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Hairy Henry is the ‘mane’ attraction at therapeutic riding centre’s new barn

September 7th, 2022 11:45 AM

By Jackie Keogh

At the opening of the new barn at Hairy Henry’s were Rosie Evans with Sandra Schmid. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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A DREAM come true is how the official opening of an indoor arena at the Hairy Henry therapeutic riding centre and care farm at Ballylickey was described at the weekend.

The official opening was performed by regular users of the service, young Caitlin Evans and Finn Conner.

But Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind), chairperson of the West Cork LCDC and its chief officer Kay Keegan – which provided matching finance in the amount of €48,5000 – also attended the event and they described the efforts of the owners, Sandra Schmid and Tim Rowe as ‘an inspiration to say the least.’

He said the LCDC, like the many community groups, as well as public and private donors, are ‘proud to be part of this fantastic achievement.’

Sandra could not thank her friends, neighbours and supporters enough.

She said there were many high profile names – like Jeremy Irons and Darina Allen who sent funds when they heard of their attempts to provide an all-weather facility – but there were so many more who donated funds, volunteered, and supported the project in every conceivable way.

Sandra, a former social worker, began her training as a therapeutic riding instructor in 2008, but it was only in 2013 that she formally began Hairy Henry as a place where people of all ages could go for lessons and therapeutic riding.

The centre, named after her 18-year-old horse has, of course, developed over the years and now people attend it as a care farm too to engage with Sean the sheep, the adorable donkeys, and the large hutch full of rabbits of every conceivable colour, shape and size.

As is often the case in Ireland, rain stopped play on some occasions so Sandra felt compelled to develop an indoor arena.

She first approached Leader and began a lengthy process that involved getting planning permission in 2018, and this paved the way for ground works, as well as the building of the bar and the completion of toilet facilities.

In 2019, Sandra began a major fundraising campaign but Brexit and Covid had an impact on progress.

As part of their fundraising initiative Sandra – and Hairy Henry – did a big tour around West Cork, as well as a long trek through Ireland last Spring.

The official opening on Friday was a joyful event as people gathered to watch riding demonstrations, to enjoy refreshments, to celebrate with Sandra and Tim, and to congratulate them on a job well done.

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