Whilst I was traveling Europe in November 2020, I made the decision that I wanted to volunteer on a farm with horses as I am a keen equestrian. I hoped to find a farm in Slovenia as I was kayaking in Bovec at the time. I used an online platform called HelpX and made a few applications around the country. I was rejected by all unfortunately owing to personal feelings about COVID-19. I then made the spontaneous idea of looking in Italy, as it was the neighbouring country, and applied to only one farm called the Italian Horse Protection.
I received an excited email that accepted my application. I arrived a few days later in the Tuscany countryside, on a farm called Tignano and met the permanent crew of Sonny, Giulia and Ben. Immediately I was warmly welcomed into the home and shown my bedroom. Giulia offered the oil heater from her room to ensure I would remain warm at night. The house was a renovated barn of classic Italian architecture, surrounded by a larger, modern metal barn and paddocks with beautiful, green rolling countryside beyond. The house was equipped with all necessary washing appliances, linen, fireplace and Wi-Fi.
IHP Italian Horse Protection is a non-profit organization which operates throughout Italy for the protection of horses and other equidae. The rescue centre that they manage and I volunteered for cares for ill-treated horses and hosted 47 horses in my time spent there. I worked 5-7 hours every day for two weeks. We did two shifts – the first from 5am to 9am, followed by another from 3pm to 6pm. Ben, Giulia and I (being the only volunteer at the time), had to feed, water, clean the stables, replace bedding and provide new hay for the horses. It was tough labour but time flew for me as I couldn’t get enough of the horses. All of them had their own personality and watching and interacting with them was so entertaining. Ben also provided good humour and his African trap music certainly boosted the atmosphere. Between my first and second work shift of the day, I could do as I pleased. I chose to explore the farm almost every day. I hiked around the farm land and through bush, down rivers and up hillsides. It was a stunning farm. I also had a new experience of being vegan for two weeks. Ben Giulia were both vegans and although they said I could request for meat or dairy, I chose to rather open myself to try something different. The food we prepared was lovely and certainly plentiful. Evenings were spent relaxing by the fireplace, chatting or reading with the housecat ‘Chi-Chi’ purring on my lap.
In my time I received basic training about the natural management of the horses, management of the equine elderly, barefoot, feeding, equine psychology. My perspective really broadened at IHP. The selfless care that the team had for the horses was very admirable. Owing to my time spent at IHP, I have decided to pursue Studying Veterinary Sciences and wish to begin my studies in 2022. I would definitely return to volunteer again. The IHP team is something special to be a part of.