I only found out about IHP last year, when I was looking for somewhere to do my University work experience. I was immediately struck by how much work IHP has done over the years, how many battles they have won, how many still ongoing to save and protect horses that, in Italy and elsewhere, are abused and exploited only to be abandoned to an uncertain fate.
This year, towards the end of May, I was a volunteer at IHP for a fortnight or so, and was finally able to see with my own eyes how the Rescue Centre works.
I was really happy to be able to lend a hand and at the same time learn so very much. Yes, I had had experience with horses, but nothing compares to watching horses at liberty interacting in their ‘natural element’, the herd.
One fascinating thing I learned was how the horses interacted with people: some are shy, watching you from a distance only, others are curious and come closer but maybe don’t care to be touched, while others adore it (like Pedro the donkey who arrives silent as a cat, wanting his ears scratched....probably my favourite ‘personage’ of all, I may add); and there are those who see you as a walking food vendor, and will frisk you for it from head to toe with their very mobile lips.
Every one of them, from the horses, to Pedro the donkey and Bardo the hinny, is beautiful in their own way, and they tell you their stories through their eyes, their bodies, their movements, and I am grateful to have been there to listen.
Beyond the work experience of volunteering at IHP, I shall carry with me all I learned about horses from Sonny, his lessons on the management of senior equines, how to interact and approach, nutrition and the five senses...( and his willingness to answer my questions and clarify my doubts). My thanks too to Anna, who taught me so much as we chatted on our medication rounds (and sometimes the hill we had to climb to reach the group of horses seemed more a mountain), and she always found a natural remedy in her bag for each and every problem.
In sum, it was, yes, definitely an exhausting experience, but one which it is absolutely worth getting your hands dirty for. My thanks go to Sonny, Anna, Margaux (my flat mate for the period), and all those who in some way help the IHP Rescue Centre, for the wonderful experience, and for the effort they put into every day to make sure their magnificent horses live a good life, and/or pass their final years with care, and for their efforts to help those who are still in need.