A yard manager took a leaf out of David Attenborough’s book, turning naturalist TV presenter so her clients could observe their horses during lockdown.
Jeanette Gibb, who manages Bank Farm livery, on the Hadlow Estate in Kent, had to make the difficult decision to close the 38-horse yard to visitors.
The team at the yard understood the importance of keeping owners in touch and created a WhatsApp group where they could post videos of the horses’ daily life. Jeanette often narrated these in a David Attenborough style for a little “extra fun”.
The staff were happy to go the extra mile for the horses in their care, even making carrot birthday cakes for two of their residents. Lisa Bowring’s horse Topper turned 28 during lockdown, along with his stable-mate Dylan.
Topper has been at the yard for 14 years and Lisa said it was thanks to the efforts of Jeanette and her team that she was able to relax and not be worried about her horse’s welfare.
“In the grand scheme of things everybody’s health is paramount. The big thing for me was that I never had to worry about him. The WhatsApp group and regular updates made such a difference. Regularly they would send something, so I never really felt like I wasn’t there,” Lisa said.
Jeanette said that while the yard had contingency plans in place for any major issues, a pandemic had been something “you simply cannot prepare for”.
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“Closing the yard to visitors had to be one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my career – it’s been incredibly stressful but the team, and owners, have been amazing. Everyone has had to make a sacrifice. The staff have told me that they don’t see it as a job, they see this as a way of life. The general consensus was that people understood the situation and are really grateful for everything we’ve done since.”
Jeanette explained that they wanted to make sure owners received updates on how their horse was doing.
“They love their horses and when they come up here to the stables they can forget about everything else. There’s something very relaxing about it. It’s like a big family up here,” she said. “We added a little humour to some of the updates for some fun, but the most important thing for us was that people could see that their horses were being well cared for.”
Following the recent easing of some restrictions, staff introduced a strict rota system, which minimised footfall while allowing owners to visit their horses during allocated time slots. Additional hygiene measures and layout changes have also been introduced so everyone can safely observe social distancing guidelines.
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