Accolade for horse sanctuary founder Bernie, 57
SHE gave her kingdom to her horses – and now Bernie Langfield has been recognised for her work with rescued horses and troubled teenagers at the Shy Lowen Horse and Pony Rescue Sanctuary.
Bernie, 57, from Thornton, opened the sanctuary 18 years ago, offering a home to abandoned horses and providing equine-assisted therapy for children excluded from school.
Bernie received the Equine Welfare Award at the Animal Action Awards, hosted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at the House of Lords, and was congratulated by her MP, Bill Esterson.
Mr Esterson, MP for Sefton Central, said: “Bernie has done some fantastic work over the years, not just with abandoned horses but also with young people, former Servicemen and women and the homeless.
“It really has been a labour of love.
“The award is welldeserved and it was a pleasure to meet Bernie at Westminster.”
The event was hosted by Baroness Gale and presented by TV wildlife presenter Bill Oddie, with the award recognising almost two decades of hard work.
Bernie always had a fascination with horses and would regularly catch a bus out of Liverpool as a child, so she could see the animals she felt a special connection to.
Many years later, she was able to buy her young daughter, Shelley, a pony and it was while visiting a livery yard that she came across a neglected horse called Comet, who had been beaten with a plank and left without food or shelter.
Comet was said to have a “dangerous” temperament because of his experiences with humans, and vets predicted that, due to the toll of neglect on his body, he would not live to the age of 20.
Bernie took on Comet and the idea of saving other horses like him was born.
With support and help from husband Eric and Shelley, Bernie convinced the local authority to let them take on an area of land which was being used as an illegal waste dump.
After a huge amount of work to clear and prepare the site at Buckley Hill Lane, they have gone on to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome hundreds of unwanted, neglected or cruelly treated horses and ponies at Shy Lowen.
Those that cannot be re-homed are offered a home for ever at the sanctuary.
Comet thrived and lived out his years at the centre, finally passing away late last year, aged 29.
UK Director of IFAW, Philip Mansbridge, said: “Bernie’s dedication to horse rescue and rehabilitation is outstanding and she is a great example of animal welfare in action.
“We were particularly impressed by her vision of horses and people connecting and recovering in this special community she has created.
“We hope that her efforts will inspire the next generation of animal welfare campaigners and carers.
“She is a very deserving winner of IFAW’s Equine Welfare Award.”
Bernie said: “I have always loved horses and felt an affinity with them.
“There is a strong connection and understanding between horses and humans; despite the way we outwardly present ourselves, they see who we really are, and so, for a troubled teenager, the horse can help them to understand themselves and with both children and adults, spending time with these horses starts a journey to ultimately heal each other.
“Seeing these lifechanging relationships develop is the most satisfying aspect of the work for me.
“I couldn’t believe I had won an IFAW award, but feel very emotional about receiving it.”
Bernie, Eric and Shelley all work together at the centre and are supported by five part-time staff and a team of volunteers, but finding time to fundraise to cover the centre’s costs is a constant challenge.
Shy Lowen is currently fundraising for a muchneeded all-weather riding school, at a cost of £29,000, as the current outdoor clay surface easily floods.
For more information on Shy Lowen and how to support the project, please visit www.shylowen.com
Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson with Bernie Langfield, at Westminster