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The Horse Rangers Association charity in Hampton Court

PUBLISHED: 10:14 18 November 2013 | UPDATED: 10:14 18 November 2013

Taking a leisurely stroll through nearby Bushy Park in Richmond

Taking a leisurely stroll through nearby Bushy Park in Richmond

Bob Atkins

Editor-in-chief at Horse&Rider magazine, which is based in Grayshott, Alison Bridge brings us all the latest from the Surrey horse world...

Five years ago, the horse world was rocked by a horrific tale of extreme cruelty and neglect – 125 horses on the now notorious Spindles Farm in Amersham were found starving, riddled with disease – 32 of them were dead. It was the worst case of its kind ever experienced by the RSPCA.

The Horse Trust was one of the charities who took the survivors in, treated their malnutrition and other horrible ailments and set about the long process of rehabilitating them to full health.

One such horse was Disney, a scraggy little cob with a matted grey and white coat and dull, listless eyes. At the Horse Trust, he was cured of salmonella and worm infestation – and he doubled his weight in six months. He was obviously a fighter, and today he is the picture of health – bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and living in the Royal Mews at Hampton Court, of all places.

Disney is one of the stars of the Horse Rangers’ yard, loved by the children who come here to learn horsemanship and the staff who perform displays to raise much-needed funds for this amazing organisation.

If you live in or near by, you might have peeked into the Horse Rangers’ yard in Hampton Court Road, just by the Cardinal Wolsey pub. Or you might have seen the Rangers themselves, kitted out in smart green uniforms, happily riding along the road for a hack in Bushy Park.

The Horse Rangers Association is a fantastic charity in itself. It enables young people, including those with special needs, who would not otherwise have the opportunity, to learn to look after and ride horses. Its aims are even more ambitious. As their mission statement says: “The Horse Rangers Association (HRA) seeks to provide a healthy and fulfilling opportunity for young people, regardless of background and ability, to develop character, responsibility and a concern for animals, the world we live in and other people, in a safe and enjoyable environment.”

Theresa Barrett is the stable manager at the Horse Rangers’ yard, and although she isn’t supposed to have a favourite, admits a very soft spot for the little rescued cob, Disney. He was six when the Horse Trust gave him to the Rangers, and he’d never been ridden. She backed him herself, and says: “He was so straightforward. I lunged him and long-reined him around the park, no problems, and was riding him within a month. I thought he might be troubled because of what had happened to him, but he wasn’t at all.

“He was – and is – amazing. He loves the children who come here, and loves being fussed. He’s a forward and responsive ride, and brave. We went to the Olympia International Horse Show last year to do a Horse Trust display, and he coped with going into the huge, floodlit arena – and even did a lap on his own!”

A happy ending
The Horse Rangers rely on voluntary monthly subscriptions for most of their income, supplemented by fund-raising and charitable donations. They regularly hold special events to help raise funds for the organisation, and have a band and musical ride display team that can also be booked to perform in the local area.

Like all the Horse Rangers’ horses, Disney has a job teaching riding – four days a week for two hours, and all day at weekends, with a two-hour break at lunchtime. It’s mostly hacking in nearby Bushy Park, some schooling and he’s Theresa’s mount and lead of the Horse Rangers’ Musical Ride.

“He loves all the limelight,” says Theresa. “All the Rangers and children love him. They get him out, groom him and plait him – he’s lovely, very easy to be around.”

Does Disney have any after-effects from his dreadful early experiences? Happily, very few, but Theresa concedes: “He’s a pig – he’ll eat everything. It’s as if he thinks he’s been starved once, so he’s never going to have that again!”

We think that for his amazing fortitude in recovering from starvation and neglect and learning to trust humans again, Disney deserves all the goodies he gets!

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For more information on the Horse Rangers and how to get involved or make a donation, visit their website at horserangers.com

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Horse&Rider is the UK’s best selling monthly equestrian magazine (see horseandrideruk.com). For a special £10 discount on Horse&Rider subscriptions for Surrey Life readers, call 0844 499 1766 and quote SLHRS.

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