Special ed: Foster homes sought for horses destined for therapy careers

Diangelo is one of the horses seeking a special foster home.
Diangelo is one of the horses seeking a special foster home. He is a very sweet young horse who loves people and is very friendly. He would be best suited to a confident but quiet, knowledgeable home experienced in handling youngsters. © The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

A British equine charity is seeking foster homes to help with the education of five young horses who will one day join its therapeutic programme.

Diangelo’s dam had health problems when she arrived in foal at the Sanctuary in 2018. She was monitored 24 hours a day in a foaling stable and grooms slept in an adjacent room so that they could provide emergency care if necessary. Diangelo is now two years old and 16hh.

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary is looking for owners in the South West of England who are willing to provide a special foster home over the next few years. They will work alongside the charity to socialise and train one of five young horses for future work in its education programmes, which bring horses and people together for each others’ benefit.

The equine welfare charity provides alternative education and training to people through equine-assisted learning, therapeutic riding and outdoor learning in nature with its rescued horses and ponies.

Diangelo, Icon, Ilyssa, Kenn and Mason are all young horses who have been rescued or born at the Sanctuary and specially chosen as having the potential to join the education team in a few years’ time.

The rehoming of these youngsters through the charity’s Sanctuary at Home scheme will enable them to mature in a home setting with a knowledgeable carer who can help prepare them for their important role. More than 400 horses are already “at home” under this scheme.

The Sanctuary’s Director of Equine, Syra Bowden, says the five are special horses and the charity was looking for “special people to care for them for a fixed term”.

“We’d like help with their socialisation and in-hand training until they’re mature enough to return to the Sanctuary to begin ridden work and further assessment for their suitability for our education programmes.”

While this work could be done at the sanctuary, Bowden said the charity believed that a home setting would be more advantageous for the horses at this crucial stage in their growth and development.

“We’ll work closely with the carers to keep up to date records of their training, achievements, milestones, setbacks and all aspects of their care. It will be a real team effort working alongside the staff here at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary for the duration of their stay. The special people who provide a foster home and continue the initial training of these horses will be able to stay in touch with their progress when the horses return to their important work in the education team.”

Dawn Neil, the Sanctuary’s Head of Education, runs the programmes that help meet the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of children, young people, families and adults.

“Diangelo, Icon, Ilyssa, Kenn and Mason have already proven they enjoy contact with people and we look forward to welcoming them into the education team when they’re ready.

“All our rescued horses and ponies have experienced some form of trauma in their lives, just as our human participants will have. The awareness and empathy resulting from this understanding can often have a profound impact for the participant experiencing the sessions with our equines,” Neil says.

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary currently has 669 horses and ponies under its care. The charity works for all horses and ponies, but has particular experience in managing and training feral or unhandled horses and ponies, and caring for mares in foal and orphaned or abandoned foals.

» Read more about Diangelo, Icon, Ilyssa, Kenn and Mason. The charity welcomes people to apply online in the first instance – this being the first step in the process of becoming a Sanctuary at Home Carer.


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