Early arrival Solar a surprise for horse sanctuary

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Solar pictured at a day old with his mum, Sandy.
Solar pictured at a day old with his mum, Sandy. © Sally Burton/The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

Staff at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary were surprised to find an unexpected newcomer when they arrived at work this week.

A mare who had been rescued just two weeks earlier and who was thought to be due to foal in about a month produced the first foal of 2021 at the Newton Abbot equine welfare charity. He has been named Solar.

Pinto mare Sandy had arrived at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary when her owner lost their grazing at short notice. The moorland pony was pregnant, so an emergency intervention was taken by the Mare and Foal Sanctuary – bringing her to its veterinary and welfare centre where the team specialise in the care of mares in foal, as well as orphaned or abandoned foals.

The charity had no history of when Sandy was with the stallion so had no due date to work with for Solar’s expected arrival. A veterinary examination showed she might foal in about four weeks as there were no visual signs of imminent birth.

Sandy was given access to an outdoor shelter and paddock to mimic the home she’d just come from in order to minimise stress. Staff were checking on her regularly, but they hadn’t yet moved into what they call ‘foal watch’, whereby a member of staff sleeps onsite and monitors the mare every two hours.

In the early hours of Wednesday, June 16, Sandy decided to bring Solar into the world by herself in her paddock. By the time staff arrived for the early shift, little Solar was up and about, and suckling well from his dam.

Sally Burton, Head of Sanctuary Care, said: “Sandy is an excellent dam and her colt is healthy and strong. We had been fully geared up for our foal watch, but Sandy had other plans!

“This does happen from time to time and particularly in the wild horses and ponies will move away from the main herd to give birth in a quiet place where they feel safe,” Burton said.

Solar pictured the day he was born, with his mum, Sandy. © Sally Burton/The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

“Usually, a pregnant mare’s visual signs that she’s going to foal include filling of the udders, relaxation of the muscles of the pelvic area, waxing and restlessness, but Sandy was keeping all of these to herself and now Solar is here.”

Solar has inherited some of his mother’s sand-like colourings and has four white socks and a white flash on his head. All the staff at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary are delighted with the news of his safe arrival, although now the hard work begins as lifelong care must now be provided to both Sandy and Solar.

The news comes as the charity also launches its Help to Home scheme this week, helping owners to privately rehome their horses and ponies in Devon.

The charity has a successful rehoming initiative that enables more than 450 rescued horses and ponies to be loaned out to knowledgeable carers. It is now looking to extend the principles of this scheme to support private rehoming.

“We really want to help to home horses in a way that supports horse owners and looks out for the best interests of their horse, and ultimately prevents the need for a welfare intervention longer term,” said Syra Bowden, a senior director with the charity.

Solar at a day old.
Solar at a day old. © Sally Burton/The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

“We’re drawing on all our skills and experience of rehoming our own rescued horses into good homes to ensure people trying to privately rehome have the same successes as we do.

“Our biggest strength is helping owners to rehome horses with more complex needs such as a horse with an ongoing health condition or behavioural issue. We can support the owner in preparing their horse to be rehomed and help find a suitable home, because this is what we do every day with rescued horses through our own rehoming scheme.”

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