Each Friday, Horse Nation teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an individual or organization doing good work in the horse world. Today, we recognize a hardworking young horsewoman and her special Shetland.
Hannah Russell, a lifelong horse lover, suffered an injury that seriously derailed her riding career. Fortunately, a Shetland pony with dwarfism came into her life at exactly the right moment, and as their relationship developed, Hannah found a way to not only make the most of her situation but turn her and Alf’s story into a way to help others in need.
HN: Tell us the story of how you and Alf came into each other’s lives.
I became the owner of Little Alf on December 24th 2013 — almost like the perfect Christmas gift, but that wasn’t the intention. A lady I knew had a breeders yard full of miniature Shetlands, and since Little Alf had been born with dwarfism he was unusable for breeding. Once I heard about him looking for a home I said I’d have him — without asking my parents or going to see him! On the 24th of December he arrived (I still hadn’t asked mum and dad but with him been so small I thought I could just sneak him in!) Luckily they were okay with it and were soon sucked in by Little Alf’s cuteness!
HN: What inspired you to write a book about your experience?
I decided to write a book because I started a blog and saw that people loved seeing photos of Alfie and videos of him online. Almost overnight he grew to have a large following. At the time, I had just left college and I found out I had three fractured vertebrae in my back and worn discs from previous riding incidents. I was at a loss of what to do; I couldn’t ride for a year as I had to rest and strengthen my core so I was devastated. Not been able to ride was the biggest thing — but I think Alfie came along at the right time. He gave me another focus and he got me in to training horses on the ground.
I’ve always loved writing at school but was a terrible speller … but I thought why not give it a go and see what happens! I think now that it is the best choice I’ve ever made. I seriously don’t know where I would be without Alf: he’s such a bundle of fun to be around!
HN: How did you decide to donate a portion of your book sales to the Riding for the Disabled Association?
I wanted to donate a portion of my books to the Riding for Disabled as I felt it was something special to us: I can’t imagine what some people must go through and I feel horses really help. When I began to work with the RDA I noticed how much of a connection the riders have with their horses and how much it helps them. I think supporting the RDA was a way to recognize horses and riders: I love helping charities and volunteering and I felt my books was a great way to get the charity more recognition!
HN: What are your next plans for Little Alf?
My plans next with Little Alf are to carrying on writing out books: we currently have three published and nine more coming to the series over the next few years, continue helping out and volunteering with the Riding for Disabled Association when we have time and spread the word about our books and the charity!
If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected]. Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.