A year on from their rescue, horses saved from starvation on two areas of common land in south Wales are enjoying healthy and happy lives at Redwings Horse Sanctuary.
In April 2016, Redwings assisted RSPCA Cymru and Powys County Council with the removal of 11 horses and one foal from Llangynidr Common.
Seven ponies and one foal were also rescued from Gelligaer Common with the support of RSPCA Cymru and Caerphilly County Council later that same day.
Left alone, these undernourished horses and their offspring would have soon perished due to lack of grazing triggered by tough winter weather and some irresponsible owners allowing their horses to breed indiscriminately or simply abandoning them on the commons.
“Redwings has been working to help horses on the Welsh commons for many years,” explained Redwings Chief Executive Lynn Cutress. “And, although the Sanctuary is full to bursting, we were determined to offer a home to these desperately vulnerable animals.”
Over the past year in Redwings’ care, two further foals have been born to mares rescued from Llangynidr Common but, sadly, an older horse was put to sleep due to ongoing lameness.
Of the group from Gelligaer Common, one pony sadly passed away, another is being rehomed by the RSPCA and a foal has been born at Redwings.
These 21 horses are now under the permanent care of Redwings and are thriving under the watchful eye of the charity’s welfare, veterinary and equine care teams.
While many of the horses have recovered physically, many are still very timid and in some cases fearful of human contact, so they'll be undergoing specialist handling programmes with Redwings’ Behaviour team to help them trust human contact.
And in true Redwings style, both herds have been named after themes. The Llangynidr horses are all named after GB Olympic gold medallists from the 2016 Rio Games, including Laura, Kenny and Charlotte (Dujardin, of course!), and the Gelligaer ponies share names with apples, such as Gala and Pippin.
Nicola Berryman, Redwings Welfare Veterinary Surgeon, said: “All of these horses have come on in leaps and bounds since their rescue. I remember the day we took them from the commons; they were emaciated, had overgrown feet, poor teeth and simply wouldn’t have survived. It’s lovely to have seen them return to health and settle into their new home.
“However, because they are semi-feral horses, many of them are still very nervous when it comes to human contact, which can make routine care such as farriery visits and vaccinations very challenging.
"Wonderfully, some have come out of their shells – in particular the youngsters – and enjoy a nice scratch, but many have a long way to go and will require all the specialist skills and knowledge of our Behaviour team before they’re all comfortable with even basic handling, which is essential for any future veterinary treatment.”