The UK's Top Equine Rescue Stories
Like most of the equine community, recent stories of equine abuse and neglect have left the Horsemart team truly shocked that horses in the UK are being subjected to such unacceptable treatment. It concerns us that people that have committed to owning horses are mistreating or discarding them. Because of this, in 2015 Horsemart pledged to help support horse rescues and charities and have since offered free subscriptions to rehome rehabilitated horses so that these charities have the space and resources to help more horses in need.
This year we are looking to do more, and have brought you our top 10 equine charities and their heartwarming rescue stories in the hope that we can promote and encourage more support for their great work. We want to encourage our users to read these stories and vote for their favourite. The charity's story with the most votes will then receive a bundle of horse rugs and goodies from Equine Superstore to help them continue to provide outstanding care . The winner is announced on 1st July 2016.
Hope Pastures rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes equines. They are a small charity which is 'on the ground and easily accessible'. They are contacted everyday to rescue animals and the charity's lack of bureaucracy means they are able to act quickly to help. 30 animals are currently being sheltered at the sanctuary and are responsible for over 100 enjoying new and useful lives in loving 'forever' homes.
Hope Pastures educate in animal welfare and their city base allows them to provide therapeutic contact opportunities for people who wouldn't normally meet horses/donkeys.
"Within our educational work our yard team spend time supporting local travellers and others who know little of equine welfare. We prioritise rescuing mares from breeding environments and have a castration appeal and programme to help to tackle the equine over-breeding problem at source."
"We believe we do an excellent job in terms of rescue, rehabilitation and re-homing, but so do many other equine charities. What makes us different is that we have VERY few overheads and for every £1 donated to Hope Pastures 95p is spent directly on the animals."
"Bessie and her companion Bobby lived on a caravan site and were brought to our attention by a supporter, who negotiated with her owner for both ponies to come to Hope Pastures. Bobby arrived first and he was shockingly thin, full of worms and lice, with a matted coat and was very depressed. Bessie arrived the next day. Hope Pastures didn't have a horsebox at the time, so her previous keeper dropped her off in a transit van. He opened the back doors and there was Bessie, squeezed in by the back seats and tins of paint and rubbish - just another 'piece of cargo'. Bobby's face lit up when he saw Bessie and the team realised that they were closely bonded after suffering so much together.
Bessie's condition was even worse than Bobby's. She, too, was full of worms and lice but she was so severely malnourished that our yard team could see and feel every bone, and her upper legs and tummy were hot, bald and raw with urine burns. She was withdrawn, anaemic and incredibly hungry and thirsty. On thorough examination, both ponies were also found to have infections in all four hooves. The rehabilitation task began - both physical, which takes months when an animal is in the state Bessie was, and mental, which is often the most difficult for abused animals. The ponies were with us at Hope Pastures for 6 months and were fostered with one of our vets for a further 6 months.
They're now rising 4 and have their own home with Sophie and Danny, where they're learning the ropes of being long reined and lightly backed and are part of the family. They recently travelled down to the NEC to attend the BETA International equestrian trade show, where they were impeccably behaved, despite never having been in (very scary) situation such as this before. Bobby and Bessie are fantastic rescue examples, showing how even animals which have been so badly neglected and abused can learn to trust humans again and have a full and enriched life.
Elverra Pony Rescue
Elverra Pony Rescue are a small equine rescue established in 2010, based in the Midlands.
They decided to set up the rescue when finding out about the desperate situation many welsh ponies were in (mainly section A's and B's).
They travelled to establishments and brought a variety of unwanted ponies back that were all tragically destined for the bullet. These ranged from elderly broodmares, mares in foal and yearlings to the odd stallion. In total they rescued around 25 native ponies with the majority being sucessfully rehomed within roughly two years. When local word and advertising got about the rescue charity began being approached by private homes and began taking on a broad spectrum of equines for various reasons, from the public. They reshaped rehoming policy and now every pony that is rescued belongs to Elverra Pony Rescue for life.
"We rehome, but we never sell, therefore our rehoming works like a long term loan agreement as we do not under any circumstances want the pony ending up in a difficult situation again. If any change or circumstance or problems arise, the pony comes straight back into our care."
In the past five years they have welcomed around 100 horses and ponies through their gates and 90% of them have been successfully rehomed to suitable homes.
"We obviously have many success stories and it is difficult to pick a particular one to be honest!"
"Trigger is a 3yr old welsh sec B cross that came to Elverra in March 2015. Trigger came to us from a private home, along with two other ponies, due to severe neglect. When he arrived his head collar was embedded into his nose and had rubbed his face. He was very shy and wary of people particularly round his face, making assessing his injuries difficult and treating them almost impossible. Shortly after the three arrived we had our vet to check them over. Trigger's condition score was 1. He was severely underweight and malnourished. Trigger was fed tiny feeds up to 6 times a day to slowly regain weight and improve his condition. After dedicated time and many trust exercises, we managed to remove the head collar and waited for it to heal before working on being able to get it back on again. In April we had a visitor to our yard looking for a companion pony for her three horses that her daughter competes, and after one look around and meeting all the ponies, she had her heart set on Trigger! She had completely fallen for him despite his emaciated body, overgrown feet and issues around his face. This lady was willing to wait for Trigger to get to a respectable weight and learn to have his head collar on and off. And she did; in June Trigger was rehomed to his lovely new family where he is a companion pony with potential! His new family are keen to get him out and about on the show circuit this year and Trigger future is looking very bright indeed!
Moo Haven registered charity
Moo Haven reg charity are a family run charity with a small but dedicated band of volunteers. They all work full time hours to pay for the upkeep and running of the charity but work in shifts around the clock so that there is someone on hand if an emergency arises. Moo Haven strive to educate people, especially children who want a pony and invite them to spend a few days with the charity so they fully understand the work involved and many people decide pony ownership is not for them. Moo Haven see this as a success - saving a pony from potential neglect.
"We have all had our eyes opened since becoming a rescue centre and we have seen some distressing sights. We were naive when we started not realising as well as all the physical work there would be all the admin work to do as well, which is why i'm typing this at 10:55 on a Saturday evening!"
"We have had so many success stories, horses coming in as dangerous and unrideable are now in loan homes competing and hacking out, frightened foals trusting, but I think the one that sticks in my mind the most is Columbo. I received a phone call and was asked if i could take in a thin colt with a poorly eye. I was not told where the pony was coming from but i'd learned not to ask a long time ago - I had one spare stable and thought can I afford to geld, microchip, passport and sort out his eye. Well yes, I could as that's what we do and fortunately 2 days prior we had an open day and raised £1300. The pony arrived and I was not expecting the sight I saw. I have attached pictures of Columbo (named after a certain one eyed policeman). Columbo is now thriving, happy and safe in a foster home along with Scooby, a spotty who needed a little chill out time.
Brownbread Horse Rescue
Brownbread Horse Rescue charity was started by the current Trustees in 1972 and is proud to still run on predominantly voluntary efforts. The charity is at the forefront of serious cases of neglect and abuse in the South East and surrounding areas. It currently has about 50 equines under its care with associated facilities and around 100 acres of pasture. The charity has roughly 1,000 supporters and an annual Open Day raises up to £4k on a sunny and sucessful day!
"Attached is just one case that we had unbelievable success; note that the horse shown is the same mare in all three photos, before, during and after it was held in a sling for 6 weeks with near-death emaciation and massive infestation."
The horse is a 7 year old mare that was also feeding a foal at foot and as they do, was putting all her vital milk and care into the foal at the extreme of debilitating herself, particularly as the owner didn’t even feed or look at the mare for 14 weeks! He abandoned her with insufficient grass. When we were called, together with RSPCA, World Horse Welfare and vet their consensus was to have the mare put down as she was collapsed on the ground and unable to get up being very emaciated. Our Head of Welfare, Dinty Steains, said we ought to try and give this relatively young mare the opportunity to survive.The group of experts agreed and helped lift the mare into Brownbread's rescue trailer. The mare was brought back at 5 mph for about 20 miles to the rescue centre in order for it not to fall down again. On arrival in the middle of the early morning it took half an hour to walk out of the trailer. It collapsed immediately and had to be put into a sling hastily made up from a cut builders bag and a block fixed to the barn roof trusses. The mare was pulled to its feet by a vehicle and suspended. It had to be constantly watched in case it collapsed in the sling when it was then let down to rest for a while.Next morning the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare attended and weighed the mare and it was returned to the sling where it remained for 6 weeks during its recovery. The vet said that it had the most massive lice infestation he had ever seen. The mare shed the whole of its coat so had to be rugged up which was extremely difficult because of the lifting sling and the fact that the mare kicked whenever its side was touched.
After 6 weeks it was then able to get up by itself and one day the sling was removed and the mare walked slowly around, first in the barn in case she went down and later in the yard and a small field where eventually she gained her strength and became the fit and healthy mare that she was born to be.
Lluest Horse and Pony Trust
Lluest Horse and Pony Trust is a small welfare charity based on the edge of the Brecon Beacons in South West Wales. Lluest means ‘Haven’ in Welsh and it was founded in 1985 by the late Ginny Hajdukiewicz in order to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home horses, ponies and donkeys who had been the victims of cruelty, neglect and abandonment. Lluest works to help its rescues recover from often traumatic experiences and to go on to lead happy and fulfilling lives in approved, loving loan homes. They are able to care for up to thirty equines at any one time on their small 40 acre farm, with approximately 120 horses on long term loan, and others in short term foster homes. Rescues come from both rural and urban environments.
Nutmeg was found wandering around the busy roads of a Welsh city with no food, water or shelter and heavily in foal. She was picked up and taken to the local pound where she and her unborn foal were tragically due to be euthanised. Fortunately, Lluest was contacted and was able to offer them a home and Nutmeg’s beautiful filly foal Nel was born 2 weeks later. Nutmeg is now working well with Lluest staff to enable her to eventually move into a loving loan home where she will begin a new life as a ridden pony.
Lluest relies entirely on voluntary donations to enable it to provide it’s equines with a space to recover and rebuild lives.
Hopefield Animal Sanctuary
Hopefield Animal Sanctuary is a non-profit organisation caring for around 200 sick, unwanted and mistreated animals in Brentwood, Essex.
They cares for a variety of animals including horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, geese, ducks, cats and more recently has become home to smaller animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas.
"As a small charity Hopefield relies upon donations and support from volunteers to be able to continue this work. It is with thanks to the continued support of volunteers and supporters that we have been able to achieve our aims thus far."
"Juliet came to Hopefield in May 2013. She had been rescued along with 50 other horses from a field where 200 horses were found dead. They had absolutely no shelter in the field and were all knee-deep in mud. The horses rescued were all extremely emaciated and had overgrown feet.
Juliet was rescued, along with Angelica, by another sanctuary; Happy Endings Rescue. They rescued all of the ponies but sadly could not look after them all due to their limited grazing, which is why we agreed to take them.
They were both very nervous around people, but Juliet has become calmer since her rescue and more willing to let people handle her. She is, however, blind in her left eye so can be quite jumpy if she can’t see you coming! She also has lighter spots on her coat due to being bleached when she was younger, although these should slowly fade once her coat starts to grow back properly.
Ponderosa Pony Rescue
Ponderosa Pony Rescue is a non profit equine rescue based in Plymouth Devon. They take in equines from any walk of life; with behavioural problems, abandoned or due to change in their owners circumstances.
"All of the equines who come through our gates are loved but one particular girl touched my heart in a big way and taught me so much.
I'd seen a mare advertised free to a good home via Facebook, with numerous comments saying she was dangerous, attacked people, nearly killed a farrier and couldn't be handled safely. A few days later i found out that she was going to be shot and offered the owner a chance to sign the mare over to us. A few days later the horse lorry arrived and I unloaded the most beautiful cob, Bella.
Straight away I realised there was more to her current "state" than was originally thought. Bella was in fact pregnant! Over the next two weeks I lived on site, dedicating all my time and efforts to Bella and her unborn foal. I sat by her paddock talking to her and allowing her to come to me on her terms. When she was ready I went into the paddock with her, put her head collar on and slowly but surely managed to touch her until I met her belly. As I gained her trust, she allowed me to touch her further, to pick up her feet without her trying to bite me or kick me. In the early hours of the 11th April 2012, Ella was born. Bella would only allow me near her and the foal. Our bond grew stronger until months later, when the vet said that unfortunately Bella had major heart problems, with her hear skipping beats and couldn't be saved. I said my goodbyes along with the rest of the team as she drifted away. I took Ella on, fed her and over loved her. For nearly 4 years I raised Ella before making the decision to rehome her and give her a new life. Bella taught me to be more calm, patient and not give up no matter what."
World Horse Welfare
World Horse Welfare is an international horse charity that improves the lives of horses in the UK and worldwide through education, campaigning and hands-on care of horses. Since the charity was founded in 1927, its whole approach has been practical, based on scientific evidence and extensive experience, and focused on delivering lasting change across the full spectrum of the horse world. 16 Field Officers investigate and resolve welfare problems across the UK and the charity has four Rescue and Rehoming Centres where horses in need can receive specialist care, undergo rehabilitation and find loving new homes through its rehoming scheme – the largest of its kind in the UK.
In 2011, World Horse Welfare worked with the RSPCA to rescue a group of horses and ponies in the Kent area. They were being kept in horrific conditions without access to clean water or food and were all covered in filth and parasites. Some of the horses were even housed in dark, cramped trailers with little room to move around. All of the group were underweight and in dire need of medical attention so they were immediately removed to a holding yard until they were healthy enough to travel.
Once they had regained their strength, the horses travelled to World Horse Welfare’s Hall Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Norfolk where the dedicated team undertook their rehabilitation to bring them back to full health. The horses’ fighting spirit inspired the team to find fitting names for their strong characters and they eventually chose icons from the popular TV show ‘Gladiators’ which they felt suited their strength and courage down to the ground.
Khan, Rio, Panther, Amazon, Vogue, Zodiac, Rocket, Nightshade and Siren all made amazing recoveries and are now enjoying new careers as riding ponies, eventers, dressage stars and loving companions. Tragically, Nightshade contracted Equine Grass Sickness two years later and had to be put to sleep, but the other eight horses are enjoying their lives to the full with seven in new homes and one joining World Horse Welfare’s rehoming scheme soon.
Regardless of the terrible conditions in which they were kept, these fantastic animals have proved how worthy they are of their Gladiator names and if you need any more reasons why, just check out their amazing before and after photos!"
Only Foals and Horses
In 1987 The Animal Welfare Liaison Network (AWLN) was formed by a group of likeminded people campaigning to raise awareness of the large number of barely weaned foals being sold at auction for slaughter each year, as a result of indiscriminate breeding.
Through the drive and diligence of their organiser, Olive Lomas, and others from the group who attended auctions, many foals were rescued from their certain fate. As time drew on the group found itself caring for mares in foal and other older horses and these animals were stabled at Houghton Barn Farm at Altham, near Burnley.
Following a move to larger stables, the organisation officially became a sanctuary in 1991 and so was born Only Foals and Horses - a name which was seen to reflect the work that the group had been undertaking firstly caring for foals and then moving into the care of older horses as well.
The name was adopted with the kind permission of John Sullivan, scriptwriter for ‘Only Fools and Horses’.
Like many charities, Only Foals and Horses has really felt the effects of the economic downturn. Having so many horses already in our care, and many more in need of our assistance, we cannot afford to scale back our efforts.
"Tango is just one of 70+ residents currently at Only Foals and Horses. He is an 11 year old Arab cross gelding measuring 16hh. He was brought to the Sanctuary as a 4 year old with a fracture of the neck. His owner had been advised that he should be put to sleep but instead asked if the Sanctuary could take him in. Now Tango is quite a character and much loved by the staff and public. He would have made a super ridden horse as nothing fazes him but Tango is now retired at Only Foals and Horses stables and is an example of a horse that we gave a second chance at life."
The Flicka Foundation
The Flicka Foundation started with Mary Berryman and her rescue and care for an elderly pony called Mickey. This followed with the rescue of Flika, a strawberry roan pony found in a field in the middle of an industrial estate – a small pony amongst high-rise buildings and billowing smoke. Flicka was delightful; he loved people, was very affectionate, despite his beginning, and adored lots of fuss. Sadly he developed liver cancer, after several years of teaching young children to ride; he was retired to convalesce with a condition we knew would ultimately take his life. Mary loved animals with a passion and could not bear to see or hear of any creature suffering. So the Flicka Foundation was born.
"Each and every donkey or horse arrives at Flicka for a reason, whether it is cruelty, abuse, neglect, ailing, abandoned or age - We have rescued and rehabilitated well over a 1200 since we began."
The foundation is a very small sanctuary for funds raised, but quite large in terms of animals to care for. All adopters are part of a very small team and every penny raised helps enormously. As the ‘residents’ ages increase, so do their requirements and care becomes more specialised and costly. The foundation's biggest expenses are vet fees, hay, straw and hard feed and it is difficult to anticipate how much these will be, with vet fees varying drastically.
"All animals deserve a chance - whilst there is so much cruelty in this world to people as well as animals the reality is that it’s possible to care about more than one issue at a time. We mustn’t assume that a capacity for compassion is dependent on mutual exclusivity. They deserve to live out their lives in green fields with their friends."
"Oliver had been in his makeshift cage beside a railway track for at least six months, locked into a disused storage area he had nothing to eat. He repeatedly tried to climb down into a ditch to get water, he was starving with umpteen health issues and despite 30 calls a month to the authorities, mostly from train passengers, he remained languishing in misery.
Amazingly he was seized by the RSPCA with the police in attendance, due to a breach of the peace, taken away and then incredulously and unbelievably returned to his cage just days later, despite the caged area belonging to British Rail and Oliver being kept there illegally, not to mention his failing health.
After weeks of negotiations by a very brave and tenacious Flicka representative, finally action was taken! We were able to get Oliver out, he was then travelled over 300 miles and taken direct to a Veterinary Hospital in Wadebridge where the full extent of his failing health became apparent. When we met Oliver at the hospital we, the vets and nurses, were all very concerned about him.
Oliver weighed 350 kg instead of 700 kg, he was very anaemic, had low creatinine levels in the blood due to starvation, a high white blood cell count whereby he was suffering from a severe flu virus, emaciated and suffering with worms and lice. His fatigue and exhaustion became more apparent over the following days, he also had a bout of colic during his stay most likely from stress and on top of everything else, the poor boy had to be stomach tubed as well.
Oliver came through his ordeal with flying colours and is now positively thriving, has put on a great deal of weight, has a shiny coat, healthy appetite and is happy! He is a remarkably friendly and affectionate horse, quiet and easy to handle, which seems amazing considering the life he has suffered, having been beaten to road race, starved and caged, how forgiving animals can be never ceases to amaze us. Photos show before removal, at the hospital and three months later."
Horsemart want to thank all the amazing chairties that have contributed to the wellbeing, happiness and saviour of horses that would have otherwise suffered or been euthanised. We want to continually champion these great charities and their hard work. Please vote for your favourite heartwarming rescue story, giving these charities the chance to win a selection of horse rugs for their rescue horses.
To find out more about Horsemart's pledge to support and help equine charities, why not check out our foundation page.