Major equine welfare charity to remain closed to the public until 2021 *H&H Plus*

  • Despite visitor attractions being allowed to open from 4 July, some welfare charities have decided to remain shut so they can focus their efforts on caring for the equines in their charge. H&H finds out which centres are now opened with Covid-19 secure measures in place and which are delaying reopening until a later date...

    As the equestrian world focuses on a new normal, some charities are reopening to visitors – but others will remain closed as the impact of Covid-19 means they must prioritise resources.

    Under step three of the Government’s guidance on easing lockdown restrictions, visitor attractions may open from 4 July.

    The Horse and Pony Protection Association’s Shores Hey Farm has reopened with restrictions, and Bransby Horses reopens on 8 July – but World Horse Welfare, the Horse Trust, the Donkey Sanctuary and Redwings remain closed.

    Bransby announced changes including additional picnic fields and a click-and-collect café service, and visitors cannot touch horses.

    “We’ve been working hard to ensure new hygiene and social distancing measures are implemented in a way that still allow our supporters to enjoy a memorable visit,” said Bransby chief executive Jo Snell.

    Meanwhile World Horse Welfare’s four visitor centres will not open until February 2021.

    “While we love having visitors, this adds additional risk in terms of keeping our centres ‘Covid-secure’. The protective measures we would need to put in place would also inevitably involve taking valuable time from staff to ensure measures were being followed,” said Roly Owers, World Horse Welfare chief executive.

    “The charity’s priority over the coming months has to be rehabilitation and rehoming, as each horse that is rehomed makes space for another. With all four farms at full capacity, making space for the large number of welfare cases expected later is vital.”

    Mr Owers added the charity is “very mindful” about the financial implications of remaining closed, but said it is a matter of priorities.

    “The pandemic is having a significant financial impact across all our income sources, including fundraising events cancelled and delays in receiving the gifts left to us in wills,” he said.

    “On the upside, while we were not able to rehome horses for a few weeks, we have now rehomed more in 2020 than at this point last year, and legacy income is beginning to pick up again, so through juggling priorities we should be able to cope with the inevitable challenges that lie ahead.”

    Jeanette Allen, chief executive of the Horse Trust which is shut to the public until at least September, agreed being closed has had a financial impact.

    “The closure will have cost in the region of £80,000 to £100,000 in lost income from entries, the tea room, merchandise sales and hiring our barn for events,” she said. “On top of that we will lose the less easily quantifiable support from visitors choosing to sponsor a horse, pony or donkey having met them.

    “We are still battling with lower than usual staffing levels as a result of the pandemic so bringing horses in and out of stables for opening is not essential but is a strain on resources, and caring for them is of course where we are focusing those resources. Every organisation will make decisions that are suitable for their visitor experience.”

    Redwings said its reopening situation is “under review” and the Donkey Sanctuary will remain temporarily closed.

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