Royal opening on Deeside

The Princess Royal on a tour of the Belwade centre
The Princess Royal on a tour of the Belwade centre

HRH The Princess Royal, President of World Horse Welfare, opened a new visitor centre and indoor arena at the charity’s Belwade Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre near Aboyne, this week.

Around 100 invited guests including community members, supporters, media and government attended Her Royal Highness’s unveiling of a boulder plaque at the fantastic new venue and a tour around the farm and its new buildings to officially open the centre.

The new developments include a long-awaited new arena that will allow staff to carry out rehabilitation with horses and ponies year-round. This extra training time will speed up the rehabilitation and rehoming of horses and will enable the charity to take in even more horses at a time when neglect is increasing.

Other features now include a lecture hall and café with stunning views of the fields and horses at Belwade Farm and overlooking picturesque Royal Deeside.

“There are a lot of thanks due to people who have supported the concept (of improving horse welfare), but do so not just by signing cheques, but who rehome the horses and the ponies and give them that new chance,” HRH said on the day. “Because from that perspective, these buildings have the potential to change so much, for so many.

“These facilities offer huge potential, certainly for the charity because education has always been key to our long term aims: bringing more people in, giving them better knowledge and understanding. But also a lot of other people can come and enjoy these facilities and this fantastic view.”

Roly Owers chief executive at World Horse Welfare said: “We are grateful to our President for opening the centre. It has been a significant milestone for the charity and we look forward to now being able to help more horses in Scotland as a result of these fantastic new buildings. The horses in our care, together with the staff dedicated to them, had an urgent need for an indoor riding arena escape the snow and freezing winter temperatures, sometimes as low as -21◦c.

“Heavy snow fall and icy ground at Belwade Farm always lost us valuable time with the horses’ rehabilitation programmes. In some years, up to four months of training time had to be abandoned due to poor weather. Now, with the wonderful new indoor facilities, staff will be able to rehabilitate horses for 12 months of the year. This means that our horses can be rehabilitated at a faster pace enabling new loving homes to be found for them sooner which will result in greater capacity to continue to admit the many horses in need in Scotland.”

The charity is seeking sponsorship of its new facilities, including the new lecture hall and indoor arena, which can also be hired by local community members and businesses. The development was funded by the charity’s investment income, a number of Charitable Trusts and many individuals who donated to our successful 2009 Belwade Farm Silver Horseshoe appeal.

Belwade Farm, opened in 1990, is one of World Horse Welfare’s four UK Rescue and Rehoming Centres, and is able to care for and rehabilitate around 65 horses at any one time, many of which have come from backgrounds of terrible suffering.

The number of UK horses urgently needing World Horse Welfare’s help has risen by almost 50% in the last five years.

Space is always needed to admit the next desperate horse or group of horses in urgent need and Aberdeenshire has one of the highest horse populations in Britain.