As three-year-old Frankie walked confidently up into the trailer that was leaving World Horse Welfare’s Penny Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre to take him to his new rehomers at the weekend, it marked a major milestone.
Little Frankie was the last of the horses from Penny Farm that had been rescued by World Horse Welfare from a failing animal sanctuary in 2019 to be rehomed.
When 13.2hh Cilybebyll Frankie was rescued in November 2019 he was underweight, with a high worm burden and overgrown feet and was terrified of human contact. It has taken a lot of time and experienced nursing and handling in the charity’s care to turn him into the happy, healthy and confident young horse that he now is. Frankie was one of 137 horses and ponies rescued in a large multi-agency operation in south Wales alongside RSPCA, Redwings, the British Horse Society, the Horse Trust, Blue Cross, the Mare & Foal Sanctuary and The Donkey Sanctuary.
World Horse Welfare took 47 of the ponies for rehabilitation and eventual rehoming. Zoe Clifford, Visitor Officer at the charity’s Penny Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Lancashire said: “It’s always wonderful to see ponies that came in to us in such a poor state reach the stage where they are ready to move on to the next phase of their lives in the care of rehomers.
“Seeing the contrast between the terrified little things that arrive and the confident, sleek animals that leave us really shows the amazing work the team does in turning these animals around but the reality is that it’s taken a while to get to this point and that illustrates just how much effort, time and resources are needed to care for these animals properly.”
Where possible, all of the other ponies from this rescue have been rehomed and are facing a similarly brighter future. Just like Frankie, Barbie and Dec were underweight, poorly and terrified when they arrived at Penny Farm, but were rehomed together just before Christmas by Heidi and her family.
Heidi says: “I was only intending to get one companion pony for our horses, but when I saw Dec and Barbie together my heart melted. They are so sweet and I cannot repeat often enough what incredibly well-mannered ponies they are. The team at Penny Farm has done an amazing job, the ponies are in fantastic condition and they lead in headcollars better than any of our horses do. They run to the gate to see us when we come to take them in, they are so friendly!”
The rescue from a sanctuary called Whispering Willows came about as concerns were raised over the welfare of the animals kept there. Visits were made to assess the horses and attending vets agreed that the conditions were not suitable and that many of the animals were suffering and had been for some time.
The owner of the sanctuary has since pleaded guilty to four offences under the Animal Welfare Act, banned from keeping all horses for 10 years and ordered to pay £1000 in costs and a £90 victim surcharge. She must also serve a tagged 20-week curfew and must not leave her home between 9pm and 6am.
Sanctuaries and rescue centre owners should provide a valuable service in taking in, keeping and rehoming horses, but some of these too can cause significant equine suffering and these failing sanctuaries have been identified as one of the drivers behind a systemic failure for the country’s horses as highlighted in the joint report Britain’s Horse Problem. World Horse Welfare and other equine welfare organisations are pressing for all animal welfare establishments to be licensed and inspected to help prevent further similar situations developing.
Most of the rehomed horses from World Horse Welfare have had difficult lives before coming into the charity and rehoming offers them a vital second chance, as well as making space in the farms for more horses that desperately need help to be taken in.
World Horse Welfare’s newly relaunched rehoming website sets out the rehoming process clearly and makes applications straightforward. Rehomers receive an honest assessment of their chosen horse and their capabilities, as well as ongoing support and the reassurance that if their circumstances change, the rehomed horse can be returned to World Horse Welfare.