Saturday, 23 July 2011

We all need a bit of kindness and care...

Being a unicorn, I naturally enjoy days out with my author to places where you can find creatures with four hooves. Unicorns are a bit thin on the ground in your world, but last week we discovered these sweet ponies at our local mare and foal sanctuary.


Anybody brought up on the Follyfoot books like Katherine was will know exactly what a mare and foal sanctuary is. It’s a place where horses and ponies with problems, who would normally be sold for meat or put down, get a second chance at life. Either they are rehabilitated and eventually rehomed, or they are given kindness and care in their old (and not so old) age.

Being close to Dartmoor, this particular sanctuary gets a lot of wild ponies from the moor - orphaned foals whose mothers have been hit by cars, mares in distress, etc. They also take in horses. This is Baboushka, a lovely TB-cross mare only 6 years old who has a problem with her hind legs that mean she cannot be ridden or carry a foal, since her legs won’t support the extra weight. As a broodmare, she is useless. As a riding horse, she is useless. But she has a lovely nature and is lucky enough to have a place at the sanctuary for life.

Babouskha
Of course none of these ponies or horses are serious business prospects in the way of a racehorse or an event horse, or even a general riding horse that repays its keep by giving its owner joy. Many of them need expensive vet treatment when they arrive, and some need on-going care. They rely upon charity and the goodwill of volunteers and sponsors for their very lives. But does this mean they are in any way less of a horse, or have less right to kindness and care, than a Grand National winner?

The horses and ponies at this sanctuary reminded me a bit of authors. A few win high-profile prizes and make their publishers millions. Those authors are the Grand National winners of the literary world, and naturally they get the very best of care – at least until they become too old to write books and win prizes, and are put out to grass. But many others are like the little moorland ponies, surviving on scraps of grass and in danger every day from thoughtlessly speeding cars. Some are like the foals who need dedicated hand-rearing, but if cared for properly will one day be rehomed and bring happiness to a child. And there is every sort of author in-between, from the second string who run in minor races all over the country but seldom win, to the riding horse who barely pays for its keep but brings joy to a small number of readers.


Horses, being dumb animals (Muse: let’s not go there…!), tend to get more sympathy than authors. But sanctuaries exist even for us. The Royal Literary Fund awards grants to writers in need, and also places authors in Universities all over the UK under their excellent Fellowship scheme. So if you know an author who is suffering, point them in the right direction. A bit of kindness and care can go a long way.

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