It's all in a day's work
Managing 52 horses ponies and donkeys, nine dogs, ten cats and an assortment of other rescued animals here at the centre, takes a lot of organising. However, much of it is routine.
The most frequently asked question on our horse tour is how on earth do you manage to do all this every day?
And this is how we do it......
Our day starts at 7a.m. doing the breakfast feed, which involves making up 52 bowls of horse feed, plus sharing out sections of alfalfa or hay for all of them, whilst they're all calling out loudly, banging their doors and pawing at the ground with impatience. Once breakfast is served, waters are checked, it's now 8.30a.m. all 52 horses, each with four legs, meaning 208, hooves have to be picked out, this is important as it stops bacteria collecting in the groove of the foot, which strangely enough is called the frog, which if left would result in infections of the hoof. This takes till 9.30a.m and then each horse has to be lead out into their various fields, by now it's 10.30 and then the work really starts. All the stables have to be mucked out, the yard has to be swept and all the fields have to also be mucked out from horse droppings. This process goes on throughout the day and also the stables have to have new bedding put down before their resident returns at night. In the midst of all the cleaning the horses have their lunch at 1.30p.m and then all 50 plus buckets are washed out in readiness for the evening feed.
Each horse has its own individual needs which could be anything from grooming, schooling, checking its rug if it's Winter, fly masks if it's Summer, this involves taking off the fly masks, washing them and putting them back on, plus treating injuries, giving injections, and of course checking them over to make sure they've not got any cuts or bites or inflammations etc, the Summer is worse because of all the flying insects that horses are magnets for.
Come 4 o' clock, the evening feed has to be made up in the freshly cleaned out bowls and the alfalfa and hay also put out for all of them, and then we bring them back in again one by one. This takes us to about 6.30p.m when we then have to collect all the 50 plus feed bowls and set them all out ready for the next morning.
This basic routine, takes a minimum of three people from 7a.m. to 8.00p.m. However when other thing happen, such as this week for example the alfalfa has been cut and bailed, the collection of that from the fields has to happen straight away as the farmer wants it removed as quickly as possible, so then the same three people have to go out and collect this as well as stacking it all up back here at the centre. This takes nearly three days as it is all done manually as we do not have the funds to buy the machinery to help us make it easier. The 750 bales that we have just stacked will last us 40 days and costs €2200. Obviously this is a continual process repeated every 40 days.
It's also the same with the horse feed, every 40 days we collect 6 tonnes which equals 300 bags, at a cost of €3500. This also has to be collected, brought to the centre and stacked in the feed room by ourselves, with each sack weighing 20kg.
Also a horse in hot weather can drink up to 45 litres of water per day. So you can see why we've never received a water bill that is under €1000. Up until recently the water has had to be taken out to the horses in the fields in a wheel barrow, four plus times a day, taking more than three man hours per day in the Summer. Rod has just finished installing all the underground water pipes and horse drinkers in the fields, so we now have an automatic water system, making life a whole lot easier for all of us.
The farrier comes every three weeks to do twenty to thirty of the horses feet, at a time, there is too many to do all in one visit. This costs us around €500 each visit, he is here half the day and again requires the help of two other people to assist him and his assistant.
Then of course there is our fantastic vet Dorothea who is on call 24 hours a day. She is here at the yard several times throughout the week doing various checks, tests, x-rays etc, often requiring the help of one of us to help with holding the horse/equipment etc. Then there is the surgery, most of which is done in house here at the centre, again this requires special preparation beforehand and at least one other person to assist her.
In the midst of all this we also have not only our very popular Sunday open day for the public, as we are now a Foundation and educational centre. We have our school visits, at least one group per week from various schools and institutes, travelling to us on coaches from an increasingly wide area. The visits are becoming very popular because of the growing support from teachers encouraging other colleagues to bring students to the centre. The pupils themselves have a great time and even get involved in some of the work, helping with mucking out and feeding. On these visits we try to have either Dorothea our equine vet, Enrique our Farrier or Kaye our equine dentist to do a talk and work in front of the students explaining what and why they are doing and answering any questions about their profession.
But more importantly after hearing some of the rescue stories and meeting the horses they are horrified at what has actually happened to these wonderful creatures. Our horses are no longer just rescue horses standing in a field. They themselves have become ambassadors for animal welfare. When they greet the visitors, they have the power to shock and inspire adults and children alike with their incredible stories of survival.
This has to be the way forward. These students are the future, it is so important for us to reach out to them as they will have the chance to change things in the future when they are older. Many of these young people really do feel and care for the horses, and after the tour many come and put their arms around us and thank us for what we are doing to help the animals.
The Foundation is always seeking more volunteers. So if you would like to find out more about volunteering or if your school or society would like to come on and educational trip to the rescue centre
contact: Sue on 652 021980 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
On top of all this, this week we have rescued two more horses. But that's another story. To be continued.......