Volunteering in Normandy
Issie Hutchinson worked for the Epona Trust, an equine charity, on her year abroad. She spent her time in Normandy, France. Here's her account...What: Volunteering for a horse charityWhen: January to June 2011Where: The Epona Trust
What I did:
The work was so varied that it’s hard to describe exactly what I did, but it involved:
- Looking after the horses and ponies that live at the rescue centre.
- Showing visitors around the rescue centre and introducing them to the animals.
- Going on various trips with Ann, the founder and director of the charity.
These trips included:
- Visiting the horses and ponies that live at foster homes and going to see potential new foster homes.
- Responding to calls reporting equine welfare concerns, such as cases of neglect.
- Helping to ride and train the horses, which often involved rides around the beautiful Normandy countryside.
- Helping to organise fundraising events, such as a Harry Potter night at a local château and the annual open day.
- Updating the website and helping with publicity.
- I lived at the rescue centre with free food and accommodation.
- There was certainly no shortage of home comforts - I lived in an extremely comfortable house that even had under-floor central heating and had delicious home-cooked food prepared for me every night!
- Ann was very flexible about when I worked. I tended to look after the animals in the morning and evening, but the rest of the time was my own. In fact, I spent quite a bit of it doing other charity related things, but that was completely my choice, and simply because I enjoyed it all so much!
- It’s very easy to get to, as people frequently go backwards and forwards between the UK and the rescue centre by ferry, so it’s normally possible to tag along as a foot passenger.
Why it was so fantastic
A list of all the positive aspects would go on for pages, but here are just a few...
- The wonderful lifestyle that all the rescue animals enjoy. They have a great deal of freedom, and the horses live as a herd. They are also trained very sympathetically.
- Being made to feel so welcome and being treated as a member of the family. I was taken on numerous sight-seeing and shopping trips, and had a very good social life!
- Meeting so many amazing people of different ages and from all kinds of backgrounds.
- The beauty and tranquillity of the refuge. We used to go and watch the family of ragadans (small beaver-like creatures) who lived in the valley.
- Practicing my French in so many different contexts - from discussing a welfare case with the mayor to negotiating the price of hay with local farmers.
The charity is now looking for another volunteer, and this really is an unmissable opportunity. No experience with horses is necessary - just a love of animals. Please email me for more information at [email protected] or contact Ann at [email protected]