Rescued pony’s special surprise – and winning transformation

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Thanks to the care of World Horse Welfare, Buttercup has been transformed from skin and bones to a showring champion.
Thanks to the care of World Horse Welfare, Buttercup has been transformed from skin and bones to a showring champion. © World Horse Welfare

International equine charity World Horse Welfare has told the story of Buttercup, a mare who was skin and bone when she came into care in 2018 – and the surprise she was carrying.

Just over a year after her rescue, Buttercup won a show ring championship and is ready to go to a new home.

Rescued in a dreadful state in June 2018, Buttercup was far from an example of show ring excellence: she was so emaciated that her bones protruded and the skin over them was covered in sores from rubbing as she lay on the ground. Almost too weak to stand and showing no interest in anything going on around her the painfully slow task of returning her to health began.

But a few mornings later, to everyone’s astonishment, she produced a foal, a filly who was later named Frieda. Buttercup was so weak that she couldn’t care for her foal so they were both moved to World Horse Welfare’s Penny Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Lancashire, so they could both receive specialist round-the-clock care.

Buttercup's foal, Frieda, was hand reared. She has now been rehomed.
Buttercup’s foal, Frieda, was hand-reared. She has now been rehomed. © World Horse Welfare

“When Buttercup first arrived, she stood in the stable with her head hung low, with her spine and hip bones protruding,” said Karen Wright, World Horse Welfare Penny Farm Assistant Centre Manager.

“She had sores on both sides, where she had struggled to get up. She was so weak that she didn’t take an interest in anything. Being so weak and emaciated, Buttercup had to have a very careful feeding regime to begin building up her strength. Initially, we fed her four times a day – little and often – until eventually, she was strong enough to go out in a paddock for a few hours at a time and then she began to gain condition slowly but surely.”

Her foal, Frieda, was hand-reared by the Penny Farm team and thrived in their care. She has now been rehomed, and time will tell what her capabilities will be as she grows and develops.

Buttercup is unrecognisable from the rescued pony of more than a year before. She won a championship title at Equifest in late 2019.
Buttercup is unrecognisable from the rescued pony of more than a year before. She won a championship title at Equifest in late 2019. © World Horse Welfare

Buttercup’s recovery took time but once she was eventually strong enough the staff at Penny Farm started doing some in-hand exercise with her, helping her to build her strength, muscle and flexibility.

“We realised she might do very well at in-hand showing and she actually went to Equifest last year, a horse show at the East of England Showground near Peterborough. They have special rescue classes, which are judged on the horse or pony’s previous history, their transformation and their performance. Buttercup was very well-behaved, and she was crowned champion, so we’re very proud of her!” Wright said.

“The transformation from the desperately thin animal that originally came in us, to the star she is now is incredible.”

Following on from her showing success at Equifest, Buttercup has been the star of many ‘Groom a pony’ sessions at Penny Farm. She’s wonderful with children and loves being groomed and fussed over. Although she cannot be ridden, 14-year old Buttercup is now ready to be rehomed as a non-ridden companion pony.

Staff at World Horse Welfare were surprised to find Buttercup had given birth to a filly foal, Frieda, just days after she was rescued.
Staff at World Horse Welfare were surprised to find Buttercup had given birth to a filly foal, Frieda, just days after she was rescued. © World Horse Welfare

World Horse Welfare aims to rehabilitate and rehome all the horses which come into its care. It rehomes more horses, ponies and donkeys than any other horse charity in the UK and currently has more than 1900 equines in homes, with 310 rehomed in 2019 alone. As each horse leaves one of the charity’s four Rescue and Rehoming Centres their places are quickly taken by others in desperate need of help. Anyone rehoming one of World Horse Welfare’s horses or ponies not only receives the full honest facts about the horse and a lifetime of support – and the rewards of knowing that they are giving that horse perhaps its first-ever loving home – while making space for another vulnerable horse to receive the care it needs.

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