My name is Lost Little Soul. Four years ago, I was found emaciated, starving and on the verge of dying as I was left tethered in a field by a seatbelt. The seatbelt was also strangling me and I was struggling to breathe. I can’t remember how long I was tied up for but it was a long time.
My mummy at Two Oaks Pony Sanctuary was alerted and she came to the field that I was in, with a big box . I was cold and scared to the point that my whole body was shaking through absolute fear. Mummy and her friend untied me and I just wanted to run away as fast as I could, but Mummy stopped me and after a long while, I went into the box.
That night, I had a little food and I slept in a nice big warm box with lots of yellow stuff that was very snuggly. Thanks to lots of very nice people from Berkhamsted, Tring and the surrounding areas, Mummy had enough money to buy me some food and keep me warm. If it wasn’t for these people that help Mummy, I would have been left to starve to death. You should pop along one day with your friends and family and come and see me now.
Two Oaks Pony Sanctuary is a horse and pony rescue and rehabilitation sanctuary that is based at the top of the valley in Northchurch, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. Whilst its majestic views are admired by many visitors, unfortunately the reality of its residents histories paints a far darker picture.
The sanctuary was established by Carolann Buchorski in 2004, through her passion of horses and having ridden them since the age of 5. During the course of her life, she came across more and more horses that had suffered horrifically at the hands of their owners. Tales of horses and ponies being tied up with barbed wire and left emaciated in fields, through to unbelievable negligence and mistreatment are tales not for the faint-hearted.
As we all know, owning a pony can be more expensive than running a car, and requires a lot of time and dedication to ensure that it has a happy life. Unfortunately some owners don’t realise this and then simply discard them when they can no longer afford them.
Through Carolann’s continued exposure to the neglect of horses and ponies, she became more and more saddened, she selflessly bought a small plot of land that was then to become Two Ponies Sanctuary. Her dream was to provide a safe and happy environment to help the horses and ponies that she was made aware of, to recuperate and convalesce. On occasion, some of these horses’ personalities would begin to shine again and they could be re-homed. However tragically this is not always the case. Some can still be very temperamental, have been mentally scarred for life and therefore it is not possible to re-home them. Sometimes, no matter how much Carolann has spent on vets bills, feed and plenty of love and affection, some of these ponies have been exposed to such unimaginable levels of cruelty, that nothing can save them.
Not being a government funded charity, Carolann has worked tirelessly for 16 years to try to gain donations through multiple sources over and above working in a full time job, mucking out at 4.30 in the morning and returning after work until late in the evenings.
Over the years, there have been a number of very generous local farmers, feed suppliers, pest controllers, local supporters and volunteers. Duke of Edinburgh volunteers have helped, as have children from disadvantaged backgrounds and numerous children from primary schools have enjoyed feeding and learning about the animals. One of the largest donors has been G.I. Rogers & Son, growers of Christmas trees based in Ringshall. They have a scheme whereby, if someone mentions the sanctuary when buying a Christmas tree, G.I. Rogers and Son donate to the sanctuary. As opposed to money, they donate bails of often expensive straw and hay.
As needs must, Carolann has had to become very resourceful and sought left over wood, roofing (for the stables) and other materials from local builders once their projects have been completed. Great for Carolann, it saves materials going to landfill and ultimately better for the environment. Some local tradesmen have also lent a hand including plumbers repairing broken pipes, carpenters building new feed boxes to prevent rodent infestations, fencing suppliers repairing the often damaged fences and so forth. Whilst the generosity of so many kind people has been greatly appreciated, it’s obvious that it can’t be continuously asked for and nor is it expected.
Labour is of course expensive and volunteers provide so much valued help in helping on the land, repairing the stables, feeding the animals and so forth however this doesn’t pay the vets, feed and many other bills. Fundraising events that provide much amusement are held a couple of times a year, there are regular small financial donors but still, constantly having to generate income is arduous and often desperately unforthcoming.
Over time, Two Oaks found itself harbouring ex-battery chickens, ducks that had been attacked by foxes, and geese here and there. Goats too have now become a feature, along with the odd abandoned cat and even a pig. So much so that the free entry to Two Ponies has now become a local attraction and indeed registers on Tripadvisor.
Whilst there have been some highs, there have been some unforeseen and extremely difficult times. Councils have threatened closure of the sanctuary stating that it was illegal, however fortunately a couple of people came to help Carolann and it remains open. This did not come without its pressures, with Carolann suffering significant mental health challenges, resulting in her suffering depression and then leading to a mental breakdown. Fortunately through local support, she battled through it and became well again.
During the current pandemic, when the supermarket shelves were stripped bare, the sanctuary came to the aid of the local community. The 70 rescued ex-battery chickens, which now happily scratch around without a care in the world and could be re-classified as free range, happened to be laying nigh on 100 eggs a day…when they were in the mood. The ducks made some contributions too. People came from Tring, Potten End and other surrounding villages to the gate of the sanctuary to buy eggs. Some were so fresh they were warm.
There is a lot to admire about a person who relentlessly, selflessly and in my opinion, very humbly, toils away on a daily basis whilst receiving very little gratitude. On the positive side, a lot of ponies and other animals have been prised from the jaws of negligence and outright cruelty. As a community, we have gained our own little sanctuary which is family friendly, provides a source of education and enjoyment but of course demonstrates that what may seem all very twee on the surface, hasn’t been, or isn’t always the case.
When normality resumes, I highly recommend that you go and spend a little time there, ask questions (as I have) learn and share. In the meantime, for the cost of a skinny latte from a coffee company that doesn’t pay its corporation tax, why not set up a direct debit to help all the very strenuous yet wonderful work that is being done at the Two Oaks Pony Sanctuary.