Groom Vikki Keeling
It’s so rewarding when you form a bond with a horse and finally gain their trust.
I’ve been working at Gonsal Farm Equine Centre for almost a year.
I’ve always loved horses and wanted to work with them from my very first riding lesson at the age of four. As long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to make a difference to the lives of animals. I love my job because no two days are the same. It’s so rewarding when you form a bond with a horse and finally gain their trust.
My working day
My working day begins early in the morning with yard duties. I check that our equines are healthy and warm, make sure the stables have ample hay and water, feed them and dispense medication where necessary.
All grooms are allocated equines so they can build a bond and help make progress in the particular challenges they face. Most of our horses and ponies come in to us as the result of cruelty or neglect, so at around 10.30 am I begin behavioural rehabilitation which can involve various things.
Some horses aren’t even used to human contact. Some will need to get used to wearing a headcollar or tack. Others we can start in-hand work fairly early on and some will go into the school to learn voice commands.
Preparing equines for adoption
The length of time it takes for a horse to be adopted can vary. Each one is different, just as every potential adopter is. Even after training and rehabilitation work, some may still be more nervous than others, so we observe them with their potential adopter to make sure they’ll be a good match. It’s our job to ensure an adopter has the right amount of time, patience and experience the horse will need. But we’re always on hand if they have questions or need advice and support.
We had four horses that came in just two months ago and have already gone to their new homes but some can take over a year to be ready for adoption. Such as the case of the 28 Shetland ponies who came in last October as a result of severe neglect.
Tackling cruelty and neglect
They had been living in the most terrible conditions, cramped up together in a tiny space hardly ever seeing the light of day. They were malnourished, severely emaciated, full of worms and crawling with lice. They were also really nervous of any human contact and would panic when anybody went near them.
One pony was so poorly we had to do shifts with her through the night as we weren’t sure whether she’d make it. We had to turn the ponies out in the field in shifts of just half an hour at a time because their stomachs had shrunk and they weren’t used to having a normal amount of food. Some even had to be fed by drip, and all were in serious need of farriery care.
Once they were physically better, gaining their trust and putting head collars on them was the next step as they weren’t even used to being groomed. But with hard work, time and patience we got them there. Each of their unique characters eventually came shining through and the last two were finally adopted this October.
It was a remarkable achievement and a great example of love and dedication triumphing over cruelty and neglect. I wouldn’t want any other job!