Hannah, Little Alf & Friends
It all started with a pint sized pony, Little Alf who stands at just 28 inches high due to him having dwarfism.
From charity work, building a business together, running events and business we've become constant companions...though there have been a few casualties along the way - Mainly garden ornaments and neighbours vegetables!
How our began...
Little Alf first came to live with me in 2012 when I was 16 years old, he changed my life in the best way possible, who knew a 28-inch pony would make such a difference to me.
Over the last eight years or so, me and Little Alf have faced highs and lows, we’ve had books published, merchandise launched, raised awanress and money for charity campaigns, had books published overseas, been on TV, radio and so much more… Little Alf has become quite the star.
The journey hasn’t always been easy, I was born in Yorkshire and brought up in the Yorkshire Dales, I’ve always been obsessed with horses and animals in general, I had dreams of one day been a riding instructor or working with horses, but in my teens, I started to suffer from severe back pain, an MRI scan showed that I had fractured Vertebrae and worn discs in my back and doctors made it clear and advised I shouldn’t ride again.
It was at that time in my life I was in a low ebb and looking for a new focus when one day I found out a little pony who was only 28 inches high due to him having dwarfism needed a home… ‘miniature Shetland’s normal stand around 34 inches high, but Little Alf measures at a pint sized 28 inches.’
The dwarfism means that Little Alf’s features are extra small too, he has tiny ears, tiny hooves and because of his condition been rejected by his herd and needed a little extra love and care.
As Little Alf came to live with me, I started to take photos of his adventure and posting them online, this led me to start a blog about him, which turned me to write some children’s stories about his adventures…
My first book was published about him when I was 17 years old and was the start of a series of books featuring Little Alf and as the years passed has expanded into further magical stories and an autobiographical account of our bond together. I’ve also moved in to writing a few other magical stories and teen fiction.
I’ve been lucky enough to experience how equines and animals can be used for therapy, without Little Alf coming to live with me I would have never understood how equines can be used to heal and how rewarding it is to listen to your pony and understand them. I have a rather small menagerie here in the Yorkshire Dales of rescue pets, which is where the term and brand ‘Little Alf and friends’ came from as they all actively feature online with me.
Not Just Books...
As well as writing the books, I have gone on to start a few different business adventures, working with home interiors, conservation projects and as a business coach.
Little Alf really helped bring out my entrepreneur spirit, I opened up ‘Russell Home interiors’ a shop based in Leyburn, the Yorkshire Dales, the business is a shop and online retail business selling furniture and many in house designed products.
Strangely enough before I took over the premises in Leyburn, I use to work there in my teenage years for three years and the shop was the first ever place to stock my books, when I found out the previous owners were moving on, I knew it was the place for me.
The theme behind the business ‘Russell home interiors’ is escaping the ordinary, to me the home is where the memories are made and this is what I try to achieve in the shop, it’s all about standing out from the crowd and being different, the shop has really grown its reputation and has been awarded for customer service and products within the shop.
My family who are evidently as creatively, are a key part of the project. Sharron Russell, my mum, is the painter behind the ‘Quirky Cows’ - cheery colourful images of cows and other Dales animals. Available as original canvases or prints. They also feature on a huge range of items, from mugs, coasters, chopping boards to cufflinks, blankets, and even kitchen splash backs.
My Dad Mike meanwhile crafts striking contemporary furniture by adorning locally sourced wood and vibrant epoxy resins.
This is just a highlight of some of the work I have done so far, but life is always challenge and we love working on new projects. During the COVID – 19 pandemic, I had a new challenge to face after being diagnosed with Sarcoma Cancer putting a lot of my business on hold, after surgery and radiotherapy I was back on the right track, cancer may have chosen the battle, but I won the fight and was incredibly luckily to come into remission at the end of 2020.
Since then, I have gone on to raise awareness for Sarcoma Cancer and launch a t-shirt brand to raise funds for Sarcoma UK.
I’m a huge believer in helping others and organisations and I’m the proud ambassador for 3 charities, Helping Rhinos, Brooke Action for Working horses, donkeys and mules and Wild Welfare.
I wish I could share with you everything I do and share with you all the amazing animals and people I get to work with, but I would be sat in my office all day typing! You can head over and follow us on social media to keep up to date, pick up the books to follow our story and write in if you have any questions!