For a number of years, Garsons has been honoured to welcome beautiful reindeer into our family for the month leading up to Christmas.
We appreciate that there are animal welfare questions from other events making national headlines at the moment, but would like to reassure our customers that our reindeer, who visit us every year, are healthy, lovingly cared for animals.
In between their visits to Garsons, the reindeer, which were saved from culls in Norway and Sweden, are looked after by one of Britain’s leading experts, who in turn works with a specialist reindeer vet to ensure they lead happy and healthy lives.
“We personally visit the animals at their home farm in Berkshire through the year, and have taken great pleasure in watching them grow into such glorious creatures,” says Ben Thompson, Garsons director. “The reindeer live year-round in a herd of 13, and enjoy a specialist diet which ensures they receive just what they need to grow and develop.”
Riverways Farm reindeer are cared for to extremely high standards in accordance with all Animal Health and DEFRA regulations.
They work with Phil Endsor, a highly experienced reindeer handler and trainer known as The Reindeer Whisperer, to look after this small herd throughout the year to ensure they receive the very best husbandry care, attention and a carefully balanced diet.
“The reindeer roam freely across a 10- acre site and are in excellent health, and fully vaccinated,” says Phil. “They are incredibly happy, their coats shine, they are the perfect weight for their respective ages and sport strong antler sets.”
Garsons Esher is delighted that for the sixth year Storm will be returning. Now nine, generally older than these amazing animals reach in the wild, Storm will be joined by Glacier – who has also visited Garsons several times, and is six years old.
Garsons Titchfield, meanwhile, is honoured to welcome Frosty (7), who has also stayed with us several times before, and Cloudy, a sweet little three-year-old who will make a great buddy to Frosty.
Months of careful planning have gone into preparing for the special guests, from sending 'reindeer helpers' for training and familiarisation at the reindeer's home farm, to building their bespoke home whilst living with us.
Our reindeer helpers will be responsible for the animals' welfare throughout their stay at the family-run garden centre, including taking them for daily walks, ensuring they have plenty of the right food and making them comfortable.
“The reindeer bring the magic of Christmas alive and put a smile on the faces of adults and children alike,” says Ben.
“However, our top priority is always to make sure that these majestic creatures are carefully looked after. A lot of work goes into giving them plenty of exercise, the right nutrients and making sure they have lots of space to move around so that they can take time away from the public if they want to. “We have found every year that the reindeer are naturally curious and friendly, so they love to come and say hello to everyone.”
Visitors to Garsons will be able to see and learn about these magical creatures at Garsons Esher and Garsons Titchfield from Saturday November 24 to midday Christmas Eve.
While there is no charge to visit the reindeer at Garsons, this annual tradition raises thousands of pounds for Garsons charities of the year, Princess Alice Hospice and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance.
1. Where are they from?
The reindeer live in a small herd on a farm in Lapland (Reading). Most of the year they live out in the fields except for appearances such as this to help raise money for charity and educate the public.
2. Shouldn’t they be out in the wild?
Reindeer are not truly wild animals – in Europe they are domesticated or semi domesticated and kept in large herds, where they are rounded up once a year and sold for fur and meat.
3. Do they stay in the pen all day?
Our reindeer are walked every morning and given time to graze on grass and leaves.
4. Where do they go at night?
The Reindeer stay in their enclosure at night. In their permanent home they live out in a field with a shelter, as they do not require indoor or enclosed accommodation – in fact most of the time they will not use it and prefer to sleep in the open.
5. Don’t they get cold?
No! Their natural habitat is much, much colder than Garsons could ever get! They are perfectly comfortable down to minus 40.
6. Why are they breathing hard?
Reindeer will often lie-down after eating and will breathe heavier as they digest their food.
7. What do they eat?
The reindeer pellet we feed them contains all the nutrients they require – it is based on compressed hay and grass. This is their normal winter food, to supplement natural grazing.
8. Because they have antlers does that mean they are male?
No, both male and female reindeer have antlers. The ones here are male, as they tend to be calmer than females.
9. Do they drop their antlers?
Yes, the antlers are normally dropped around January time – earlier if the weather is mild – and then regrown every year. Each time they grow they will be larger, with more points.
10. Will they bite me?
No! Reindeer have no top teeth at the front so are unable to bite – plus they are very placid animals that are very relaxed around people.