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Horse Trust groom Tim standing with his horse Jirka

Hay There, Tim!

We had a lovely chat this month with one of our longest standing volunteers, Tim. He has been here since 2012, and has seen many of our residents come, and go to those fresh pastures over the rainbow bridge. Tim helps every Monday and Thursday, and he brightens our days with plenty of stories. We were glad we could sit down with him and write some of them down; from horses in South Africa in the 60’s and 70’s, to the royal horses of Czech Republic, horses of his own, and of course, our lovely, retired residents.

Tim was raised with horses and his love for them was engrained from an early age, as it was for his whole family – especially his sister who competed regularly. His dad was from South Africa, serving in the diplomatic service, and his mum from London before eventually moving there. It’s safe to say that this set Tim up for a life of travel, too!

Tim has his own horse called Jirka, AKA ‘Big George’, an 18hh, 23 year old chestnut gelding, similar in appearance (and age) to our magnificent Rubin. Jirka is now retired and lives a slower pace of life, like most of our residents. Tim has had Jirka since he was just four years old and retrained him. Although Jirka still lives in Tim’s former home in the Czech Republic, he visits him very often.

As children, when Tim and his sister still lived in South Africa, they took part in the historic Voortrekker route from Transvaal to Natal one summer, which totalled 450 miles. They travelled a distance of 20 miles every day, and each night different farmers would put them and their horses up, who were all thankfully sufficient in basic farriery and veterinary care. As they neared Natal, word had clearly spread of Tim’s adventure, and Natal Jockey Club invited Tim and his group stay. Tim fondly recalls joining the jockeys the next morning at 5am to gallop on the beach and swim in the sea. By this point, the local newspapers had met them for the final leg of their journey and Lord Mayor of Durban, Natal, even turned up to give them a civic reception and motorcycle escort to the finish line. Tim says that they won the competition for the best school presentation at the beginning of their new term that year. We can see why!

Horse Trust groom, Tim, riding his horse Jirka
Tim and his horse, Jirka

Tim’s favourite place to be nowadays is in the Czech Republic with his horse, Jirka. He also loves living in Buckinghamshire because he can visit his family regularly – he particularly enjoys a pint in the pub with his son. He volunteers at The Horse Trust as a way to give back to horses for all they’ve given him throughout his life. “These horses have a history,” Tim says. He has a keen interest in working horses, particularly those ridden in Ceremonial Parades. Not only does he have plenty of knowledge of the police and military horses of the UK, but in the Czech Republic, too.

Tim enjoys visiting the black horses of the Czech Bishops, and the white horses of the Czech National Stud, also known as Kladruby nad Labem, who mainly work as carriage horses for the police. The horses are from a 1500’s bloodline and their home is a UNESCO heritage side. Tim explains that the horses are a breed known as Kladrubers, closely related to Lependzana. These horses are born black, and go grey with age. Similar to our sweet residents, Joey and Fudge, who are now as white as snow!

Throughout Tim’s time working at our sanctuary, he completed his Horse Trust-funded level 3 diploma in Equine Legislation, Welfare and Field Skills to set him up as a Field Officer for which he was very grateful. He was previously a Welfare Officer and has seen some difficult things in the past. Tim observed that mostly, it is not cruelty, but ignorance that leads to neglect. Tim strongly believes it is about educating people. He recalls beautiful sponsor horse Polly when she arrived, following one of the most severe cases of neglect we’d ever seen. She was incredibly malnourished, and was the only horse of three to survive. Tim fondly recalls Polly’s fighting spirit during those hard times, which remains with her to this day.

Cavalry Black, Commando, meeting Joey the War Horse
Commando meeting Joey the War Horse

One of Tim’s favourite days at The Horse Trust was when the War Horse theatre production company, from the story originally written by Michael Morpurgo, came to our Home of Rest for Horses to learn about horse behaviour and mannerisms ahead of the upcoming musical. During that time, the team fell so in love with former Household Cavalry horse, Commando, that they sponsored him. They even introduced him to the puppet they were using in the musical. Commando wasn’t sure in the beginning, but they soon built rapport! When the puppeteers had learned all they needed and it was show time, our fabulous team received an invite to the West End to watch it!

To Tim, horses are the most amazing animals; they’re intelligent, and each have their own personalities. Like giant dogs, he loves the relationships you can have with them. At the charity, Tim remembers the happy times, sad times, and believes in the value of what The Horse Trust provides for our horses, because we give them a good retirement.

What a wonderful chat, thank you Tim. We’d better leave him to it as it’s time for the horses to be turned out!

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