It owes its origins to Ann Lindo from north London, who read Anna Sewell’s novel Black Beauty – the story of a working horse’s life told through the horse’s own eyes, later a popular TV series. A working horse (and by 1900, there were 300,000 in London alone) had no rest, usually pulling a taxi cab or a delivery wagon. Ann Lindo’s idea was to provide a place where sick and exhausted horses could rest and recover, lending in their place healthy animals so the owners could still earn a living. The Home of Rest for Horses (its original name) has been based at Speen since 1970.
Today the Trust provides retirement and respite for ex-police and military horses, and for ponies who have worked with charities that improve the lives of disabled or disadvantaged children. It’s also a sanctuary for horses, ponies and donkeys who have suffered cruelty or neglect, a professional training centre and a funder of equine veterinary research. These are worthy and serious activities, but it’s also a pleasure to see the looks on young children’s faces as they meet the horses and make new friends.
The Trust is open between February and November, from Thursdays to Sundays and on Bank Holidays, 2pm-4pm (admission and parking £5 per vehicle). There’s an excellent tea room, too.
Neil Matthews is the co-author, with his wife Helen, of Slow Travel: The Chilterns and the Thames Valley, a new guidebook available to buy online (bradtguides.com) or in local bookshops.