Annette Bongette has her priorities straight. Tops are children and horses; the order however is sketchy for the the owner of in Hamilton.
For this, the explanation appears to be that all are loved in equal measure, especially those with a bum leg, blind eye or other bodily impairment.
The story of Seven Acres Farm is simple, as Bongette’s tells it.
“I had to buy the place so my horse could retire,” she said.
That was in 1994 but the involved horse is the question. Seventeen years later a number of equine retirees chew at hay and lie about in the farm’s many paddocks.
“Once I commit to an animal I keep them forever - forever,” says Bongette drawing out the last word for full effect. “They never get sold. I love the stupid things, I couldn’t imagine my life without the horses.”
Nodding toward a flea bitten grey mixing with ponies behind fencing a few yards away, Bongette reveals the startling complexities of her life with fluid honesty.
“I’m a nurse. I was a cardiac nurse, an intensive care and emergency room nurse," said the knowing 66 year-old, with girlish red hair worn curly and short. "But those (positions) are for young people.”
Laughing she adds, “When you look around and the docs are younger than your kids then you know it’s time to get out.”
The other subject as dear to her is Sir Lancelot - "Lance," the 18 year-old thoroughbred with vet-tended tendons. While Bongette was talking about Larry, she tossed out, “I’m in rehab nursing now and I have a DCF (Department of Children and Families) license. I do extreme medically involved children.”
Following a rush of medical terms and half swallowed bits about children left impaired by accidents sustained in their homes, Bongette put a finer point on what she does.
“I left the (state) facilities because I wanted to do more.”
“I used to take in three to four (extreme medically involved children) at a time," Bongette said talking about the many children she has cared for, "but now I only take in one.”
These days the "one" she is fostering is a two-year-old she describes as “the most beautiful baby on the whole world.”
“She was 12-weeks-old when I got her,” says Bongette. “She’s a miracle child; They never thought she could do anything but now she’s walking and talking.”
Lapsing back to the warm character she was born with, Bongette says of her charge, “She’s going to be normal.”
This happy predication and the facts that accompany it melt Bongette into tears. She then says, “I want someone young who can keep up with her (to adopt her).”
There are few idle minutes at Seven Acres Farm. A committed staff that includes several of Bongette’s seven children and riding instructor Hillary Prime, who has been onboard since she was 11, has lots to do.
In addition to accommodating boarded horses and providing lessons to young equine enthusiasts, Seven Acres Farm now hosts Lil’ Cowpoke Parties.
Launched this June as a means to help keep the farm’s vast family in feed and fine fettle, Lil’ Cowpoke Parties welcome children in to meet the animals. In a petting area and on pony rides children make friends with not just ponies Diablo, Apache and Eddie but Dopey the goat, Yodo the tortoise and others too.