A group of neglected ponies have a bright future despite a very challenging start, thanks to the work of The Mare and Foal Sanctuary and other welfare charities.

The sanctuary was made aware of a serious welfare case involving a group of ponies at a Community Interest Company in Cornwall by a concerned member of the public in 2021. After monitoring the situation over several months, the charity escalated the case to the RSPCA, who decided to pursue a prosecution.

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary’s Equine Welfare Outreach and Advice team provided evidence in the case and sanctuary care staff spent more than 14 months nursing a large group of the rescued horses and ponies with life-threatening conditions back to health.

Olaf on the day of his rescue

The rescue involved National Equine Welfare Council members including The Mare and Foal Sanctuary, RSPCA, The Donkey Sanctuary and The Horse Trust.

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary, based in Newton Abbot, Devon, provided more than 14 months of rehabilitation to the equines, transforming their health, and is now providing permanent lifelong care to three of the Shetland ponies involved.

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary’s Senior Welfare Advisor Rebecca Sherrell was involved in the case.

Shetland Lola on the day of the rescue

‘It was the worst case I’ve ever worked on,” she said, reflecting on the rescue day back in 2022. “I’ve never seen horses that thin before. They were lacking food, water and shelter in 27 degree heat. It’s a case that has really stuck with me.

“Many of the equines were in a very poor state with conjunctivitis, lice, malnourishment, worm burden, overgrown hooves, heart conditions, alopecia, anemia and chronic inflammation. Their bones showed through their skin, and some were covered in paint brush marks from children’s parties. We also believe some were showing signs of severe depression. It was shocking to see, especially at a place which claimed to offer equine assisted therapy.”

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary provided an individual recovery plan for each pony, tailored to their specific needs, including veterinary visits, medication and food supplements.

Sherbert on the day of the rescue with visible paint on her coat from a child’s party

After more than a year recovering with the charity, having fully regained their health, three Shetlands; Poppy, Sherbert and Lola, now have lifelong sanctuary with The Mare and Foal Sanctuary and are thriving.

Due to capacity issues at its sites, the remaining nine ponies have moved into the long-term specialist care of The Horse Trust in the southeast of England.

“We are very pleased to be able to support the mare and foal sanctuary by providing forever homes to nine horses and ponies rescued and support the next stage of their recovery journey,” said Jeanette Allen, Chief Executive of The Horse Trust.

The ponies have transformed under the care of The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

“The mini herd of Shetlands have captured everyone’s hearts here at our sanctuary and we are working incredibly hard to make sure their trust in people continues to grow so that we can give them the best possible future. It’s always incredibly gratifying when charities are able to work together collaboratively to get the best outcome for the animals we all care about.

“Overall, the ponies and horses are all doing really well. Sven and Olaf are two in particular getting additional expert support from our behavioural care team to continue to help rebuild their trust in people.”

Lead image of Poppy, Lola and Sherbert enjoying their new life at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

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