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Gary's Gatepost - A View from the Field

This is a Guest Blog Post written by one of our Riding School of the Year 2021 winners and Diversity Award 2023 Finalists, Team Tutsham. Team Tutsham are a Kent based charitable trust aimed at giving children from a variety of backgrounds the opportunity to step outside their normal lives and develop a host of physical and social skills. Let's find out what life is like from the perspective of one of the four-legged team members, Gary.

Dear Pony Pals,

Well, what a 12 months it’s been…

I can't begin to tell you what I’ve seen and heard on the farm. (Not that I’m a fly fringe twitcher, but I like to think I have my hoof on the pulse). More and more people seem to be sporting the Team Tutsham orange t-shirts. It’s getting hard to tell who’s who these days, especially when they all get in the minibus for day trips out! I have a special person who gives me extra attention. I have noticed she puts me in orange when she rides. I love it because it makes me feel like I’m part of the orange army too!

So, what’s been going on Gaz you are wondering? Stop nickering and let us know the word on the field. Well, there seems to be more faces coming to the farm during the week than there used to be. Whilst most of the little people are at school, we have different people arriving, sometimes in a minibus (wow there are a lot of them) and sometimes on their own with a special helper. Some are young and some are old (not as old as Polo and Whorley though!) Sometimes they look sad, or worried. Sometimes they make lots of loud noises and movements. Sometimes they just want to run. Sometimes they want to be involved and sometimes they don’t. But that’s ok. Me and my friends can help. We say hello and they smile. We let them brush us and they relax. We let them take us for walks and they feel responsible. We let them ride us (we remember to stay very slow so we don’t scare them) and they feel accomplished. They lead us back to our fields and they feel independent.

Me and Winnie were chatting by the water trough the other day and we both agreed that these young people seem to transform each week. They become more animated, they talk more, they take the initiative, they laugh and they start to be the ones to support the newer ones. It’s like a cycle. (Not a bicycle, that’s the thing that Sam pedals to get to see us each day

Barney told me that he had overheard a conversation that Max was having, (now if anyone is a fly fringe twitcher, it’s Barney). Apparently all the children that have been pouring out of the minibuses this summer are from somewhere called Londum. Or something like that. She said these children have challenging lives, often living in tower blocks with no grass. Can you imagine NO grass. I wouldn't like that one bit. Some are on child protection registers, some are in care. She said some can’t even play outside due to the risk of gangs or dangerous adults.

I have to say though, credit where credit is due, all of us have played our part. The pigs (greedy) have stopped stuffing their faces for for more than 10 seconds to get belly rubs. The goats (goofy) have stood still for more that 10 seconds to get a scratch. Even Ruby the old tractor has been pulling around that funny trailer with all the seats in. It’s full to the brim with children all waving and laughing. I don’t get it myself, Ruby doesn’t even give kisses like we do. Anyway, I don’t mean to brag but I’m pretty certain I heard them all say I was their favourite. They all come to see if they can find the little pink heart on me. (I’ll give you a clue, it’s on the end of my muzzle).

There is a nice boy that comes to our farm, he lives in a children’s home and desperately wants to be a jockey. Our friend JJ has been helping him, he used to be a racehorse you see. (He does go on and on about it, we all zone out when he tells us about it now). Anyway, JJ told me that he has helped the boy get an apprenticeship in a racing yard. That’s pretty cool. No one wants to be the one to break it to JJ that he is way too old and slow to go with him.

Sometimes when the sun is setting, us ponies have a little reminisce about some of the young people we have helped. They are from diverse backgrounds but are all vulnerable or disadvantaged. Like the ones we applied for college places for, that have gone on to jobs in agriculture or within the equestrian industry. (Just think, they can live independently now and earn their own money. Money to buy us carrots?) The ones who we have secured funding to allow us to give them 12 weeks paid employment. This means we are able to give them a proper work reference to go on and get a full time job. The ones that were almost non verbal when they first arrived, now engaging and teaching others how to care for horses. The very vulnerable adult who, despite desperately wanting to ride, never had the confidence to get on a horse until he came to us. That was the handiwork of our dear late friend Ollie the cob, he was ace at stuff like that. Giving confidence was his speciality. The ponies field is not the same without him. Or how about the ones who felt lost and isolated but up to thr farm to volunteer and feel part of the team. There are so many and we remember each and everyone of them. Strike says it’s because we really care about them.

The final thing to note is that I’ve noticed there are lots of new grown up people. They wear very different clothes to what I’m used to seeing. They look very clean, they smell very clean, and their clothes don’t have any pony slobber or hay attached to them. I’ve seen them pottering around the Team Tutsham garden and playground, I’ve no idea what they do in there? I noticed the areas they’ve been in seem to be turning blue. They have a pot and a brush and are putting it all over the fences. Luckily they don’t come near me, I’m team orange all the way, this blue invasion doesn’t complement my complexion at all. I mean, who’s ever chased after a blue carrot eh..?! I mentioned it to Mouse and Taffy and they told me they had heard Mark talking about Brachers? Taffy and Mouse aren’t the cleverest though, so for all I know, Brachers Blue is probably the new LeMieux colour?

I’m not going to lie to you, things do seem to be changing at Tutsham. In a good way of course, it feels like when you go into a freshly made stable, its clean, tidy, fresh water, plump haynet, and cosy… like foundations are being made for something big happening. Max and Mark always have new ideas.

I must trot, I can smell someone opening a bag of carrots in the other field. I need to investigate. For the safety of my friends you understand.

I'll be back with more news soon.

Love Gary x

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