The Racehorse Sanctuary High Dependency Unit: Official opening with Jilly Cooper
The Racehorse Sanctuary and Rehoming Centre have had a phenomenal few months, celebrating some life changing achievements. Starting the year in their new Somerset base near Bruton, the charity has since celebrated a number of substantial successes, allowing them to further increase their support they offer to retired racehorses, including gaining funding from the Peter O’Sullevan Trust.
Wednesday 26th April was the official opening day of the Peter O’Sullevan High Dependency Unit at the Sanctuary’s Somerset base, the unit dedicated to the man recognised as ‘The Voice of Racing.’
The day began with a welcome speech from Colin Passmore, one of the valued Trustees, as he welcomed the small invited group to the sanctuary before Graham Oldfield, co-founder of the Sanctuary some 10 years ago, said a few words. We were then tre
ated to a champagne reception while much loved author and lover of the equestrian world, Jilly Cooper prepared for the grand opening. Having been a patron of the charity for a number of years now, Jilly was delighted to have been involved on this special day.
“This place is a haven,” she speaks fondly of their new home. “You really get a feel that every horse here has a chance in life.”
Having moved to Somerset at the end of 2016, this was Jilly’s first visit to the tranquil new setting. Before officially opening the centre and cutting the ribbon, Jilly mentioned how proud Peter O’Sullevan OBE would have been to know that his funding was helping these horses. Having had a huge love of and involvement with racehorses for his entire life, he’d be thrilled to support these retired racehorses. In a tear-jerking speech, Jilly expressed how Peter would have been looking down on the sunny Somerset sanctuary with extreme fondness. It was a really special moment.
The Special Day
I felt very honoured to have been invited to share the special day with the sanctuary team; Graham works tirelessly, travelling the country checking out potential new homes, ensuring these horses are loved and cared for as they should be and offering them the second loving life they so rightly deserve. Yard Manager Ruth did such a fantastic job on the day, the yard really looked immaculate and the day ran particularly smoothly with the help of her small group of volunteers.
It was also a real pleasure to meet Jilly; her love of horses was so evident as she made her way around the yard, feeding them polos and speaking fondly to them. She’s a real passion for the work the sanctuary do, of which she speaks very highly. You can see just how proud she was to be involved with the special day.
“These wonderful animals have been bred exclusively to excite and entertain us. Do we not owe them lifetime care and the chance of a second career whilst they are still capable of enjoying life?” Graham asks.
He of course, has a very valid point. Many racegoers love watching this great species in the prime of their racing career. They may win them money, they may lose them money, but the respect that the racing fans have for these animals remains unparalleled. Despite the improvement in the circumstances of horses leaving race training, there still needs to be safety net to ensure they really are given the second chance, second life and second career they so rightly deserve. I’d rescue many more if I had the room… For now, I’ll stick to rescuing one sweet racehorse at a time. Every little helps.