Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Prison lambs aid charity for children with special needs

Laura Gordon, instructor at the Kids Pony Foundation, with Ricky Graham, vocational training officer at Hydebank
Laura Gordon, instructor at the Kids Pony Foundation, with Ricky Graham, vocational training officer at Hydebank

Adrian Rutherford

Two pet lambs reared from prize-winning sheep at a Northern Ireland prison have been donated to a charity that provides animal therapy for children with autism and life-limiting illnesses.

The Border Leicester and Texel-cross lambs, called Lucy and Charley(right), were handed over by the Prison Service to the Kids Pony Foundation in Co Antrim.

Sheep were introduced at Hydebank Wood College two years ago as part of an animal therapy rehabilitation initiative for students.

Ricky Graham, vocational training officer at Hydebank and a part-time sheep farmer, worked with the students, teaching them basic skills.

He said: "As well as learning all about animal welfare, the students got to show the sheep at Balmoral and picked up a couple of prizes. But the big prize for staff and students at Hydebank was the birth of the lambs in March this year.

"They've been reared on the bottle by one young student in particular and as a result are very, very friendly - absolutely ideal for the Kids Pony Foundation."

Laura Gordon, instructor at the Kids Pony Foundation, which is based at Drennan Road, Lisburn, said: "The new lambs - we've named them Lucy and Charley - will bring so much joy to the children who come here."

Laura said the charity has various breeds of animals and birds, but they didn't have any lambs until now.

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She added: "The foundation provides therapies for children with special needs from the ages of five to 16. They get to spend time with them, feed them and learn all about them in a very friendly and safe environment."

Alison Breadon, from the Belvoir ASD Support Group in Lisburn, said: "We support around 40 families from across the province and can bring as many as 60 children in a week to the Pony Foundation.

"The donation of two pet lambs by Hydebank Wood College will help to enhance and enrich the lives of the children who visit the Pony Foundation with us."

Stevie Mann, student development governor at Hydebank Wood College, said: "One of the two sheep we donated to the Kids Pony Foundation was delivered by one of our students.

"This young man had no previous experience of husbandry and under Ricky's tutelage was able deliver the lamb on his own."

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