Princess Anne sees work of animal rescue centre during visit to Fylde Coast

Princess Anne is shown round the stables at Penny Farm
Princess Anne is shown round the stables at Penny Farm
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Rescued ponies showed how they have been given a second chance of life when they performed in front of Her Royal Highness Princess Anne during her visit to the Fylde coast yesterday.

The Princess Royal was at World Horse Welfare's Penny Farm on Preston New Road, just outside Blackpool, to officially open its new Visitor Centre.

Princess Anne with dignitaries including Roly Owers (second right), chief executive of  World Horse Welfare

Princess Anne with dignitaries including Roly Owers (second right), chief executive of World Horse Welfare

Before the unveiling she was given a tour of the yard and watched as rescue horses Frodo, Lucy and Graham were put through their paces.

Frodo, who had been left as a foal in a freezing field to die, and Lucy, who was abandoned at the side of a road, did not put a foot - or hoof - wrong as they performed a part comedy dressage routine to music.

Graham, found starving in a garden shed, was part of a driving display by his new owners after being rehomed following rehabilitation.

It was the third visit to Penny Farm by Princess Anne, who is patron of World Horse Welfare and who praised the work of staff and volunteers at the centre.

Ponies Frodo and Lucy perform a routine for the Princess

Ponies Frodo and Lucy perform a routine for the Princess

She told gathered guests the event "gives us the opportunity to celebrate what has been achieved here" and "which make Penny Farm such an important part of our World Horse Welfare family."

The Princess said Penny Farm has been at the forefront of reminding people how horses were still working animals in many parts of the world.

Facilities such as the new visitor centre were important in raising the profile of the charity's welfare work in the UK and around the world.

HRH Princess Anne said: "Penny Farm has been very much at the forefront of that over the years, and is particularly good at attracting people who otherwise might not probably hear about the amount of commitment there is to the horse and its issues.

"The open days are important but this visitor centre is also important.

"It allows both individuals who come on a regular basis to enjoy it more, and to have more space to help with fundraisers, education and seminars, which is all part of extending the knowledge gained from the staff here."

The Princess praised the staff for their ability to change the lives of the horses in their care.

"They start as really hard stories," she told guests, "but they have the potential to have really good endings."

One of those happy endings belongs to Frodo who was not expected to survive his ordeal.

But after battling back against the odds, he was named Rescue Pony of the Year in 2018 at national horse show Equifest.

Groom Nicole Walmsley has trained him to be able to be ridden, while fellow groom Kirstie Irwin, 27, from Staining, had the honour of riding him during the demonstration for Princess Anne.

Kirstie said: "It was a lot of pressure and I think it was the most nervous I have ever been.

"But we had performed the demonstration at the Country File Live show recently and Frodo had coped really well.

"Today he was a superstar and he is a delight to ride. For a cob he is really light on his feet.

"I was honoured to ride him in front of Princess Anne. It was an amazing opportunity and I think she enjoyed it."

Also taking part in the demonstration were Hayley Penrice leading Lucy, and Young British Carriage Driving National Champion Amelia Waddicor who drove Palomino Graham alongside another of her ponies Cosmo.

The new visitor centre will cater for in excess of 15,000 people who visit Penny Farm each year.

Zoe Clifford, visitor officer at Penny Farm, said: "Over the past few years the original centre has struggled to meet the needs of our visitors as we have continued to grow.

"So over the winter of 2018/19 we underwent development to increase the size of our centre and coffee shop.

"It will allow us to offer a better service and give us opportunity to increase awareness and raise funds."

Coun Cheryl Little, chairman of Fylde Council's tourism and leisure committee, said: "Penny Farm is not only a very good cause but it is an important part of the tourism economy of the local area."