses (if you are feeling down hug a horse) and in a strange way the horses seem to know that some of are visitors are special and there is a real connection between then, after all despite their size and power they have also been through some difficult times. So we will be doing our best to improve access and facilities, as funds allow.
More importantly we need your help, people experienced or otherwise to get involved in any way possible. Please get in touch with us through our website or on 0553058680, if you would like to help.
And so to the newsletter;
The beginning of each year can be a worrying time as we face the worst of the winter, 2017 started well because of the efforts of our volunteers and the support of our members and our visitors. which ensured that we had the funds to get our wonderful horses through the winter.
At this time we were still coming to terms with the loss of Northavon and Dolly when at the end of January tragedy struck again.
Walter our oldest Police Horse suddenly passed away in the night. Goodness knows how old he really was; we had been telling visitors that he was at least thirty-four for years.
His passing was tempered by the knowledge that the last 11 years of his life had been happy years with the sanctuary. He had brought great joy into the lives of many peoples. Our visitors loved Walter and his idiosyncrasies. He died suddenly without pain and without a long protracted illness. In fact the day before he left us, our volunteers on the yard, remarked on how well he looked.
He was a huge character and will be hugely missed. But as the saying goes ‘as one door closes another opens’.
Because of money collected through Father Christmas at the 2016 Christmas Fair, we were able to donate €300 to the local school, which was spent on children from some of the less well off families.
The year started in February with fundraising events both in the house and in the gardens of La Grange;. Here are just a few as there are too many to mention in full. So here we go
In February we held a very successful music quiz hosted by David and Flo McMenamin - So a big thank you to them.
In March, we were treated to an interesting and entertaining talk on the history of the Royal Navy, by Paul Phillips MBE (no relation).
We held a murder mystery evening in the house hosted by the Pensol Amateur Dramatic Group (And yes I did work out who had committed the dastardly deed).
Easter Sunday saw the return of the ever popular Classical Guitarist Dan Jones who kept us spell bound with his beautiful music.
In the same month and then the following October Graham and Diane hosted a very entertaining general quiz. So another thank you to them.
As we got into May we started to gear up for the coming season, all of the horses, ponies, sheep, goats, countless rescue dogs and cats and of course our very naughty donkeys had come through the winter in excellent condition.
It was in July, that the Metropolitan Police, contacted us about a young Police horse called ‘Ranger’. We were told that he had to be retired, as he was suffering with arthritis, which is very unusual in such a young horse.
Of course we agreed to take him, we have never refused to take a Police Horse. Our initial understanding was that he hadn’t really been involved in anything too dangerous.
One of his previous riders kindly sent me a list of events that Ranger had policed. Armed with that information it was easy to find him on social media. ‘Ranger really had been in the thick of it’.
Great credit has to be given to the officers and staff of the Met. Police Mounted section at Imber Court, who were involved in his retirement to BPH. They were so anxious that he found a good home and couldn’t be more helpful to make sure this happened.
In August lots of people came to see Ranger arrive, as he stepped off the transporter, there was an audible gasp. He really is very beautiful.
Within moments he was completely at ease as if he had lived at La Grange all of his life, amongst his admiring public.
He has been incredibly popular with our visitors this year; poor old Lewis couldn’t understand why they would be so interested in the ‘new boy’.
Ranger is friendly and easy to handle, so I was a bit surprised to find that if you approached him at night with a torch he would become very frightened, we have never seen this before in a Police horse. normally they are bomb proof.
We found some media footage of him at a night time demonstration, which had turned into a riot, the demonstrators (for want of a better name) were shining laser beams into the horses eyes and throwing fireworks under them, no wonder Ranger was terrified of torches, it must have brought it all back to him.
Despite this, he has settled in well, so a big thank you, to everyone, that has adopted him and have helped to support him, especially Jean who has been buying him all sorts of things that he needs.
He is set for a safe, enjoyable and useful life and will continue working, by bringing happiness into many peoples lives.
Our summer was really full on, the numbers of visitors seem to go up every year, which is a good problem to have.
We never take our visitors for granted and do everything that we can to make them feel welcome.
This year we opened up on more afternoons to reduce crowding so that people still felt that this was a personal experience and they weren’t just being herded around.
We swopped the horses around in case they got stressed with too many people. However, they all seem to enjoy the extra attention.
Without the visitors of course we wouldn’t be able to continue. Although it is not all about raising funds, we love that our visitors leave here feeling relaxed and happy, the interaction with animal and human works wonders and is mutually beneficial.
We continued to maintain the top spot on ‘Trip Advisor’ for our area and even reached number two for the whole of the Aquitaine, behind the town of ‘Sarlat.’ (How can you compete with that), but we feel very proud of our achievement.
As we always tell our guests being the top attraction is quite bizarre as we are not an attraction we are a sanctuary not Disney Land although we do have our Mickey Mouse moments.
We introduced our new presentation ‘Through the eyes of a Police Horse’ which just happens to be Lewis. It shows him growing up, his years in the Police and his life now.
This is less graphic than the previous presentation, more professional looking and has a real ‘feel good’ ending. It also features our work in Devon and shows the sanctuary and animals there. It also revealed the essential ‘behind the scenes’ work carried out by our dedicated volunteers.
We are indebted to Anthony Wherrett of Ariel Vision Marketing for his excellent film.
This year we have had a constant stream of French journalists and have been featured in many publications worldwide. They are probably curious as to why the crazy Anglais do what we do.
As the season closed and the beautiful Dordogne Autumn rolled in, the horses enjoyed the cooler weather and spent their days outside, we remained busy with visitors until the end of September.
This is the time that we carry out all of the little maintenance jobs that we don’t have time for during the season.
At the end of November we started getting ready for the 2017 Christmas Fair this is our fifth year and it just gets bigger, The two David’s, Tony and Chris put up four marques for the thirty six exhibitors and the whole place was decorated in preparation for the arrival of Papa Noel.
Over the years he has arrived from the North Pole by various means of transport, Horse and carriage, vintage car but this year he arrived on a seasonally decorated quad bike. And his sack of presents carried by ‘Cracker’ the miniature Shetland pony.
Hundreds of people came to this popular event and the car park was constantly full despite the cold.
The Grand Christmas bake off was narrowly won by the two Linda’s despite fierce competition. Angie Pittman was the winner of our yearly raffle, so for the first time, the prize was won by someone who lives in France.
A great time was had by all as confirmed by the amount of mulled wine consumed and the Charity’s bank account was left looking much healthier for the oncoming winter.
We brought the year to an end with a lovely afternoon of 40’s an 50’s music sung by Sandy Bailey who flew over from the UK so we feel very privileged that she wanted to do this for us. Followed by ‘Happy Dave’s big Christmas Quiz’ last night which we are all still recovering from
and then on Sunday 17th Dec we have the arrival of three new horses from our sister sanctuary, The Devon Horse & Pony Sanctuary in the UK, Two are going to winter pasture to our good friends Tony and Linsey McDowel and the third is a very special chap called ‘Buster’.
Buster is quite young, he was an abandoned foal and rescued by our Devon sanctuary he has been backed and trained and we hope that he will be a great asset next year with our work with disabled children.
The original charity in the UK started by Roland's Mum - Sylvia, still runs to this day. The Devon Horse & Pony Sanctuary is a large part of what we still do. Based on Dartmoor it does not have the facilities for visitors but is as vitally important in its own way. We would like to say a big thank you to Sian, Kelly, Martin, Ann and Angie for their invaluable help in all weathers (Dartmoor can be the most inhospitable place some days but others, the most beautiful). Without their contribution DHAPS would not be able to continue.
To our all wonderful volunteers without whom Brantome Police Horses would not be able to go on. The ones that look after the horses, 22 stables with big horses in them to be cleaned everyday is no joke, plus the general care and then the care when one of the beloved horses becomes ill to the people who help in the kitchen, putting all the tables, marquees etc together to helping with the administration. There are just too many of you to mention but you know who you all are. Thank you, thank you, so much
And now to our own family who live here at La Grange, Without Debbie and Chris and their twin girls, Izzy and Chloe, we couldn't carry on our everyday care of the horses and the constant fundraising that has to occur to keep it all going. Despite their own very busy business they are always on hand to help in every way. Now our middle daughter, Laura and fiance Nick, have moved here to make a new life for themselves and their little boy Jasper, and we wish them well.
As we say goodbye to 2017 and remember friends that are no longer with us, and we look forward to the coming year, in the knowledge that our deserving animals are safe and well and if they could, they would thank you all for your help and of course they would wish you all a Merry Christmas and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.
If you managed to get to the end of this monologue - well done.
With very best wishes
Roland and Alison
and all the two legged and four legged animals at BPH