Lorraine More grew up around her furry and feathered friends. Now, she seeks to foster ties between animals and the next generation. It’s a worthy and exhilarating experience for both parents as well as children, shares Dinesh Raheja.
I would have missed the turning into a muddy, bumpy lane off Talegaon on the old Mumbai-Pune highway but fortunately, I had switched on the GPS, so I made it to the Japalouppe Equestrian Centre.
Run by spry 66-year-old Lorraine More, Japalouppe began as an equestrian farm where children of all ages came to learn horse riding. 7 years ago, she added a picnic and petting farm that has become a magnet for animal lovers and city children. Visitors are actively encouraged to meet, greet, and interact with an assortment of tame but lively animals.
Lorraine is an avowed animal lover who describes her parents as “very animal people.” She says, with a tinge of jocularity, “While growing up, my five siblings and I had chickens and ducks scrambling around in our yard and a goat who had breakfast with us. We would rescue a squirrel who had fallen out of a nest or nurse a bulbul and feed it till it was ready to fly on its own. It is so wonderful to grow up with animals; it moulds your perspective of animals and increases empathy.”
When I visited the farm, I was greeted with open spaces and a bunch of children running excitedly between the separate animal and bird enclosures. I watched as four-year-old twins Jaanu and Natasha broke into peals of laughter as rabbits and guinea pigs sat on their laps and nibbled on the cabbage leaves offered to them. The twins caressed the napes of the horses, let a cockatoo perch on their shoulders, and wanted to know why the pigs, named Peppa and George, were not pink like in their story books. They complained good-naturedly about Candy the donkey not playing with them but were quickly distracted by Baa Baa, the black sheep about whom they had only seen pictures in their nursery rhyme class. They did not know whether to spend more time with Sheldon the baby bull, or Edison the billy goat, or the red-eared turtles from Singapore.
It is so wonderful to grow up with animals; it moulds your perspective of animals and increases empathy
Lorraine says, “Parents tell me that their child forgets the birthday party organised by them at a restaurant in five minutes but a visit to Japalouppe has them in a thrall and they keep talking about it for days on end.”
The petting farm is also an effective way to rid children of their fear of animals. Lorraine points out, “Before coming here, some children are apprehensive of going near an animal; maybe because they have picked that up from the adults at home. There are also city children who have had no exposure to animals. On their first excursion, they may hide behind their mothers but by the second visit, they themselves lead their parents to the animal pens.”
Underlining the importance of touch, she says, “When kids hold a guinea pig or a rabbit in their lap, they ‘feel’ the difference between a stuffed toy and a live animal.”
Compassion and empathy are the inconspicuous benefit of this experience. Lorraine says, “We tell the children to be gentle with the animals and the birds, and not to alarm them by screaming or being rough with them. They learn to be compassionate because they see that it works better with animals. If you are rough with them or yell at them, the animals wriggle out of their hands and scuttle away. When you expose children to animals, they become more caring and sensitive, not only to animals but other human beings too.”
When kids hold a guinea pig or a rabbit in their lap, they ‘feel’ the difference between a stuffed toy and a live animal.
On my way to the car, I see the twins grinning from ear to ear—their mother has given her consent for waffles while Jaanu waits for his turn at the pony ride.
- Open for all six days of the week; Wednesdays closed.
- For the 3.30 pm to 5 pm slot on a weekday, the rates are Rs 560 for ‘big’ people (10 years and above) and Rs 336 for ‘l’il’ people (2 to 10 years). It includes a tour of the Centre and high tea.
- Address: Japalouppe Equestrian Centre, Off Old Pune Mumbai Highway, NH-4, near Somatne Toll Plaza, Talegaon Dabhade, Maharashtra 410506