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Comment by Barbara of Hoofprints Miniature Haven 

Animals are nonjudgemental and forgive whatever they have had done to them.

They do not discriminate on anything. ANIMALS bring happiness, laughter, peace, and friendship to everyone and anyone. ANIMALS bring people together who may not ever come together for any other reason than the love of animals. ANIMALS can help people gain better health through interaction from as little as grooming an animal to taking an animal for a walk. It gives people a reason to do something that they may otherwise not have an inclination to do. We have had children talk, walk or just even smile for the first time ever in their lives when they interact with animals. That’s the power of animals.

I am Barbara I am 52yrs old. I am a single parent to my 1 and only child, my 25yr son who was born with mental and physical health issues from birth. We both have an inherited autosomal dominant pattern condition ” Gorlin Syndrome” naevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (NBCCS) which means is a rare, inherited disorder that affects many organs and tissues in the body.

Being a single parent with health issues caring for a child also with health issues has been extremely hard but rewarding and has made me a strong, determined person who has overcome discrimination and has an understanding of the barriers people with health issues have to live with, by proving they can live as normal a life as anyone else. I aim to succeed in whatever I do no matter what difficulties appear in my way, there is a solution to any problem. I aim high and end up with the required outcome. I have Lifelong experiences in agriculture, equine, and countryside sectors which have all enhanced my life in some way. I have always had animals from a young age and when I was alone (due to severe discrimination and bullying) I always found comfort and happiness in being with animals.

I started in animals for therapy to help my son overcome his health issues. From simply having pets such as dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, and even fish, even extending to ponies goats, sheep, and poultry. From a small child, I have always taken in animals in need and I got involved again in my adult years and found that even though some had been through extreme mistreatment and bad experiences, they were actually very forgiving and were fabulous at being therapy animals.

In 2010 we rented redundant Wiltshire farm buildings, yard areas, and fields allowing us to have sessions inside the barns, outside in the yards, and out into the farmland. We spent a lot of time and finances getting the farm up to health and safety standards. Thus our not-for-profit “Pet N Pat Animal Centre” project began. We began to attract groups and individuals to the farm to participate in numerous activities.

Wiltshire College college students on work experience and Local volunteers helped run the centre, bringing the fabulous experience of being with animals to people especially adults and children with mental and physical health issues. These groups can have financial difficulties and struggle to afford therapy sessions but are those who gain most from the animal experience. We organised short sessions of a few hours to full-day courses for people of all abilities. To fund the project and to allow us to offer free and subsidised sessions we organised fundraising events including “ Open Farm Sunday “ including Horse/dog shows and fetes. We attended local events with some animals and provided a pony and carriage for the local carnival princess

We had a couple of unforeseen setbacks but the main one that prematurely ended the project was that the farm’s owners unexpectedly died and the family put in a planning application for the whole farm, so sadly we were given 6 months’ notice to vacate the farm. Due to no local land being available and private property rentals unaffordable for us as a not-for-profit project. We sadly had to rehome most of the therapy animals. Eventually, we relocated to a smaller property in Nottinghamshire midlands. Sadly we were unable to offer animal therapy and education as we could not find another suitable property, so we concentrated on animal rescue, rehabilitation, and our rehoming activities. We decided to rename the project and register as a charity to help us gain financial help.

Hoofprints Miniature Haven was started and we registered as a charity in July 2018 to allow people to see we were a transparent project.  It took an extended period of time to register as a charity due to the main activities involving children, vulnerable adults, and animals all requiring high levels of commitment, security, and expertise. At present, the charity has 4 trustees and we have survived very testing times over the last few years, however, Brexit made people less financially secure with limited donations. The Spring/summer 2019 drought sadly raised prices of bedding and forage and feed, as again did the 2020 flooding. We had to relocate on 3 occasions due to the premises flooding.

2020/21 Covid caused us to completely shut to the public for sessions and fundraising from early 2020 and sadly, a large new equine event that had us as one of their sponsor charities canceled. Due to all fundraising events canceled and no with little income, we have spent many hours applying for grants and we are extremely grateful to several grant givers for the grants received from the government, private companies, and charities to keep us going. An animal-focused business can’t just shut its doors and do nothing!

We have had a large influx of requests from people unable to care for their animals due to financial and/or health issues which cause those families a lot of stress and sadness. But knowing we could take in their much-loved animals has helped those families cope with having to sign over their family pets to someone like us, who really cares, and now we are ready for our next challenge!

We are looking to relocate to the South West of the UK, we just need a property to rent and then we can restart our dream. We will keep going, we will keep making a difference!

We have a website www.hoofprintsminiaturehaven.org.uk

Facebook: Hoofprints Miniature Haven l  Twitter @hoofprintshaven I Instagram @hoofprintshaven

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