A rescued Shetland has begun a new life with international dressage rider and Love Island star Gemma Owen. Bert, a one-year-old pony, was rehomed from World Horse Welfare’s Lancashire-based rehabilitation centre, Penny Farm, after he was rescued along with 17 other Shetlands. His breeder recently received a custodial sentence and a lifetime ban from keeping all animals as a result of their neglect.

Gemma became a Patron of World Horse Welfare last year after visiting Penny Farm, one of four rescue and rehoming centres run by the charity. During her visit she fell in love with Bert and offered to give him a loving home when he was ready to leave the farm.

“When I first met Bert, I knew he was special,” she said. “His cheeky personality and spirit despite his early hardships moved me deeply. I am thrilled to welcome him into our home and to share his journey with my followers.”

Bert was only a few months old when he was rescued by World Horse Welfare, along with his dam, Lacey, and a large group of other Shetlands, in one of the worst cases Field Officer Sarah Tucker had seen. Sadly, eight of the ponies needed to be put down due to severe health complications, but Bert was one of the survivors.

Bert’s breeder is currently serving a custodial sentence, having been jailed in May, and being given a lifetime ban on keeping all animals. This follows an animal welfare operation involving World Horse Welfare and the RSPCA, where the two charities responded to a call from a concerned member of the public and found 19 Shetland ponies in varying states of neglect.

The owner had a ‘veneer of respectability’ within the showing world, with two of her ponies well-looked-after and in show condition, but she allowed the others to suffer in ‘such a dreadful way’, despite having received a previous caution for the same offences.

When they were found, most of the ponies were overweight, many had overgrown hooves, and a number showed signs of extreme laminitis. The severity of neglect resulted in six of the ponies needing to be put down on-site due to the pain and suffering caused by chronic laminitis, and two more were later euthanised due to ongoing health issues.

“One of the best parts of my job is seeing ponies like Bert thriving after rescue and knowing that they will be rehomed into loving, safe homes for the rest of their lives,” said Sarah Tucker, World Horse Welfare’s Field Officer. “I was delighted when I heard that he is going to Gemma and I look forward to finding out how they get on. Bert will certainly keep them entertained and he couldn’t ask for a better home.”

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