Here in the Dordogne, I have found a little paradise, complete with a plethora of huggable furry creatures & four very kind & loving people, who have opened up their home to little old me.
Set in the countryside of the beautiful town of Brantôme, The Phillips family run a sanctuary for retired British Police horses. Not only do they have over twenty horses, wiling away their days in the surrounding grassy fields, but they also have nine dogs, most of whom have been rescued, three cats & three very plump chickens. As you can imagine, with me being a rather large animal lover, I am quite in my element here.
During my stay here, I have learnt that The Metropolitan Police, does not offer any financial support to the rehousing of Police horses, once they are retired from service. Which, considering what these animals go through when on duty, on the streets & during riots, along with their length of service (the average horse lives for over thirty years), I think is appalling. If it wasn't for people like The Phillips, offering these horses a final home, they would simply end up being euthanased.
Unfortunately, the majority of the horses that come to Brantôme, arrive with both physical & psychological issues, which take both time & money to treat. Every penny that the family make, through fund raising events & renting out their holiday gîte, goes on paying the sizeable veterinary bills that roll in each month, along with the huge amount of feed they need, to cater for all of the horses.
To help raise further funding, BPH offer the public the opportunity to come & visit the sanctuary in the Spring & Summer months, providing a guided tour, whereby guests meet all the horses & learn about their stories & sit down to a delicious cream tea on the lawn, all for €10 per person. During my time here, they have been speedily erecting a Summer House in the garden, ready for the start of the season, which they intend to stock with gift items, that will be available for guests to purchase during their visit.
They also introduced a membership scheme a year ago, hoping to secure regular donations. A year's membership costs €10 per person, which is a nominal fee, but having funding trickling in each year from paying members, is something the family rely on, in order to keep going.
I'm sure that anyone who's done stable work before, will know how much time & effort looking after one horse takes, let alone over twenty & with only four people to do all the work, it can be a struggle to find the time & energy to plan & organise events, maintain the vast property & do necessary building work, let alone deal with marketing & publicity, in order to raise awareness & much needed funding. Sometimes, there simply aren't enough hours in the day.
Having spent two weeks at the sanctuary, mucking out the stables, helping to groom the horses & developing some favourites, I can honestly say I have fallen in love with the place. Seeing how much love & dedication the family put into caring for the animals, is really touching & I don't think I could express strongly enough, how much praise I think they deserve. I've decided to stay on a little while longer & offer my services, both with marketing & general help, so you may be reading a little more about them in the future.
If you would like to find out more, donate, or come for a visit, you can find further information on their website here, or their Facebook page here. You can even find them on Twitter here, because even horses like a tweet!