Horse volunteers Linda and Alex
This trip of a lifetime started when sitting outside one hot Spanish evening listening to a clip of Lucy Irvine Radio 4 - Robinson Crusoe.. Alex my son came outside listened too and when I said I'd like to go there, where is it, Bulgaria, where? I'll come along, road trip, he's an HGV driver and driven horses to nearby countries, so we agreed yes, we'll drive..... This was to be a new adventure, I've had years of Pony Club Volunteering but we've never actually volunteered before!
Well October came and we flew instead of driving, Malaga to Sofia, picked up a pre booked hire car, fortunately in budget range we got a Citreon C3... Alex negotiated us out of Sofia and onto Sliven, good straight easy roads.. To our pre booked Airbnb - The Little House, Sliven, comfortable, log fire, safe parking, friendly hosts, no washing machine. An ideal base if you have a Citreon C3 because it was up the worst pot holed track on our trip, conveniently situated just out of Sliven Town Centre. Easy stop off daily to Kaufland, like Aldi, for all our Vegetarian requisites...
Next day a Saturday, the sun shining, off we drove to meet Lucy and Llia on what was to be our daily run, 30 to 40 minutes from Sliven.. Knowing horses as we do we quickly picked up on what was needed as we took Lucy in the car to do her current outreach horse calls... These calls became our daily routine and we loved them, going to see the same horses, foals, every day, a whinney as we arrive, groom, feet pick out, attend to any wounds, give or check water, clean out trough's, hay, feed and general handling, back in the car and onto the next.. The Roma we met were extremely pleasant to us and respected Alex with his calm quiet ways, if you're male and have an ego then best to leave that behind because the Roma men/lads pick up on body language... Also better safe than sorry always keep your car locked. Carry your passport, phone and money etc. in a waist bag on you and then you're good to go....
There is something very special and unique about the horses that Lucy rescue's and those who are under her wing in outreach too.. Most have been through extreme hardship and adversity but handled knowledgeable and I cannot emphasise this enough 'gently' they respond so well.. They are a local mix of Arab, Anglo-Arabian and Thoroughbred type, though other bloodline's are probably in the mix too, around only 14hh to 14.2hh averagely because of poor feeding. The Roma men are short in statu too, so whereas we usually think of a horse pulling a cart being big, hairy and cob like these horses are mostly fine and of a thoroughbred type.. Mostly they're sharp and head shy from when they've been handled roughly but given time their kind forgiving intelligence comes through and then you have your friendly, agreeable, easy going, loyal little horse and that's what rescue is all about...
Arnie has now has found his forever home
Our day consisted of mornings attending to the needs of the Outreach horses, diplomacy with the Owners as in all of this type of work.. For an appreciative owner Alex did a few minutes of 'foal whispering' as a stop off each day, handling an unhandled foal as it had been sold and to make the foal's onward life a bit easier... Followed by a coffee with a local Bulgarian man, please sit, I'll make coffee with a chocolate, a lovely daily welcome break. Then over to H.Q. as we called it, gather up our 4 horses, take them to the Haven, settle in for a sandwich with Any the cat.. Clean and sort donated tack in between anything else.. Groom, check over our 4, Lil Lucy, Boshko, Franky and Amber. I assist Alex, we started with lunging, tack on, off, weight, then backing all 4, ground work...Boshko who Lucy drives is ready to be ridden away by an experienced rider. Everything we did was at the individual horse/ponies pace, no agenda, just giving time and observing.. Then we'd take as many dogs for a walk as we had time and energy for.. Always finding time though to walk our favourite called Arnie who greeted us daily with a 360 degree turn of his tail, he's coming home to us for his forever home.. At the end of each day we'd lead our horses back to HQ, catch up with Lucy and talk over the day’s events and start planning tomorrow's..
Lucy hosted events at Peterkin Project where we swopped awful thin mouth damaging bits for new ones kindly donated and gave out cleaned put together bridles which Alex fitted, head collars, guidance for grooming and feet picking out. It's all very rewarding in itself to make a hard life for a working horse just that bit easier.. Plus its a good way of seeing local horses and keeping an eye on their overall condition. Alex gave a couple of impromptu riding lessons to local Roma, their style is very much a good clamped on seat with flapping reins to get moving and heels dug in, obviously they are not all the same, many people ride very well.. Alex assisted the Vet who gelded Bobcho and Peterkin, then we gave daily after care. We fitted in a few local road trips with Lucy to meet possible places for horses to be adopted..
We took one day off LIFE on our trip, did some tourist walking of the Blue Mountain's, lots to explore but we did not go for days off so we won't be recommending any tourist trips in the area!
Would we recommend the experience? We most definitely would... Lucy quickly sees if you know what your doing, then she trusts you and leaves you to get on with it and drops by occasionally. This is the best way to work because Lucy has such a never ending mountain of work to do everywhere else.. The backdrop of endless mountain scenery, making new friends which must not be underestimated and keeping in touch afterwards. Being a part of something so worthwhile makes this a trip that is definitely up there with the one of the best things ever to have happened to me...
Farajan, 17th February, 2019
LIFE welcomes energetic and self-motivated volunteers to work on site in Bulgaria. Jobs and hours vary by the season but can include:
Helping administer medical treatment to dogs, cats and horses
Giving loving attention, including walks and grooming, to rescued dogs
Exercising horses, (if the volunteer has the required skills)
Assisting with Outreach Work in local communities
Serving as a general support to Lucy in her daily duties
If you feel you would like to volunteer please Contact us for further details.