Me and My Pet - Hannah Russell and Alfie the minature Shetland pony
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 January 2017
Big ideas can come in very small packages, says Dales horse-lover Hannah Russell
Living in the Yorkshire Dales, I’ve always been lucky enough to be surrounded by animals all my life. We’ve had dogs – even some German Shepard puppies – from day one, which means, from a young age, I’ve adapted to animals being an essential part of my everyday life. To be honest, I can’t imagine life without a furry friend.
Growing up in the Yorkshire Dales and being part of a large farming family has always been exciting for me. There’s always something going on, but my favourite time of the year is April, when the lambs need feeding and you can watch them playing in the fields.
I began riding at six years old and got my first pony, Badger, a Welsh section CX cob. It was obvious I was going to be a horse lover as attending Pony Club with Badger every Saturday was the highlight of my week – and my childhood – and, throughout the summer, you’d find me competing in fun agricultural shows all the time. Now, 13 years on, Badger is retired and living out the rest of his days in the fields with my three horses and ponies.
When I was 16 years old, I had just finished my GCSEs and had begun my A levels and, with my passion for horses, wanted to pursue my dream of being a horse riding instructor and physiotherapist. Unfortunately, however, shortly after starting a sports course I discovered I had two fractured vertebras and worn discs in my lower back, which were causing me a lot of pain. So, I made the heart-breaking decision to leave college and set off on a different path.
This is when Little Alf came along.
I heard a miniature Shetland pony with dwarfism was looking for a home and, frankly, I couldn’t resist going to see him. The next thing I knew I’d brought him home to live with me. I just couldn’t resist his adorable face.
The moment I brought him home he started causing mischief and I just knew he was going to be a handful. He’s the same size as my German shepherd Sasha, but seems to think he’s the size of a shire horse, parading around the field with his head held high. ‘Small but mighty’ is a phrase that most often comes to mind when Alfie is around.
Just days after getting Alfie, it became increasingly clear we were going to have a very special bond. He follows me everywhere and whinnies every morning when I walk down to the stables. I have even had Alfie in the house on one memorable occasion, but he started rolling on mum’s best carpet so I had to sneak him back out again.
I can’t imagine life without Alfie. Seeing him waiting by the gate every night for me always puts a smile of my face. He always enjoys adventures, particularly walks down the street and in to the nearby woods. If I could, I would take him with me everywhere.
Little Alf is the star of a series of books written by Hannah Russell, which help to raise money for the Riding for the Disabled Association. To find out more, visit littlealf.com
Follow Alf on twitter @AlfLittle