Good things take time: Mouse’s long road to horse happiness


Staff at an equine rescue operation in Britain spent years helping a terrified semi-feral pony become used to people so he could have a happy and healthy future.

Mouse on arrival.
Mouse on arrival. © The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

Taken in by The Mare and Foal Sanctuary in Newton Abbot, Mouse was rescued as the result of a large-scale multi-agency rescue from Bodmin’s East Moor in 2016. He will have care for life at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary, but he was so traumatised on arrival staff questioned whether they would be able to provide him with enough training to see progress and improve his quality of life.

It has taken years to gain Mouse’s trust, and now he is fronting an appeal by the charity to raise awareness and funds for the work they do.

Footage of Mouse bolting from his stable in the earlier days of his training goes on to reveal the expert, persevering work of his handlers.

Initially, it was very difficult for anyone to get close to Mouse including the sanctuary’s vet, Richard. This caused difficulties when it came to treating his medical conditions. For example, last year Mouse developed a problem with his eye, which turned out to be a painful corneal ulcer. The healing process was slower than expected and at times it was difficult to get close to Mouse.

One of Mouse’s main trainers, Yard Manager Terri Saunders, said if a leaf blew across the yard, he would be startled.

“It was upsetting to see how on edge he was. We were very concerned for his wellbeing. Horses and ponies like Mouse pose a real challenge for us. There are simple things we cannot do with semi-feral equines, like check their teeth or feet, because they have never been handled,” Terri said.

“Often, the rescue is just the beginning. In Mouse’s case, it has taken years of our specialist care, gentle training and confidence building to help him move towards a happier and healthier future – I think he has finally found his sanctuary.”

Mouse has even started to show her some of his quirky personality. He really enjoys a little tickle of his top lip. Terri can use her knowledge of his likes and dislikes to soothe him in situations he may find stressful.

Mouse can now be led to the nearby field with just one groom rather than two. Terri can also now touch Mouse’s front legs and most other areas of his body, which they practice most days.

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary works for all horses and ponies, but has particular experience in managing and training feral, semi-feral or unhandled horses and ponies. Chief Executive Sarah Jane Williamson said the charity had expert understanding of the physical, psychological and social needs of horses and ponies.

Mouse and his main trainer, Terri Saunders.
Mouse and his main trainer, Terri Saunders. © The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

“Our staff know how to deal with ponies with extremely complex behaviours and have persevered over many years to rehabilitate and train Mouse to know that humans can represent safety.”

She said staff worked tirelessly to keep horses and ponies healthy and make sure all their needs are met despite being in smaller teams because of the necessary physical distancing measures during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Our appeal will help to raise vital funds so that we can maintain a regular routine for ponies like Mouse as his training continues.”

» More about the Mouse appeal

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