A collaboration between equine welfare charity HorseWorld and the RSPCA has seen a Shetland pony returned to her owners after she went missing eight months ago.

Sixteen-year-old Maisey was taken from her home in Wiltshire in July 2023. Her distraught owners launched calls for help to find her on social media and numerous appeals across the press, and despite a number of alleged sightings, the mare seemed lost forever.

Months passed with no good news, until earlier this week when RSPCA Inspectors responded to welfare concerns about a group of horses in Avonmouth. They made a call to Bristol-based charity HorseWorld asking for their assistance with one particular pony in very poor condition.

“We were asked if we could collect a severely underweight Shetland pony which had been abandoned near Avonmouth,” said HorseWorld Head of Welfare, Sarah Hollister. “We were already at capacity, with other rescues having been taken in just a few days before, but we knew we had to help.”

L-R: PC Natalie Cosgrove, Maisey’s owner Alison Wood, RSPCA Inspector Dan Hatfield, HorseWorld’s Verity Barker, RSPCA Inspector Kim Walters, PC Jess Swanborough, and (front) HorseWorld’s Head of Equine Welfare Sarah Hollister

The HorseWorld Welfare team arrived to find the mare in a “shocking” state. She was severely malnourished and emaciated, covered in lice and could be in foal. The RSPCA arranged for an equine vet to attend the site to examine Maisey prior to being transported to ensure she was fit to travel.

She was rushed to HorseWorld where she was settled into their emergency care unit and given immediate life-saving treatment by the Equine Welfare and veterinary team. The staff at HorseWorld began to think of a name for the pony who they believed would likely to join long-term rescued residents at the sanctuary.

However, when RSPCA Inspector Dan Hatfield processed the data from her microchip, it became apparent that she had in fact been reported by the registered owners on the chip as stolen.

“Maisey has quite distinctive markings and as I was looking over photographs of the rescue, they triggered a memory of something I had seen on social media,” said Petra Ingram, HorseWorld Chief Executive. “With a little more delving it quickly transpired that HorseWorld had shared a Facebook post about Maisey’s theft back in July 2023. We immediately telephoned colleagues at the RSPCA and shared the amazing news that we believed we had identified not only the pony, but where she had originally come from too!”

Maisey and owner Alison Wood were reunited on Wednesday 6 March.

“It feels unreal to have Maisey home,” said Alison. “When RSPCA Inspector Dan Hatfield phoned I just burst out crying; I didn’t say anything! I’ve had people in the village crying when I’ve told them. Holly, her field mate, will be over the moon. But without the microchip, and the amazing work of everyone involved, we would have never got her back.”

Inspector Hatfield said it was “absolutely wonderful” to be a part of the team who helped bring Maisey home.

“When we rescued her in such a sorry state last week, we had no idea that she would turn out to be a much-loved, missing pet,” he said. “This is a fantastic example of how vital it is that we microchip our pets – without this, Maisey may never have found her way back home to her owners, and I am so happy to witness them being reunited. It was a special moment for us all.”

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