Happy the horse is a hit at Newling Gardens

Newling Gardens has an unofficial “therapy horse” aptly named Happy, who is proving to be a new best friend with residents.

Happy the horse brings back happy memories for resident Kay Harman at Newling Gardens


A greying 20-year-old stockhorse with the sweetest disposition, it seems Happy the horse has found his calling and is proving that there is just no horsing around when it comes to the undeniable bond between animals and people.

Once a highly anxious animal that had worn a knee-deep furrow into the ground from nervous pacing around his enclosure, Happy is now the consummate companion.

At a recent visit to the village, he proved to be a patient and gracious receiver of many pats and brought back a flood of childhood memories for residents, many of whom recalled riding a horse to and from school every day.

Village Manager Sue Nelson said: “We wanted to do something that would brighten our residents’ day during the pandemic.”

“Many of this generation were raised on farms around here, and when they got to pat Happy it brought back so many sweet childhood memories of growing up on horseback.

“Some villages have therapy dogs but horses are something many residents here can really relate to. It was wonderful to watch and at times quite emotional.”

Resident and former jackeroo John Campbell, who founded a pony club at Kingstown in New South Wales 30 years ago, said the day was “just like old times’’

“We had a good old chat and pat. It’s been 10 years since I’ve been on a horse.’’

Raised on a station his father managed outside Mungindi in north western NSW, Mr Campbell said he was only three or four when he learnt to ride a pony his family kept in their garden.

“I remember trying to get the pony – which was named Jimmy – to canter around the yard. I did get him to go faster and I went off over the front. My mother yelled out to see if I was ok, and sobbing I yelled back: “Yeah. I’m OK.’’

Another resident, Kay Harman, said Happy’s visit “fondly brought back some very happy memories’’.

“Indeed, it took me back 58 years to 1962,’’ she said. It was that year she learnt to ride a horse while staying at the family home of her best friend in Casino.

Resident Kay Harnan with her horse Cover in 1962


She bonded with an ex-racehorse named Cover, pictured.  “You can see what a handsome fellow he was,’’ she said.

“He stood a grand seventeen-and-a-half hands high and at first, I needed to scale the rails to get onto him.

“I had such professional teachers that I soon got the swing of things, mounted with greater ease and he and I bonded well.’’

Happy is one of eight horses from Ms Nelson’s own property, after she purchased him as a two-year-old with some obvious anxiety issues.

“At the time people were asking my husband and me why we were bothering with him and what use he was ever going to be,’’ she said.

“You would never think that to look at him now. He has turned out to be a fantastic horse and is so gentle and friendly that even our grandchildren can ride him.’’

Happy is now being primed for a return visit by popular demand.

Newling Gardens in an integral part of the Armidale community and is well known for its welcoming residents and award-winning gardens. Conveniently located, it is only a short walk from the city centre with its shops, restaurants, hospitals, medical services and sports clubs.

The best way to find out more about village life is to visit one of our communities, meet a few of the residents – both people and pets! And get to know the social and activity calendar.

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