From carrot birthday cakes to David Attenborough style video updates, staff at the Bank Farm Livery Stables in Tudeley, Kent, have been going the extra mile for the horses in their care – and their owners – during the Covid-19 lockdown.
When lockdown began, 38 horses were in livery at Bank Farm, which is part of the Hadlow Estate, and Livery Yard Manager Jeanette Gibb had to make the difficult decision to close the yard to all visitors.
Recognising the importance of keeping owners in touch with their beloved horses, Jeanette and her small team quickly established a WhatsApp group to post videos of the horses going about their day to day activities, often narrated by Jeanette in a ‘David Attenborough’ style for a little extra fun.
Lisa Bowring’s horse Topper celebrated his 28th birthday during the lockdown, along with a fellow stable-mate called Dylan. Staff presented them both with a carrot cake and sung Happy Birthday. Topper has been residing at the stables for 14 years now and Lisa says it’s thanks to Jeanette and her team that she was able to relax and not worry about him when the lockdown began.
Lisa said: “In the grand scheme of things everybody’s health is paramount. The big thing for me was that I never had to worry about him. The WhatsApp group and regular updates made such a difference. Regularly they would send something, so I never really felt like I wasn’t there!”
Jeanette Gibb, says: “We have contingency plans in place for any major issues that might occur, but something like this you simply cannot prepare for. Closing the yard to visitors had to be one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my career – it’s been incredibly stressful but the team, and owners, have been amazing. Everyone has had to make a sacrifice. The staff have told me that they don’t see it as a job, they see this as a way of life. The general consensus was that people understood the situation and are really grateful for everything we’ve done since.”
Jeanette continued: “We wanted to make sure we kept in contact with owners so they could receive updates on how their horse is doing. They love their horses and when they come up here to the stables they can forget about everything else. There’s something very relaxing about it. It’s like a big family up here.
“We added a little humour to some of the updates for some fun, but the most important thing for us was that people could see that their horses were being well cared for.”
As well as following all Government guidelines throughout the lockdown, the team have also been taking guidance and advice from the British Equestrian Federation, British Horse Society and the Police, to ensure they are following correct procedures and adhering to the current legislation at all times.
With the recent easing of some restrictions, staff have been able to introduce a strict rota system, which minimises footfall while allowing owners to visit their horses during allocated time slots. Additional hygiene measures and layout changes have also been introduced so everyone can safely observe all social distancing guidelines.
Kate Teacher, of the Hadlow Estate, said: “Jeanette and her team have been working so hard at such challenging times and this just goes to highlight how seriously we take the care, welfare and well-being of all the horses there, as well as that of the community of riders and owners who keep their horses at Bank Farm.”