A Galloway couple who dedicate their time and money to giving unwanted or problem horses a home for life were thrilled to become a registered charity recently.
Susan Murdoch and Gordon Chisholm set up their sanctuary, The 3Rs Horse Rescue Centre, at The Mane, overlooking the Solway Firth, next door to Laggan Outdoor Centre, to live their dream of working with horses. Although the centre had been in operation for 18 months, a recent feature on the ITV’s ‘Border Life’ lifted their profile and gave clarity to what they are doing and why they are doing it.
Their Stewartry base caters for both livery horses and those who, often through no fault of their own, become labelled as ‘problem’ horses. This is where Susan and Gordon are in their element, dealing with these animals and working out what their issues are. More often than not, finding a way to rehabilitate these horses and rehoming them in a suitable environment just makes their life worthwhile.
Many of their 50 or so ‘rescue horses’ lead completely natural lives roaming free on ‘the hill’ a large and open area of ground looking down on the Solway Firth where they are allowed to form peer groups and interact with each other and indulge in their favourite pastime - munching grass!
Susan and Gordon both have to work to keep the centre going - Susan as a teacher and Gordon as a stockman. Gordon, the horse whisperer element of the partnership, religiously checks them every morning and night before starting his day job.
Susan said: “Since Gordon and I got together we have had a reputation for working with horses with bad manners or behaviour problems and turning them round. It’s a hobby we both love.
“Whenever we get a horse here the first thing we do is turn them out on the hill with the herd and let them run free.
“When we go up to see them we take treats but it’s up to the horses to come to us, and only when they are ready will they do that.”
Having earned the animal’s trust a solid base is established to then work on other issues.
Often, after going though their tried and tested rehabilitation techniques, many horses go on to find a fulfilling role and a happy life with other owners. Some of the horses they have had have gone to trekking centres in the Highlands where they are given a home for life in retirement. Some have gone on to be jumping ponies for pony-mad young girls and one of the Mane’s permanent residents, Patrick, who was saved from a certain death by Gordon, was proud as punch to be leading the Wigtown Riding of the Marches in 2016 with Cornet Martin Wallace.
Susan and Gordon know some horses can never go on to be rehomed, and that’s exactly why they work all the hours of the day, to make sure such animals have a home for life, with knowledgeable people who put their welfare first.
The centre is popular with children from Gatehouse and Kirkcudbright who spend their weekends learning about caring for an animal and how to understand horse body language. Susan stresses The Mane does not provide riding lessons but helps children to bond with a horse or pony.
Susan and Gordon are especially grateful to a group of volunteers who sponor the horses and tirelessly raise money for the centre and the recent acquired charity status will help them to access more funding streams in the future.
“We never say what we do is hard work - it’s just life-affirming”, says a beaming Susan.