At just a week old, Hope’s future looked bleak. Her mother died from a twisted gut and she was left an orphan. Her owner, Wendy Ellis, was on holiday. But she was lucky.

With Wendy on holiday,the two women looking after her, Joanna Dobson and Stacey Wiseman, immediately got in touch with the National Foaling Bank, which not only helped her find a new mum, but advised on every step of the adoption procedure.

Johanna Vardon, MBE, who runsthe National Foaling Bank, had already lined up a mother for Hope by the time Wendy arrived back from holiday a few days later.

Arrangements were underway to move the potential new mum, a nine-year-old coloured cob, Dibley, from Yorkshire to Wendy’s yard in Blackpool. Dibley’s foal had died in the bag while she was being born.

“Johanna was absolutely fantastic,” says Wendy, who runs Midgeland Riding School in Blackpool. “She put in time and effort beyond belief. We were a team of people dealing with only one case. She deals with hundreds.

“It wasn’t a pleasant experience but it did have a happy ending.”

The initial 48 hours are crucial in getting the mare to accept the foal. Dibley’s dead foal was kept with her until it couldbe skinned. The skin was then wrapped over Hope and she was introduced to the mare for feeding, but was allowed only to be sniffed where she had the skin on.

A day later – with the skin removed – the foal went into the box and lay down beside the mare.

“Once this has happened you know you’ve succeeded, ” says Wendy.

For Johanna it was another successful adoption – and just one of the 306 cases she’s handled this season alone.

She runs the organisation, which arranges about 50 successful adoptions every year, from her home in Newport, Shropshire and spends up to 20 hrs a day on the phone.

“In this case I must have had around 30 telephone calls. I took the carers through the procedure step by step and they followed it exactly”, she says.

For more information on the National Foaling Bank contact (tel: 01952 811234)