A group of young colts taken in by The Mare and Foal Sanctuary as part of the multi-agency rescue of 137 horses from a “sanctuary” in Wales just over a year ago are forging new paths in life.
The Sanctuary, based in Newton Abbot in Britain, took in 15 colts aged between three and six months old as part of the rescue in November 2019 led by the RSPCA in conjunction with World Horse Welfare, Redwings, Bransby Horses, The British Horse Society, The Horse Trust, Blue Cross and The Donkey Sanctuary. All 137 of the horses were signed over to the charities.
The colts now have a sanctuary for life at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary and are being rehomed through the charity’s “Sanctuary at Home” scheme. The sanctuary provides specialist care for all horses and ponies, but has particular experience in the care of mares in foal, orphaned or abandoned foals and youngstock.
On arrival, the youngsters were in need of immediate veterinary care as they were underweight, malnourished and suffering with severe parasite burdens. Further veterinary tests showed many of the ponies had significant liver damage and growth development issues, likely to have been caused by insufficient nourishment and early separation from their dams. It is believed these vulnerable foals were separated from their mothers at about one to two weeks old. They were all frightened so were kept in groups of three to help them feel safer during quarantine at the veterinary and welfare centre.
Following the isolation period, the youngsters moved to the sanctuary’s rehabilitation yard, Honeysuckle Farm. There the ponies were reunited as a herd and were able to remain together both in the field and in the barn. The crew barn facilities help horses and ponies live together in natural herd environments, helping to reduce stress and promote natural herd behaviours, which is vital for their physical, psychological and social wellbeing.
Head of Sanctuary Care Sally Burton said it required a lot of hard work to rehabilitate a pony in very poor condition, “let alone 15, and our teams did an outstanding job of providing lifesaving care for this herd”.
“It’s fortunate that we were able to step in and secure the future of these youngsters when their future was so bleak. It’s encouraging to see them looking so well now.”
All were gelded and care plans for each of the 15 were made by the sanctuary’s grooms. They were given plenty of time to graze, grow and put on condition. They soon began to appear brighter and their health greatly improved.
Training for going into a loan home includes all aspects of routine care, such as visits from the farrier and vet, wearing a rug, being handled and groomed, having their feet picked up, meeting other ponies, practicing to load for transport and going out for walks and seeing traffic.
Eleven of the ponies have either gone to new homes or are about to: Two are settling into their new homes with The Mare and Foal Sanctuary “at home carers”, two others are heading off very soon, and there are seven who are ready to go to new homes.
One of the ponies is still undergoing training and rehabilitation, and two others are under veterinary care and will remain in the Sanctuary until their condition improves. Sadly, one of the youngsters died from colic earlier this year. Ragner had a compromised immune system, likely through lack of nutrition and early separation from his dam, which made him more prone to colic and other health issues.
Talking about the Whispering Willows rescue in November 2019, The Mare and Foal Sanctuary Chief Executive Sarah Jane Williamson said the number of horses and ponies in need of crisis intervention continues to grow due to “increasingly complex circumstances”.
“Through collaboration between experienced equine welfare organisations who are members of The National Equine Welfare Council, we can achieve more for animal welfare together,” she said.
The Sanctuary’s Director of Equine Syra Bowden said a vitally important part of the charity’s work was to educate people about how to properly care for horses, including the costs in terms of time and money.
“This includes advising smaller equine welfare organisations who despite their size, have the same responsibility as larger charities like ours, to meet the needs of every equine in their care.”
The owner of the 137 horses earlier this month pleaded guilty to four Animal Welfare Act offences relating to 22 horses. The owner admitted in court that failure to adequately explore and address the poor condition or injury of 22 horses led them to suffer unnecessarily — contrary to section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act. At sentencing, the owner was banned from keeping all horses for 10 years, told to pay £1000 in costs, a £90 victim surcharge and must serve a 20-week curfew.