Horses helping humans…

Darcy Day had just come to the yard , a neglected racehorse, saved by a  charity run by Helen Yeadon.  Despite how ill Darcy was, the mare was able to make a connection with a silent child who had not spoken in 2 years.  Read this extract of Greatwood’s work with horses and young people from the Daily Mail – and see below to buy their new book.

We heard that you have children here to help on Saturday mornings,’ she said. ‘We wondered if you would have our daughter Sophie?  ‘Her father and I are very worried. She’s 13 and has stopped talking — she hasn’t spoken a word for two years. She likes reading books about horses and we heard about you.’  Sophie stepped out of the car. She was sullen and overweight, with baggy, ill-fitting clothes and lanky, unwashed hair. She was hunched, as if there was a heavy weight pressing down on her.

Something inside me knew exactly where to take her. ‘Come with me to change the dressings on a horse called Darcy,’ I told her.  Darcy Day was one of 30 or so retired racehorses we had rescued and given a home to. She had come to us in a terrible state a few days earlier, saved from a neglectful owner.  Bony and with her head hanging low, Darcy’s coat was matted and discoloured. Her eyes were dull and streaming, her bones protruding through her coat, her hind legs swollen and oozing a dreadful yellow discharge. Her tail was a tangled mass of wet hair and manure, her hooves long and overgrown.

Darcy was clearly very distressed and had broken out in a heavy sweat. Her temperature was above normal, her hind legs were hot and swollen, and her skin had split in several places. The vet gave her painkillers, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, and Michael cleaned and bandaged Darcy’s hind legs as best he could, then bathed her eyes and put in eyedrops. But the poor horse seemed to have lost the will to live.

However, as Sophie walked into the barn, Darcy astonished me by going straight over to her and lowering her head to be petted.  ‘She never comes over to me — and I feed her,’ I complained gently. I could tell Sophie was pleased. She held out her hands and Darcy put her nose into them. Despite how ill Darcy was, she was able to make a connection with this silent child.

The following Saturday, I was surprised to see her parents’ car pulling into the yard. This time Sophie followed me eagerly, and again Darcy came over as soon as she entered the barn, making a gentle whickering sound. She didn’t do this with any of the other children.  Sophie began grooming and Darcy was enjoying it so much that her eyelids began to droop. She almost nodded off on her feet. That’s a huge compliment from a horse, implying absolute trust, and it was yet another sign of the growing bond between them.

Sophie started coming every Saturday and slipped into the rhythm of work on the farm, devoting herself to Darcy, laughing and smiling with the other children, but never joining in their conversations. Meanwhile, Darcy continued to recover. Her legs healed, her coat improved, and she started to take an interest in life. They were getting better together.

Buy the book: ‘When Sophie Met Darcy Day’ by Helen Yeadon, published by HarperTrue 2011.  Find out more about Greatwood or make a donation at