by Robert Parker-Jones
Senior Judge for The National Pony Society, British Show Pony Society, Coloured Horse and Pony Society, British Show Horse Association, Welsh Pony and Cob Society, British Connemara Society and The New Forest Pony Society.
I suppose that over the years I have seen many references made to “HAPPA” but to be absolutely honest I knew very little about what they do! I suppose I thought that they were a charity that rescued horses and ponies but that would be the extent of my knowledge.
In July I was booked to judge ponies at The Royal Lancashire Show so we decided to extend the trip and incorporate a bit of a family get together. My cousin Jean is the Chairperson of HAPPA’s Shores Hey Farm near Burnley in Lancashire so we had arranged for us all to meet there for lunch and then get a privileged guided tour afterwards.
The farm is set in a glorious location which of course was helped by a beautiful summer day, the views are stunning and the surrounding landscape beautiful. The farm has undergone much modernisation and the Visitor’s Centre which houses The Scullery cafe and Farm Shop is a state of the art building, purpose built to welcome visitors.
Lunch was first and the extensive menu offered everyone a good choice of options, I chose the Cheese and Onion Pie and wasn’t disappointed. The food is all home made and prepared to order, everything was beautifully presented by an extremely professional staff team!
After lunch Sarah, HAPPA’s Chief Officer arrived to show us round and to explain what the charity offers. HAPPA was set up 1937 and works tirelessly to improve equine welfare through rescue, rehabilitation, rehoming and education. What I particularly liked was the fact that horses and ponies are rescued but then are not destined to stay at the Centre for the remainder of their lives. The rehabilitation gets them back to full health and ensures that proper handling takes place. When the time is right they are broken to ride or retrained so that they become useful ridden animals. When the team feel that the time is right then rehoming is the next step, potential homes are rigorously checked and animals are never signed off and forgotten. Follow ups and consistent communication ensure that all horses and ponies only experience a positive future!
When moving round the farm one is immediately impressed by the calm and relaxed atmosphere, there are equines of all ages and they are all very happy. Nothing is left to chance and every animal is given the best opportunities to succeed. There are all types, sizes and shapes, all look very healthy and not too fat. I saw many that would achieve a level of success in the show ring, many of the coloured horses and ponies were fine examples of their type. For anyone looking for a horse or pony without unlimited funds but willing to offer a responsible home then this is the place to come! The staff are willing to explain everything and are happy to organise a package that will suit individuals.
The facilities here at Shores Hey are amazing! The buildings that house the horses are very well kept and everywhere is well maintained and tidy. Animals have access to well managed grazing and are turned out in groups to ensure they develop good social skills. There is a second hand tack shop that offers a selection of goods from bits to rugs, there is also a rug washing service that saves you clogging up your machine at home!
The indoor and outdoor arenas are superb and are available to hire, who heard of an indoor arena with heated seating? There are meeting rooms and conference suites available so this would be an ideal venue for clubs, societies and individuals to get together. As a day out there is a lot to see and take in and there are lots of child friendly activities.
HAPPA relies heavily on the generosity of the public for donations and bequests but after a visit one realises that the work done by this charity is amazing. It is not a sad place to visit but completely the opposite, a place filled with optimism where every horse and pony is given a chance of a new beginning!
Don’t take my word for it, arrange a visit, get involved in some way, you won’t regret it!