This has been a LONG time coming, and we're not all the way there yet, but in the spring we hope to be starting PONY EXPERIENCES here at Bumblebarn!
I have been asked for YEARS if we are a riding school/do riding lessons as we have always had horses here, sadly the answer has always been (and is still!) NO for so many reasons. Insurance, qualifications, the right horses, money etc.
However sharing the joy of horses, and the benefits that spending time with them brings, has always been something I've been keen to do. My horses are my secret keepers, my therapy, my best friends, my workout, my motivation and just everything to me, I can't imagine my life without them. They bring me so much benefit without even needing to put a saddle on their backs. Yes, I love riding, but that's just one small part of the whole relationship for most of us equestrians.
Bringing pony experiences to the public without any riding was not something I ever considered a business proposal, ultimately because I suppose I'm always being asked about RIDING and perhaps I thought people wouldn't be interested if they couldn't ride? The last few years though, starting the alpaca experiences, have shown me that people want experiences. Riding is an experience, sure, but so is spending any amount of time with a horse - particularly if it's not something that is accessible to you in your day to day life.
Accessibility is one of the key words that has been in our business plans from day one, we want our Glamping and Experiences to be accessible to all. This means affordable, it also means literally accessible - we are working on wheelchair and disability access and please do contact us if you want to chat about anything like that. It also means making these experiences possible for people who want to have them, it's as simple as that.
So, Alpaca Experiences, people love them. I will admit that when I first heard about alpaca trekking I wasn't sure why anyone would do that when they could go for a ride on a horse?! (Probably something to do with me being a committed horse freak and seeing little point in anything other than equestrian pursuits at the time) However as I fell in love with these adorable animals I quickly saw the appeal. Our visitors think so too, our feedback has been great and we are so thankful and glad that everyone is enjoying the alpacas as much as we do! It's not something you do every day, feeding and walking an alpaca, and you get to learn new things, experience new things and there's a real sense of achievement which I see in people when they're getting the hang of it and their alpaca is responding to their cues (and not just trying to eat every green leaf it spots along the way!). It makes a lot of sense in many ways now - we want experiences with different animals to our norm, but horses are big and can be intimidating. Alpacas have the benefit of being shorter, fluffy, big eyed and docile and even the most nervous of guests quickly warm to their charming ways!
As I've seen how much people enjoy alpaca experiences, and how much benefit they bring to people of all ages and abilities, I've come to realise that people may want to experience this benefit from horses too without having to learn to ride. You don't NEED to ride a horse to enjoy their company! However, there aren't many places where learning about horses and spending time with horses is accessible without learning to ride. Of course there are sanctuaries and petting farms and similar, but not many of these offer hands on experiences any more in depth than patting over the fence and reading information boards.
So our Pony Experiences have come to exist, with our very own pet ponies Honey & Pippi the Miniature Shetland Ponies and Misty the Connemara. Honey & Pippi were originally brought to Bumblebarn to train as therapy ponies and visit Residential Homes alongside our alpacas. This is still their job, but we can offer their therapeutic benefits to more people by offering Experiences from Bumblebarn too! Pippi is just 72cms tall at the shoulder and weighs just approx 75kgs (the same as an adult alpaca) and Honey is slightly more robust at 86cms and 150kgs. Misty is a child's pony who has lived here since 2019 and has the sweetest temperament but is a little too large to visit people indoors (she's still only 138cms at the shoulder).
We have decided to offer their services as Experience ponies so we can share the experience of horses with children and adults alike who want to try something new, learn about horses and their care and feel the benefit of being outside in nature and with these phenomenal animals.
To read our initial experiences please visit our PONIES page by clicking HERE!