Ponies left to suffer at Whispering Willows ‘sanctuary’ are facing a bright future in their new homes.

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary took in 15 colts after the mass rescue operation in November 2019, and since then staff have worked tirelessly to nurse them back to full health.

When the ponies arrived, they were “weak, malnourished and appeared very dull”, with dirty coats covered in faeces and the neglect they had suffered was “clear to see”, according to a charity spokesman.

The youngsters, who were then aged from three to six months, were frightened so were kept in groups of three to help them feel safer during quarantine at the charity’s veterinary and welfare centre.

Upon arrival, the herd were given a thorough health check and we discovered that the ponies had a severe worm burden. Test results indicated that a number of the ponies had significant liver damage, likely to have been caused by the absence of suitable forage, lack of nutrition and early separation from their mothers.

It is believed the foals were separated from dams mothers at approximately one to two weeks old.

“Following the isolation period, the ponies were given the all-clear when test results showed they were free of disease and we were delighted when they were able to move to our rehabilitation yard, Honeysuckle Farm,” said the spokesman.

“Here the ponies were reunited as a herd and were able to remain together both in the field and in the barn. Our facilities help our horses and ponies live together in natural herd environments, helping to reduce stress and promote natural herd behaviours, which is vital for their physical, psychological, and social wellbeing.

“Our dedicated grooms, who are specialists at managing the care of semi-feral and unhandled horses and ponies, particularly mares in foal, foals and youngstock, created unique care plans for ponies which were tailored to meet their individual needs. The ponies were given plenty of time to graze, grow and put on condition in the safety of our peaceful sanctuary.

“With the transformative care provided by our knowledgeable grooms and the implementation of a nutritious diet, the young colts soon began to appear brighter, and their health greatly improved.”

Following their recovery, the ponies began their training in preparation for the opportunity to find a loan home with one of the charity’s ‘Sanctuary at Home’ carers.

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary grooms helped the youngster to feel safe in the company of their handlers and introduced them to all aspects of routine care, such as visits from the farrier and vet, wearing a rug, being handled and groomed, having their feet picked up, meeting other ponies, practicing to load in the lorry and going out for walks and seeing traffic.

All 15 ponies were colts so had to be gelded before they could find a loan home. The surgery took place within the sanctuary which meant they were able to undergo the procedure in a familiar environment, in the company of their grooms.

Since then, two ponies have found loving homes with ‘Sanctuary at Home’ carers, two are reserved to be going to their new loan home soon, seven are now ready to find a loan home, two are under veterinary care and will remain in the sanctuary until their condition improves and one is still undergoing training and rehabilitation.

Another pony, Ragner, sadly passed away earlier this year due to colic. He had a compromised immune system, likely due to lack of nutrition and early separation from his dam, which made him more prone to colic and other health issues.

“It requires a lot of hard work to rehabilitate a pony in very poor condition, let alone 15, and our teams did an outstanding job of providing lifesaving care for this herd,” said The Mare and Foal Sanactuary’s Head of Care, Sally Burton.

“It’s fortunate that we were able to step in and secure the future of these youngsters when their future was so bleak. It’s encouraging to see them looking so well now and we hope they will find a loving home through our Sanctuary at Home scheme soon.”

Sanctuary at Home Scheme

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary ensures every equine it rescues has lifelong care.

“Our carers who rehome through our Sanctuary at Home scheme are a group of very special people who help make this possible for over 400 horses and ponies today,” added the charity spokesman.

“Becoming a Sanctuary at Home Carer means you help provide a sanctuary at home for as many years as you can for a horse or pony from our charity on a loan basis. Rehoming is a very rewarding experience and enables space to be created at our peaceful sanctuaries for more horses and ponies in need.”

Find out more at mareandfoal.org/rehoming-horses/