A horse who suffered horrific injuries after he was deliberately set alight has been found a loving new home thanks to two charities.

CCTV footage showed two people, their identities obscured by hoods, pouring flammable liquid over a horse tied to the railings of a garden, before setting him alight during a fight. Gelding Pilgrim – aged two at the time – suffered severe burns to his face, ear, neck, flank and hind quarters.

But now, two years on, Pilgrim has found a loving home thanks to Dublin Society for the Protection of Animals (DSPCA) and Blue Cross.

Claire Owens, Equine Welfare and Rehoming Manager at the DSPCA, contacted Blue Cross to find a home for Pilgrim, who they had taken in and rehabilitated.

Claire was one of the first to meet Pilgrim when the charity’s inspectors – who operate similarly to RSPCA inspectors in England and Wales – brought the injured horse to the DSPCA shelter.

“His head was very, very swollen and he was just completely shut down,” she said.

The DSPCA veterinary team worked closely with equine vet specialists from the University College Dublin veterinary hospital to help manage his wounds due to their complexity.

Claire discovered Pilgrim loved to be groomed on his unaffected side and used this to gain his confidence. Slowly but surely, he began to trust humans.

“He’s a horse that taught me an awful lot of patience, and his saving grace was his love of people and despite the burns, he loved being groomed, where it wasn’t sore,” she said. “That’s how I taught him to stand, and was able to get a headcollar on; I just did that basic handling.”

Pilgrim travelled to Blue Cross’s rehoming centre in Burford, Oxfordshire, where the charity’s rehoming team continued his rehabilitation and began the search for his new home.

Now Pilgrim has found sanctuary with new owner, Carol. He is now part of a five-strong herd of rescue ponies.

“A four-year-old with his kind of medical history, which means that he might never be able to do anything else in his life, needs a secure home, I think,” she said. “I thought it would suit him to come here where there was never going to be any pressure for him to do anything other than be a horse and be happy, which hopefully is what we’ve achieved. He’s got such a lovely, open, forgiving nature despite what’s happened to him.”

Pilgrim at home. Photo: Steve Bardens.

Jennifer Hubbard, Horse Welfare Coordinator at Blue Cross, added: “We were horrified when we heard Pilgrim’s story and we didn’t quite know what to expect when he arrived in our care but he was such a gentle horse. We were able to help him recover and find him a home where we knew he would be loved and safe.

“We were so happy to find Carol and it’s wonderful to see how much Pilgrim has grown in his new home and to see him getting on with the other horses, he clearly knows he is in his forever home.”

Lead image by Steve Bardens

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