Jacob’s Ridge – A sanctuary for humans and animals

Jacob’s Ridge – A sanctuary for humans and animals

October 16, 2018 0 By Emma Letessier

Jacob’s Ridge is owned and run by Lynn and Julian Nicholson along with their two children, Megan and Freddie. They have lived in Spain for 12 years and for the last six years, have been at Jacob’s Ridge.


Lynn Nicholson was working in the United Kingdom as a head of business within the Audi network, a position that had taken her 20 years to reach. One day in a meeting she realised she was writing a recipe and was shut down to everything that was going on around her.


That was her moment of clarity. She went home and explained to her husband, Julian that she wanted to leave and he agreed. After talking through their options, three weeks later they were on a plane with their children Megan and Freddie, headed to Spain to start a new life together as a family.


Their sanctuary began as a private sanctuary for animals that needed a home – primarily pigs, which was named Pig Village and was Lynn´s personal passion. However, that all changed after fostering Jacob.


“In 2011 we were fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to foster a beautiful young horse named Jacob. He had had a very difficult start and had been tied to a tree for all his life. He was undernourished and neglected,” said Lynn.


“The amazing people at Easy Horse Care Rescue Centre rescued him and due to his nature and his boisterous ways, they were seeking a foster home for him and asked if we would like to have him live with us”.


Jacob quickly settled in and became a part of the Nicholson family. Circumstances changed and they moved a little further south in Spain and Jacob went with them. He was soon joined by Nero, a beautiful black donkey with a very strong character. They became the best of friends.


As the months went by they began meeting with their new neighbours. One of those neighbours was an ageing horse breeder. He was finding the care of his horses very difficult and made the decision to sell them all. They were in a poor state. He had arranged to sell them to the meat market. When Lynn and Julian found out they couldn’t stand by and see the beautiful animals destroyed. So they rallied around, made financial sacrifices and agreed to take all of the neighbour’s horses.


“The learning curve was huge as was the food bill! To be honest we struggled financially but kept them all fed and housed. Four of the rescue horses were in the early stages of pregnancy and unfortunately one of the mares miscarried very early. The remaining mares went on to have three healthy foals and the herd grew overnight.


“During a particularly difficult financial period we were faced with the very real prospect of having to move the horses on; they were literally eating us out of house and home and the pressure was immense. So we had to get our thinking caps on. We had made a commitment to all the horses and to simply give up was just not an option. So we devised a plan. Jacob’s Ridge is that plan in action.”


Lynn and Julian began researching the prospect of combining volunteering with a holiday, glamping-style accommodation and 100% vegan all-inclusive meals.  This felt like the perfect solution as it meant that the animals would receive lots of human interaction, helping them to gain trust, and people would be able to enjoy the surroundings and the animals, without forcing any of the animals to “perform”. It was decided that the doors would be open to everyone so long as they understood and respected the vegan ethos of Jacob’s Ridge.


“When the idea was formed, a few volunteers came out in 2014 for a trial run, which went well and so we opened the doors in 2015, not sure if anyone would come or if it would work. It has literally been run by the family and people came! In fact, the year sold out!


“The workload has been immense and exhausting but incredibly rewarding. We have learnt that we need additional help for 2016 and have employed people to join us for the year to assist in organising everything, giving the family the opportunity to spend time together, something that was sacrificed in 2015. Everyone was involved in making sure that everything ran smoothly and that our guests had a wonderful time.”


Lynn reports that there have been many joys in running a tourism-funded animal sanctuary. Some of which have been being able to demonstrate how wonderful vegan food can be and to see the animals benefit from human attention, allowing them to understand that humans can be kind too.


“To look out and see people sitting under trees, just being with the pigs, grooming the donkeys, chatting to the horses, has to be one of the nicest views ever. Seeing people become vegan just by eating the food and being with the animals, without any lectures or interference, has been awesome. There was even a meat-eater who actually returned home and went fully raw vegan, just on the connection with the pigs alone.”


Jacob’s Ridge is now home to horses, donkeys, goats, chickens, cats, dogs and of course, pigs. In 2015 alone, on the back of the volunteer programme, an additional 21 animals were rescued. Sadly, this number could have grown daily, but the volunteer programme will hopefully allow many more animals to come and join the sanctuary.


There are plans for a new duck pond to house ducks and geese. Calves will also be rescued. Due to the success of Lynn’s vegan culinary prowess, a Jacob’s Ridge cookbook is being planned along with the expansion of the kitchen so that vegan cooking lessons can also be included as part of the package for volunteers.


Julian works very closely with the horses and is working on Liberty Training, which involves working with horses just through energy, no contact, just trust. The results are beautiful and the connection is amazing. People gain so much through being with the horses and Julian loves to work with both to help them gain personal confidence. This relationship with the horses also ensures that should they need to be moved, have a vet check or their feet trimmed, they are relaxed and in control.


In time they plan to offer this training to locals to help them understand that there are better ways to work with their horses rather than through beating them into submission. Lynn and Julian’s thoughts on this are that if changes can be made through education, then those changes will last into the future, and that is more effective in the long run.


“It has become clear that Jacob’s Ridge is not only a sanctuary for animals, it is a sanctuary for people too. People really do grow, mentally, emotionally and spiritually,” says Lynn.


“So with this in mind we have some projects planned to engage the community. One initial project is working with local teenagers who are all looking for motivation. A racing team is being formed with a group of teenage boys who are learning about team spirit, respect, the importance of being healthy and of course, understanding how being vegan can be a huge benefit to them.


“It is early days but already the children are finding their way to the sanctuary looking to be a part of something, which is very encouraging and the next step will be to seek funding to grow this and help to create fine, young humans for the future.”


All kinds of people stay at Jacob’s Ridge, all with different skills but Lynn and Julian make it clear that the sanctuary’s not a boot camp.


“We want people to help and get involved, but this could also mean just sitting with the animals, giving them one-to-one attention and love. It’s so beneficial for them and really helps.”


If you’d like to help out financially or through providing products that could help support the sanctuary, or if you’d like to join the Nicholson’s at Jacob’s Ridge you can visit their website for more information. You can connect with them via their Facebook pages for Jacob’s Ridge and Pig Village.

Emma Letessier
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Emma Letessier

Editor at Barefoot Vegan
Barefoot Vegan was founded and is edited and designed by Emma Letessier. Emma is a blogger, life-coach and qualified PR professional and journalist, who also happens to be a passionate vegan, animal and nature lover. She lives in a small village in France with her husband, daughter and their rescue animals at the Barefoot Vegan Farm and Animal Sanctuary.
As a writer, Emma’s work has been featured in other popular well-being and spiritual websites such as Elephant Journal, IVORY magazine, and she’s part of the Huffington Post’s team of regular bloggers. Her writing was also included in the Tiny Buddha book 365 Love Challenges from Tiny Buddha,released in 2015 by HarperCollins.
Emma Letessier
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