A little while ago I wrote an article on animal cruelty in tourism and how best to avoid it. We love animals and have no desire to exploit them so we’re ultra careful whenever we choose an activity with animals.
After quite a bit of research, we decided to visit a sanctuary in Norfolk that cares for horses and donkeys. We have a really soft spot for animals but in particular, horses!
Is this charity safe to support?
We are very careful about which charities to support and before supporting one, we ask ourselves the following questions:
- Are they registered with the Fundraising Regulator?
- Is there financial information transparent, easy to find and understand?
- How much money actually goes to the charity in comparison to CEOs, fundraising, expenses etc?
- Will they sell my data for financial reward?
- How aggressively do they pursue fundraising? Chuggers?
- Is their message honest, moral or based on scientific/substantiated fact? (I don’t support ANY health charities because of this)
- Can you find any reviews or negative press that can be verified?
- Do the animals look in good health? Are they regularly seen by a vet?
- Does this charity present itself in a transparent and honest way?
It is awful that we have to ask these questions but in this ‘post-truth’, neo-liberal era, it is imperative to answer such questions.
Redwings Horse Sanctuary
There are five centres throughout England and Scotland and we visited the one in Aylsham, which is about 30 minutes outside Norwich.
There is plenty of parking and the reception is signposted and easy to find.
The car park and reception building is suitable for off-road pushchairs, wheelchairs and people with mobility problems. It houses the gift shop and cafe. All profits made from the sanctuary are re-invested so even if you only pop in for a bowl of soup, you’re adding to potential profits.
Gifts in the shop and the food prices in the cafe are very reasonably priced. Some gifts in the shop are homemade and donated to be sold. Our kids had a bowl of homemade soup and a roll of bread in the cafe which they proclaimed as delicious.
Entry by donation
Entry to the sanctuary is by donation and I would recommend nothing lower than £5 per person. I didn’t count the amount of animals but there must be in excess of fifty donkeys, ponies and horses.
All of the animals at the sanctuary have either been abandoned or mistreated in some way. They are provided with a beautiful setting of lush green paddocks, stables, have access to a vet and are well fed and cared for.
Unlike many sanctuaries in Norfolk, Redwings is open all year round.
catering for kids
Everything in the centre is designed with little people in mind and keeping them entertained and occupied.
Leaving the centre you’ll find a junior play park, a drawing area and some swings for older kids.
Easy to read signs
There are lots of signs everywhere that are easier enough for all readers to either read the whole sentences or pick out animals names etc.
On every field there are signs detailing the occupants and sometimes a little story about them.
Newly arrived horses undergoing treatment and assessment are kept in the stables closest to the main building.
When we went, there was Shaka, a very juvenile horse undergoing handling training and Edward undergoing treatment for mud fever on his hind legs. We fell in love with both, it’s hard not too, but in particular Edward. He was a skittish horse, who was not overly comfortable with people and certainly not men. He wasn’t a happy horse and was showing signs of boredom. He was very reluctant to allow us to stroke him but after twenty minutes of trying to coax him over, he eventually came and allowed me to pet him gently and sparingly. I am not sure of his story and I am guessing he was relatively young. Shaka was much more amenable to stroking and less hard work. Both were lovely though and it really does make you question how people can mistreat these elegant animals.
Ever wondered what a horses tongue looks like?
As we were in the stables, Edward started to choke. That awful feeling of panic started to rise and I suggested putting my husband’s hand down his throat lol. My husband was not happy with this suggestion – given the size of Edward’s teeth and luckily nothing bad happened & he stopped choking. We got to see HUGE horse teeth up close though!
Pathways are wide and in some cases have gravel. Certainly suitable for pushchairs and electric wheelchairs but I am sure about manual wheelchairs. Best to discuss this with the centre.
Horses in the paddocks
I forget how many paddocks there were so I’ll guestimate at about ten or more and they’re scattered around the land. I think they’re separated according to breed, however I’m not 100% sure.
The paddocks closest to the centre are full of both stock horses and donkeys. The horse paddocks are huge and there’s plenty of room for them all to run and eat. The majority of stock horses are very friendly and quite nosy. They’ll readily come for a hug and a pat.
It’s Donkey month
December was donkey month and sadly we missed the specialised talk about them. Every month has a different theme of guided walks & talks as well as family activities and even touching the animals and grooming them.
One donkey paddock had a horse in with it where the poor horse was trying to show its dominance by biting a particular donkey, putting his leg over his head and generally trying to bully it. Luckily the donkey got revenge by kicking it. All very exciting!
The Shetland ponies AKA The Gangsters, of which I think there were six, were rescued when their owner sadly died. They seemed very happy, eating!
The redwings walk
Leaving the Shetland Ponies you have the option to follow the wildlife walk or walk up to the top paddocks. The wildlife walk finishes at the top paddocks however you will miss a pond with cygnets.
As the sign says, the path can be quite muddy. As we were walking around, an all terrain pushchair was doing the walk successfully too. The path is wide but boggy.
One of the top paddocks contained a number of Irish sport horses who were all very timid. However another paddock contained some chestnuts, one of which we managed to coax over.
Want to do more?
If visiting the sanctuary isn’t enough, you can re-home or adopt animals too.
Adopting a horse will cost £12.50 and you receive an A5 photo, the animal’s rescue story and a special certificate. You can also visit them for free and even get an invite to their birthday party. We adopted a beautiful horse and cannot wait to visit her some more.
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