Willow, a rescued Welsh pony, has celebrated her 45th birthday at Redwings Horse Sanctuary’s headquarters in Norfolk.

The mare reached the milestone on Sunday (22 January) and her carers organised a party to mark the occasion. Colleagues from the care and veterinary teams came together to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and give her a cake, made of horse feed, to enjoy.

Willow was 25 when she arrived at Redwings in 2003 with another pony, after they had been rescued as part of an operation carried out by the RSPCA. The pair had been used as broodmares on the Welsh Commons and had received very little handling. They were nervous of human interaction and in need of Redwings’ handling expertise.

Thanks to the time spent at the Sanctuary, Willow is now a “sweet and gentle” pony, who enjoyed the fuss made of her during her party, which also involved celebratory banners and a special rosette.

“Willow is such a special old lady, we had to mark her big birthday with a party!” said Sarah Prior, Redwings veterinary surgeon. “Even though she is our oldest pony she is in good health and, with careful management according to her age, she continues to thrive.

“As her teeth are old and worn, she is now one of our ‘no long fibre’ ponies which means she is not able to chew hay properly anymore. Instead, she is fed a special diet for senior horses consisting of regular, soft feeds which are delivered to Willow throughout the day, and even by our Nights team.

“She also has four-monthly dentals so we can look after her older teeth and is on medication to manage her arthritis and keep her comfortable. Plus, in the colder weather she is wearing a rug for a bit of extra protection from the elements.

“Beyond this routine care, she very rarely has to pay a visit to see us at the Horse Hospital, and she continues to enjoy life out in her paddock with some of our other golden oldies!”

Willow is the charity’s oldest resident by nine years, with retired Adoption Star Muffin the mule her junior at 36 years old.

“Redwings’ mission to promote and provide lifelong good welfare for horses, ponies and donkeys sees the charity offer sanctuary homes to lots of veteran equines, many of which require specialist care as they get older,” added a charity spokesman.

This experience is shared in the charity’s ‘Sounds of the Sanctuary’ podcast series. The episode, ‘Field Notes: Caring for our Golden Oldies’, features an interview with Redwings’ Head of Sanctuary and Care Nicky Jarvis, who shares her knowledge and experiences – including that of caring for Willow – and is available to download from all major podcast players.

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