Hatfield woman campaigns to save rescue centre for ponies

PUBLISHED: 15:26 30 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:26 30 May 2017

The Pony Ranch owner Josie Barker (back right) with volunteers (back L-R) Lucy, 16 and Katie Abbott, 13, and the Pony Ranch group of riders. Picture: Danny Loo

The Pony Ranch owner Josie Barker (back right) with volunteers (back L-R) Lucy, 16 and Katie Abbott, 13, and the Pony Ranch group of riders. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2017

A rescue pony ranch frequently visited by Welwyn Hatfield seriously ill and autistic children is hastily trying to raise money to avoid closure.

The Pony Ranch owner Josie Barker (centre) with volunteers (L-R) Lucy, 16 and Katie Abbott, 13. Picture: Danny LooThe Pony Ranch owner Josie Barker (centre) with volunteers (L-R) Lucy, 16 and Katie Abbott, 13. Picture: Danny Loo

A rescue pony ranch frequently visited by seriously ill and autistic children is hastily trying to raise money to avoid closure.

The not-for-profit Pony Rescue in Hertingfordbury is owned by Josie Barker, of Chennells, Hatfield, who says it is at risk of closure after East Herts Council told her she needed a commercial riding school licence costing £2,000.

Former hairdresser Josie, 35, told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “A few years ago the council visited us and told us we did not need this licence and now all of a sudden they showed up two weeks ago and said we needed it.”

The Pony Ranch teaches children how to look after and ride ponies, and hosts children’s parties to help fund its work.

The Pony Ranch in Hertingfordbury. Picture: Danny LooThe Pony Ranch in Hertingfordbury. Picture: Danny Loo

Josie added: “We are totally unprepared to cover these costs financially as well as cover our rent and costs to look after the ponies.

“Losing the ranch would be like losing everything, it means everything to me.

“We have a lot of autistic and ill children who attend that will miss it so much.”

Ceri Redwood, 41, who also lives in Chennells, has two daughters Lucy and 13-year-old Katy who regularly visit the ranch.

The Pony Ranch volunteers Katie, 13 and Lucy Abbott, 16 with Star the pony. Picture: Danny LooThe Pony Ranch volunteers Katie, 13 and Lucy Abbott, 16 with Star the pony. Picture: Danny Loo

Katy is receiving chemotherapy after having been diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of 11 in October 2015, a month after starting secondary school.

Ceri said: “She has missed a lot of school so hasn’t had the chance to make many friends but thanks to The Pony Ranch she has made friends there not just with the ponies but also with the other girls.

“She has pictures of the ponies by her bed.

“It has given her so much more confidence and she is now back at school.

“I worry that if the ranch closes down she will go back to square one and lose her confidence.”

An East Herts Council spokeswoman said: “The licence is a legal requirement and sets out conditions that help to protect both the riders and the animals.

“We have been working with the owner and have advised her that she shouldn’t be offering lessons without holding a licence.”

To donate to keep the ranch open visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/save-our-ponyclub-save-our-ponies

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