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Best kept Secret: human awards scheme recognises tiny pony with ‘unique gift’


  • Organisers of an awards scheme honouring human volunteers had so many nominations for a pony’s dedication, they sent her a special certificate – and are considering an animal category next year.

    SAVS, a council for voluntary services, awarded the certificate of nomination to Secret, a Shetland from Silverbirch Animal Therapy CIC in Leigh on Sea, Essex.

    The eight-year-old mare lives at the farm, the main aim of which is to offer an alternative to mainstream education to young people who are not in school or college, or on reduced timetables. The CIC also, thanks to 10hh Secret, provides “mobile equine therapy”, by taking the pony to see people who cannot get to the farm such as hospital inpatients.

    “This little pony has a unique gift for connecting with people, who need that extra attention that only an equine can bring,” Secret’s owner Nikki Birch said.

    “Ever since I have had Secret. I have known that she has something exceptional about her. At home in the fields at Silverbirch Farm, Secret is like any other pony but she seems to sense when we are on an important hospital or hospice visit.

    “These visits can be quite emotional for me and my staff, but Secret seems to know exactly what is needed and how to act. Whether it is a special cuddle or allowing people to spend time talking with her, Secret’s gift for connecting brings great joy and happiness to both the patients and the staff.”

    The CIC spokesperson said the SAVS team was surprised by the number of people who nominated Secret for the Southend Volunteer Awards, set up to “recognise and acknowledge the exceptional volunteers of Southend-on-Sea, whose tireless efforts and dedication significantly enrich our city”.

    Roger Savage of SAVS said: “We want to kindly ask Nikki and Secret to accept this token of our appreciation with our deepest thanks and heartfelt congratulations,” adding that SAVS is considering an award for animals next year, to acknowledge their contribution to society.

    The Silverbirch spokesperson said: “Commenting on her achievement, Secret said she was happiest when helping others, then went back to eating grass and chilling with her herd.”

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