Rags to riches: 130 British horses rescued from neglect

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More than 130 horses have been rescued from a property in Britain after just one phone call by a member of the public to World Horse Welfare’s UK Welfare Line.

The horse’s owner was struggling to care for them, and none had been handled. World Horse Welfare took in 32 of the horses, and about 100 more being taken in by other charities.

WHW Field Officer Becky Bedson described the situation the horses were in as “systematic neglect”. She said the horses were on a big site along the M25 motorway encircling the greater London area, and many different agencies had been involved trying to resolve issues there over the years. She said there were a large number of horses on the property, living with cattle. The paddock was bare “like the surface of the moon” and there was little grazing for the horses, and the area was littered with rubbish.

The site was littlered with rubbish and there was little for the horses to eat. © World Horse Welfare

Becky, and fellow Field Officer Chris Shaw, worked hard to gain the owners’ cooperation and co-ordinated a multi-agency operation to remove over 130 horses from the property to safety. Because of the large number of animals involved, the removal operation, financing the operation, providing transport and finding space to take in the animals relied on cooperation between World Horse Welfare and several other NEWC (National Equine Welfare Council) member organisations, including the British Horse Society, Blue Cross, Bransby Horses, Essex Horse & Pony Protection Society, HAPPA, The Horse Trust, Redwings, RSPCA, The Donkey Sanctuary and Thornberry Animal Sanctuary.

The majority of these horses were completely unhandled and very nervous, and many had numerous health problems. Many of the mares were pregnant, which will further add to the numbers of animals needing to be looked after when their foals are born over the coming months.

The horses were living in a large herd along with cattle. None had been handled. © World Horse Welfare
The horses were living in a large herd along with cattle. None had been handled. © World Horse Welfare

Eleven of the rescued horses came into the care of World Horse Welfare’s Glenda Spooner Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Somerset and another 21 came to Hall Farm; the others were distributed among the other rescue organisations.

Rehabilitation has taken time, but now their futures are bright.

Clio and Astra were among the horses rescued in the M25 case. Both have now been rehomed. © World Horse Welfare
Clio and Astra

Two of the 32 horses taken in by World Horse Welfare were Clio and Astra, a pair of unhandled yearling fillies who came to the charity’s Hall Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Norfolk. When they arrived both ponies were underweight, suffering from worms and very scared of people but their grooms worked tirelessly to gain their trust and the pair have been completely transformed from the timid scraps they arrived as.

As their rehabilitation progressed, Clio and Astra proved to be bright, enquiring ponies, despite their terrible start in life. Eventually, they were ready to rehome for youngster handling, and both Clio and Astra received a lot of interest through the charity’s online rehoming site and are now happily rehomed with their new families to continue learning about life.

Becky says: “It was heart-breaking to see how nervous some of these horses were at first – they clearly hadn’t been handled at all and were so scared of humans. Clio and Astra’s transformations are a testament to the dedication and endless patience of their grooms – to see such frightened yearlings blossom into friendly young ponies is just incredible. A call to our Welfare Line really can transform horses’ lives.”

The rehabilitation plan for each horse is individual to their needs and, once ready, they are offered for rehoming. Rehoming an animal from World Horse Welfare creates space at the centres for more horses in need to be taken in.

A multi-agency operation was required to remove more than 130 horses from the property.
A multi-agency operation was required to remove more than 130 horses from the property. © World Horse Welfare

Many of these horse welfare cases first come to light by a call being made to the confidential UK Welfare Line. If they are concerned about a horse, members of the public can call with first-hand information and the team will collect information from each caller which helps to determine whether a Field Officer should attend and how urgently the horse/s in question might need to be seen.

The UK Welfare Line (0300 333 6000) receives thousands of calls each year and World Horse Welfare relies on donations to maintain the line. The charity’s current appeal is asking for caring people to donate just £3 a month to ensure the continuation of the UK Welfare Line and a kinder future for horses and ponies.

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