Bright future for ponies rescued from flooded, muddy field

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One of the new arrivals following the Wellingborough rescue.
One of the new arrivals following the Wellingborough rescue. © World Horse Welfare

Some of the 43 horses and ponies at the centre of a well-publicised multi-agency rescue in Northamptonshire during a wet British winter February have found new homes — and eight have had foals.

Several of the ponies rescued from the flooded site in Wellingborough were taken in by World Horse Welfare, and  have made an incredible recovery. They will shortly be available for rehoming, while others have already found wonderful new homes.

Ponies were being fly grazed on the large site, which was flooded.
Ponies were being fly grazed on the large site, which was flooded. © World Horse Welfare

A wet winter and flooding had seriously reduced the area the illegally grazed horses could access. Many had overgrown feet and several were visibly suffering with conjunctivitis. Lack of food was adding to their already neglected condition and concern about the site was growing.

Following a phone call to World Horse Welfare’s UK Welfare Line from a member of the public, Field Officer Chris Shaw visited the site and found several underweight horses being fly-grazed. A drone was used to view the whole site and count the number of horses involved.

A drone was used to count the horses before they were rounded up.
A drone was used to count the horses before they were rounded up. © World Horse Welfare

With enquiries exhausted and no owners stepping forward to take responsibility for the horses, World Horse Welfare and concerned locals provided the horses with hay. No owner came forward and the landowners used the Control of Horses Act, which meant that the horses could be removed by the charities.

Because of the number of horses involved and the difficulties presented by the site, a good deal of co-ordination between a number of charities and local agencies — including RSPCA, Blue Cross, Redwings, Bransby Horses, the police, vets, the landowner, transporters and the hovercraft pilot was necessary to put together a plan before the challenging job of rounding up and removing the animals could begin. A hovercraft was used to access the whole, flooded site and to check that no horses had been left behind. A few of the horses were happy to be caught and a headcollar put on, and many of the others followed these horses into the pens from where they were loaded, but some were semi-wild and rounding those up made the job even harder and more challenging.

Before they were taken from the site, World Horse Welfare and concerned locals provided the horses with hay.
Before they were taken from the site, World Horse Welfare and concerned locals provided the horses with hay. © World Horse Welfare

Eventually, all 43 animals were caught and checked over by a vet. Some came into the care of World Horse Welfare, but the only space available was at Belwade Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Aberdeenshire and 25 of the animals were considered strong enough to cope with the long journey that would entail. Eleven went to a holding yard and then on to the Blue Cross and the remaining animals, too weak or sick to travel far, were boarded by the RSPCA at a local holding yard.

On of the Wellingborough foals born at Belwade Farm.
One of the Wellingborough foals born at Belwade Farm. © World Horse Welfare

The ponies arrived at Belwade having travelled well, and were quickly settled in. As each of the colts was deemed to be in suitable condition to undergo the procedure, they were castrated and are now looking for new homes already. Most of the mares were pregnant and each will stay in the centre with their foal until ready to be weaned but, in the meantime, they have also been getting used to being handled. In addition to suffering from worms and mites, all the horses were dealing with the aftermath of living for a long period on wet land.

The foals now have a much brighter future, thanks to rescuers.
The foals now have a much brighter future, thanks to rescuers. © World Horse Welfare

Eileen Gillen, Centre Manager at Belwade said: “At first all the ponies were unhandled and some of the mares, in particular, were very protective. One mare really didn’t want you anywhere near her and was certainly not afraid to let you know but now she has had her foal and learnt that we are not going to hurt her – and are the providers of food – she has turned into a really nice, compliant and willing pony. Her foal will be weaned just before Christmas and I am confident the mare will make someone a lovely rehomed pony. Eight foals have now been born to the Wellingborough mares at Belwade Farm, four fillies and four colts.”

Eight foals - four colts and four fillies - were born at Belwade Farm.
Eight foals – four colts and four fillies – were born at Belwade Farm. © World Horse Welfare

With care, the rescued ponies have gone on to thrive and World Horse Welfare Field Officer Chris Shaw said the transformation from the ill, semi-wild animals the rescuers struggled to round up in appalling conditions earlier in the year to the happy, healthy and friendly ponies they are now has been quite emotional.

“I normally only see the horses at the rescue stage, but this time I have been able to follow the progress of some of them right through and I take my hat off to the grooms at our Rescue and Rehoming Centres for the amazing work they do turning these ponies around and giving them a great future,” Shaw said.

» Anyone interested in rehoming one of the Wellingborough horses, or any of the others currently available from World Horse Welfare should visit its rehoming website. Horses are being rehomed with an adapted process to deal with Covid-19 restrictions. Each horse rehomed will free up space in the charity’s four centres for more horses that are in need.

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