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Show Jump with Valley Farm Plank

Camel in the field with horses in the background

two shire horses trotting in the field



Valley Farm Blog

Animal Antics from Down on the Farm.

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Below you can read about all the things that we and the animals have got up to in the past.


Autumn 2013

Well, here we are, Christmas again. The warmer weather has seen our horses ...

... still living out. This is a first. Years ago we always had them in during November due to flooding (we do live on a flood plain) but recently they have wintered out until December. This year they are still living out and we have only been flooded once, unlike the rest of the country. Tomorrow it will be January and today I noticed one of the apple trees just coming into leaf along with the lilac.

The autumn season has been busy for us in all ways. Stacy who runs the office had a little girl in November and the lady who was training up to cover the maternity leave decided to leave the very week before Stacy went off! So in the normal way various members of the family were press ganged into covering assorted tasks. It's time like this I realise I definitely should have had more children!

In October we had a wonderful night out at Trinity Park for the B.A.L.E award and Small Farm Business awards. We were very happy to receive 'Best Livestock' and Runner up in the BALE. (Best alternative land enterprise)

The autumn gales have been interesting. We had a number of trees down which has kept David busy with the chain saw and one morning we found next door's piggery roof scattered across our fields. Luckily there are no pigs kept there now so no animals were homeless. We have also had some other staff changes this autumn. Kim has moved on to pastures new and will be greatly missed, Vicky has left for Cornwall but will be returning next year as she loved the pony camps so much. Charlotte has taken a teaching job (she will make a wonderful teacher) and Luanne and Shannon have completed their NVQ courses. So all in all it seems very quiet around here! David and I also decided to make some changes and retired from the weddings this year. After thirty years of it I felt that it was time for a rest. I loved my time doing weddings, so many memories but the horses like me are not getting any younger. So we sold off that side of things but kept Snow and Nimbus because I just couldn't part with them after all this time and I would never find a more reliable pair of horses. So they remain and now and again we go out for a pleasure drive with them just for fun. We are still doing the Sikh weddings though as they don't involve quite as much work and generally they are early in the morning so we can be back here by the time the staff arrive for the day shift.

The Take Back The Reins courses have proved popular again this quarter and some of our original starters have now gone on to purchase their own horses either from us or elsewhere. A number of the pony camp ponies have gone out on our 'Home Loan' scheme this winter so not only are there less staff, there are less horses too. Roll on Pony Camps when all the action picks up again!

And finally, I've had an incredibly stressful run in with the National Minimum Wage people. It's been very hard work because there are so many things I was unaware of. I now know that there is no such thing as a volunteer. Because we are a business we cannot have anyone turning up to help out with the horses just because they want to. The only way they can help out is if we pay them or they pay us. Pay has to be involved somewhere. For those who cannot afford to pay to visit the horses and brush them just because they want to, there is no answer. They just can't. Either I have to pay them to be here or they have to pay 'the going rate' to volunteer. In addition, as soon as I give them any form of training such as 'you're using the wrong brush, that's a dandy brush not a body brush' then I am training them and as such I must pay them the NMW. We're not alone in this either, I know of other establishments in the same predicament. I understand it's the law, but somewhere we seem to have lost something. Not everyone can afford to pay to get involved with horses and following on from the Olympic legacy I felt it was good to get people outside and involved with an equestrian sport. As a teenager I went as a 'working student' to an establishment where I learnt enough to be able to start my own business. I hate to say it, but I'm quite sure I got more out of it than the owner of the business did, because I was a pretty useless teenager!

Anyway, that's my rant over. It won't change anything and there will still be a lot of disappointed people who would like to be able to help out with the horses but are not allowed to do so. No problem, there are still the bus shelters they can hang out in instead.

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