Forward by Joanna Birley, Founder of The Country Corner animal therapy project.
Following a freak riding accident in the summer of 1986, I faced life in a wheelchair but wanted to still be involved with animals, albeit not spooky Thoroughbreds any more and it was recommended that I ‘trade-in’ my Thoroughbred for an American Quarter Horse as they were a sensible and easily trained breed, purpose-bred as the perfect companion for the working cowboy – the recommendation proved true and I enjoyed riding again, leaving my wheelchair behind and ‘walking’ away to explore the countryside.
What started with just a few miniature horses and chickens for my own enjoyment and ‘feel-good’ factor on old Verwood Farm land in 1992, has slowly grown the ‘family’ to include a couple of Kune Kune pigs and in 2023 a small herd of Pygmy goats to choose three from, that are most suitable for me to handle from a wheelchair, and I will rehome the others.
The site has been customized gradually, as funds allowed, over many years, to enable me to look after the animals myself but when ground conditions make accessing from a wheelchair impossible, my lovely band of volunteers or family members step in to help.
Before Covid, I welcomed home-schooled children once a week in term-time which raised funds to help support this lovely little corner of the countryside but we have never opened for them again due to the great cost of repairs necessary to bring us into line with ‘health and safety’ after the long shut down following Covid and as the land has always been ear-marked for the building of the upper school on the school campus which already has the first school, middle school, youth club and caretaker’s house, to invest heavily in the ‘school’ land would not make sense and the adjacent land that we had always planned to establish a ‘rustic therapy’ centre on, is, sadly, no longer a possibility – I lost land I had kept animals on for 27 years.
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