Horsing Around At HAPPA

HAPPA, or the Horse and Pony Protection Association, to give it its proper title, is a farm out in the Burnley countryside that serves as a haven for horses and ponies from all kinds of awful backgrounds. It's a place where they're not overworked or unloved, but where they can live in warm, clean stables, eat plenty of fresh hay and apples, and be treated by vets and trainers who see their value and potential.

My mum has always been a horse lover, and with her birthday coming up I decided to surprise her with a visit and lunch at their Scullery café. As soon as we pulled into the car park, we were greeted with the sight of a horse and pony breaking into a run around the field, galloping with glee just as they should. As we stepped out of the car they ran up to snuffle our coats and say hello, which immediately told me how well the staff have worked to restore their trust in humans.

Our next stop was signing the visitors' book and chatting to the lovely receptionist who told us all about the farm's background and ethos. They have around 50 horses on site at any time, all of which have care plans which the dedicated staff carry out to bring the horses back to full health and show them that they are loved. The aim is then to find new homes, whether as riding horses or companions, so the horses are totally fulfilled and the farm can take in new residents. They never lose touch with their horses, following up their fostering or rehoming to ensure they are still receiving the best care.

After learning more, it was time for the best part- seeing more! For the next 40 minutes, we met each of the horses and ponies, aahing and awwing at them all. Of course I would never choose favourites, but some especially memorable residents include Tipsy the foal, the farm's newest resident, Sebastian the pony, who licked my coat and nuzzled into my side as I stroked his mane and told him (about 1000 times) what a beautiful boy he was, and Pascal. This black and white beauty was born on the farm, and after figuring us out for a few shy minutes, he warmed up and began pulling my dad's scarf and licking my hair! We were more than happy to indulge him, and all the horses, with cuddles and attention. They are so deserving of love after their harsh starts in life.

Along the way, we stopped a few members of staff to ask some quick questions, and despite having plenty of tasks to do they were so polite and kind, and happy to explain things to us. It was evident how much they adore the horses in the way they spoke to us and them, and the way the horses stuck their heads out as soon as they heard the girls approaching.

It was a chilly day when we visited, with cold gusts blowing through the valley, so we were all too happy to warm up in the Scullery café after meeting everyone. Honestly I had expected a few wooden tables in a country style kitchen, a place to grab a quick bite and an instant coffee, but the Scullery is definitely a well planned investment that offers excellent food in a stylish environment. The building is a gorgeous, modern, glass affair, offering views across the valley, with cosy tweed chairs or trendy industrial chairs and tables, and cute seats fashioned from old saddles for the kids.

I ordered a veggie platter, which came with the best houmous I've ever had, pitta bread, mozzarella dippers, salad, coleslaw, marinated courgettes, and the most delicious falafel. I believe they were fried, and the filling remained warm, moist, and tasty as I tucked in. Meanwhile my parents enjoyed a fresh burger and a pulled pork sandwich. I paid around £9 each which was great value considering the lovely location, and the huge, fresh portions. Our lunch was made even better by the server, Melissa, being so bubbly and polite, and we've already decided we have to go back for their special fish and chips on a Friday.

If you didn't know, I used to volunteer on a therapy farm, getting the horses ready for riders, and even then I wasn't a big fan of them, but I fell head over hooves for the wonderful horses and ponies at HAPPA, and feel so much respect for every worker who plays a part in rehabilitating them. My parents feel the same way, and we already can't wait to visit again in warmer weather, when we can see more ponies enjoying the pastures, and have a wander through the farm's wildflower trail ourselves. If you're an animal lover near Lancashire, I highly suggest you do the same.



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