In 2013 one of Newfield liveries, Ava Acaster, had a young eight year old little girl called Anya from Belarus Russia come to stay for the month of June.
Anya was on a recuperation holiday and is one of the many young children sent to England every year by the “Friends of Chernobyl’s Children” charity.
Recuperation is an important part of life for these children who are being affected daily by the radiation that has contaminated their food and water and the land they live on, because their immune systems have been seriously damaged a few weeks respite away from their contaminated environments gives them access to fresh air and the much needed boost their immune systems need to help them survive until they return a year later.
Anya arrived in the UK pale, thin and with just the clothes she stood in, a brave little girl who had traveled thousands of miles without her parents to a country where she didn’t understand or speak the language.
Ava’s whole family play a huge part at the yard with both Ava and her younger brother being keen riders and having two horses in livery, so it wasn’t surprising that Anya’s first stop was Newfield Livery.
Newfield Livery continue:
Ava and I had memorized some basic Russian so we could greet Anya in her own language, hopefully putting her at ease, immediately she responded with a smile and I remember thinking what a lovely and appreciative little girl you are!
Over the next few days, Ava brought Anya up to the yard every evening after school and I could see she didn’t seem to have any fear of the surrounds and was showing a real interest in all the horses.
Ava and I thought it would be a good idea to tog her up and let her have a short ride on Clyde, a 23 year old, 12,2hh bomb proof, school master who really knows his job and is excellent for first time riders.
Anya was fine! She loved it; a natural rider who was born with a great seat, lovely hands and lots of bottle… nothing seemed to phase this little girl.
Not only was I amazed, I was also very impressed by her natural ability, so I asked Ava to ask the interpreter from the charity if Anya had ever ridden before. The next day the answer arrived: "No" But she had seen donkeys in the Zoo back in Belarus.
It was obvious from the day Anya arrived that she wanted to get on one of the horses and ride. She would gesture towards the saddle and bridle and Clyde until we got the message.
How could we resist such a plea, so Ava and I decided that we would try our hardest to teach Anya to ride before she had to return to Belarus? Ava had grown incredibly close to Anya and had devised away of overcoming any language barrier, she would simply sign, point and demonstrate what she wanted and Clyde didn’t have an issue either, he was so patient and like most horses had a magical way of understanding everything Anya asked of him.
Our little strategy was working and between Ava and me we seemed to be getting Anya to understand, it certainly helped that she was focused on learning and her natural ability soon started shining through. Over the next couple of weeks Anaya had grasped the basics of riding, walk, trot, and canter and had even began to jump. She really enjoyed our little hacks ESPECIALLY when Ava’s little brother joined us.
It was incredible to watch, she wasn’t always neat, but for a child, who had only been riding for three weeks and had no understanding of the language to guide her through, she was amazing and the entire yard was so very proud of her.
Anya's time in England was coming to an end and as Ava's brothers were both going to the local Hallamshire Riding Society show jumping show on Clyde, we thought it would be a great idea if we could enter Anya in the lead rein class, which would be a nice to end to her stay on.
We checked with the manager of the show to see if it was okay for her to compete and of course it was. Everyone was so overjoyed to see this tiny, now tanned little girl all the way from Russia handed SECOND PLACE at her first ever show.
There was only a couple of days left before Anya would have to return to her family in Russia and during her stay lots of people at Newfield had donated and bought lots of goodies and presents for her and her family back home. It was Ava’s mum who had the difficult job of trying to fit everything in to the suitcases. Anya has a sister who unfortunately couldn’t come to England for a recuperation holiday, so we all made sure that both her sister and mum were not forgotten and lots of gifts for them were also stuffed into the case.
Cases packed it was time to have a little fun so I asked the interpreter what Anya would like to do on her last day, of course she chose to have her leaving party at the yard with lots of riding and pizza! It was a lovely last day and everyone was really sad to see Anya leave. Especially Ava, who had become so close and develpoed a special bond with Anya both at home and at the yard… Anya left looking healthy and happier whose immune system had hopefully been set up to live another year with radiation.
Now it’s June 2014 and that means Anya will be returning to visit Ava's family once again. Everyone is really excited and I hope she remembers Clyde and everything she learnt from last year. Ava and I need to get practicing our Russian again :) and will keep you all informed on Anya’s riding journey.