Two of our grooms, Louise from Axnoller Farm and Grace from Town Barton Farm went to Ireland on a Farm Swap and have written a blog of their experience.
Our week's work experience started with a warm welcome, but having arrived at the wrong farm, it was the Knockarbane staff who first greeted us!
After a short re-route we were soon met by the equally welcoming farm staff at Hannigans and following some introductions and a small tour we got stuck in sweeping the yards. My initial reaction was the contrast to my home farm, Town Barton. There seemed to be a lot more hand scraping mainly due to the layout of the farm; Hannigans is a centralised farm with four large main barns connected together which accommodate bigger groups of donkeys.
After our break we headed out with Clody and Jill to do some weighing; Louise and I helped carry the weighers in and, once in place, both of us manned doors to keep the donkeys and mules moving through the race.
A difference in Hannigans’ routine allowed us to have a focused afternoon of grooming and quality time with the animals and farm team; at Town Barton this usually makes up part of our daily routine due to the number of mules which require behavioural training. We groomed Buttercup group, which had several mules and 31 donkeys and I was pleased to make friends with a couple of mules, Edgeworthstown Lad and Jasper.
One afternoon we got a tour of the hospital, which was a new experience for me as Town Barton is a considerable distance from its hospital in Sidmouth. We got to meet several of the hospital team and some joined us in the tearooms at lunch, allowing us to get to know them a bit better as the week went on.
After seeing the hospital, we had the chance to join Therese making up some of the hospital medications and then accompanied her on an afternoon vet round. This was interesting for us to experience and allowed us to learn about more of the vet practices as well as see the difference having a hospital on site makes to delivering treatment and care.
At Town Barton we specialise in our mules, so a special treat for us was meeting new residents of Hannigans farm, Stig and Robbie. At three months old, both the little bundles were full of character and it was great watching them run and play in the fields where they met another foal Betty, three months and mum Meave. They were definitely firm favourites with us and Hannigans staff alike. Robbie thoroughly enjoyed all the attention and even joined in on a selfie with Louise and myself.
We were also lucky enough to spend part of an afternoon with the Irish foster Donkeys, two who were heading out for foster that week. Having a small group of foster potential donkeys allows the staff to concentrate their time putting the extra training in required for the animal to be ready for a new home.
Another character we got to meet who was only a little older than the foals was Bella. Bella had been hand reared and so was extra keen for cuddles and love, so much so that one morning she walked up to Louise put her chin on Louise’s shoulder.
On the whole, we thoroughly enjoyed our time over in Ireland; it was great to further expand our knowledge of the charity and see our presence in Ireland. Everyone we spoke to welcomed us with warm smiles and it was great to do our bit sharing how we work at our farms with the team at Hannigans and members of the public.