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Tower and Town, February 2024

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The Editor Visits Greatwood

It says ‘Greatwood’ on the board at the turn off the main road at Clench Common. On your way to Pewsey you’ll spot that it is a home for retired racehorses. But what is Greatwood like and what do they do? Suspecting that there is more to it than just old horses being put out to grass, I went to find out.

Sasha showed me round what used to be a dairy farm, but whose cattle sheds now house horses. There are thirty of them at the moment and for the winter they are accommodated, not in stalls, but in such a way that they have plenty of room and can make contact with their neighbours over barriers of medium height. They may have been injured, have become temperamental or just old, but the immediate impression is one of calm and contentment, with horses at ease among each other and quietly ready to greet a visiting stranger. Some are re-homed and Greatwood carefully vets anyone offering a horse a second retirement home.

But as their website says, Greatwood is not just “people helping horses” but “horses helping people.” (See the Front Cover picture.) They run educational programmes for individuals or small groups of young people of school age. Disadvantaged children who may have emotional or physical problems and who have had difficulty fitting into mainstream education can gain enormously in confidence through interaction with horses; anxiety is reduced, communication skills improved and self-esteem raised. Expert, trained staff assess children and manage them as individuals; in addition, one-on-one lessons in Maths and English are provided for some, with the aim they may return to mainstream schooling. On my tour through some, well-adapted and well-maintained rooms, I passed a young boy having a cookery lesson, too. Not surprisingly, Greatwood also runs courses for young adults who want professional qualifications to make a career with horses.

Sasha impressed me with her intelligence and energy, and described to me the constant efforts Greatwood makes to engage with the public and to raise money. One horse can visit a care home; another can spend a day at Newbury races… The impressive work of this invaluable establishment, founded by the practical and visionary Helen Yeadon 25 years ago, costs half a million pounds a year to run. You can contribute - and visit Greatwood - by becoming a Greatwood Guardian.

John Osborne

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