Mucking out time at horse sanctuary

PUBLISHED: 09:22 25 January 2007 | UPDATED: 21:31 29 May 2010

Michael Boyton sweeps up

Michael Boyton sweeps up

Amonth after the Willow Tree Horse Sanctuary in Finchingfield was devastated by strong winds, Dunmow Broadcast reporter Michael Boyton returned to see how things are progressing. It was also an opportunity to lend a helping hand with a bit of feeding and

Michael hands over a new rug donated by Hacks to sanctuary owner, Sara Ross - Pics: Sarah Lucy Brown

Amonth after the Willow Tree Horse Sanctuary in Finchingfield was devastated by strong winds, Dunmow Broadcast reporter Michael Boyton returned to see how things are progressing.

It was also an opportunity to lend a helping hand with a bit of feeding and grooming.

Under a grey sky that threatened rain at any moment, the afternoon started with a warming hand over of two FAL Pro horse rugs, donated by HACS in Little Hallingbury.

"I can't believe it," said Sara Ross, who runs the sanctuary with her husband Alan. "These are the equestrian equivalent of an Armani suit. They are amazing".

After putting one of the FAL rugs onto Harvey and posing for photographs, which he seemed to enjoy much more than his two human counterparts, it was time to act the stable hand.

Sara introduced me to a large Cob called Dandy and gave me a run down on the various combs, brushes and sprays that are used to groom a horse. To me, one, something akin to five hole saws on a short handle, would have looked more at home in the London Dungeon.

However, it proved very effective at removing the thick mud - proof of a fun time spent rolling in the paddock - from Dandy's coat, and there were no noises of complaint coming from the equine member of this novice grooming team.

Alan, Sara's other half, was sorting out 40 loads of food into different baskets for the evening feed.

We got chatting and he tolled me about what is involved in running the sanctuary. To me, it seems like an endless cycle of feeding, mucking out and caring.

Before coming to Willow Tree, he was a musician and songwriter and worked with several big names. Next time you listen to George Michael's hit Outside, that's Alan on the guitar.

The time flies and an hour and a half later, Dandy the Mud-Caked had turned into quite a splendid creature with his brown coat shimmering in the barn's lights.

Sara said there has been a good response to the appeal for help: "People have been really kind and have been bringing all sorts of things," she said.

"One lady donated the money for us to buy a stable in memory of her son who loved animals and we've had people donate rugs and feed."

While I groom Dandy, Sara explained two new stables have been built and only four of the horses originally made homeless by the storm are still living outside.

Hopefully, they will have new stables by the end of this week.

Ben, one of the horses who was particularly traumatised by the storm, collapsed a couple of days after and is temporarily lodging with a horse called Duke. He is now fine and Sara said only one horse seems to still be in shock.

"Luke is still slightly unsettled but he is getting there and I think that once he's got a stable, he'll be fine," she said.

"Alan and I have been overwhelmed by people's kindness we had no idea we would get this sort of response.

"It really puts your faith back in human nature. I'd like to say a very big thank you to everyone for all of their support," she said.

To find out more about the work the sanctuary does, or to offer to help out with the horses, telephone Sara on 01371 810490 or 07956 229683.

You can also make a donation by sending a cheque, made payable to Willow Tree Sanctuary, to the Willow Tree Sanctuary, Mill Farm, Mill Lane, Finchingfield, Braintree, CM7 4PQ.

Alternatively, anyone wanting to pay money into the charity's HSBC bank account can do so by quoting account number is 70868361, sort code 40-45-31.

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