Who among us hasn’t dreamed of being given a pony for Christmas?

So forget about partridges in pear trees and swimming swans, H&H and World Horse Welfare, our charity of the year for 2017, have joined forces to bring you… The 12 Ponies of Christmas.

Readers will have seen all too many of the “invisible horses” brought to the attention of World Horse Welfare, often in a shocking state of neglect, injured perhaps or infested with parasites.

But these equines’ stories change once they are taken into the charity’s care, and they are often almost unrecognisable once they return to full health.

So to celebrate the transformation in the animals’ lives, we’re bringing you a pony every day for 12 days, starting tomorrow, Christmas Eve. All of them, of course, are looking for new homes with knowledgable and caring owners.

To demonstrate what we mean, pictured is Buggy. The months-old pony was found this summer being “eaten alive” by maggots, which had infested his untreated wounds.

The smell was “putrid”, according to World Horse Welfare field officer Sarah Tucker, who described the situation as “one of the most horrific cases of neglect I’ve seen”.

Buggy as he was found May 2016 2

Six months later, Buggy has made a full recovery and is happy – except perhaps when he is made to wear a Father Christmas hat.

“The journey through rehabilitation to rehoming for every horse, pony or donkey in our care begins the moment they arrive and the length of time it takes can vary widely depending on a number of factors,” said World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers.

“Each animal will have a tailored plan which is devised in collaboration between our farm team, vet, farrier and physiotherapist with their progress regularly reviewed.

“Before any are advertised for rehoming they will undergo a thorough assessment and this is how we decide what kind of home they will be most suited to.

“I know I speak for everyone at World Horse Welfare when I say that there is nothing better than seeing a horse in our care set off to start a new life in a new home and consequently hearing updates of all the fantastic things they go on to achieve.

“And of course this is not just about competition success – we love hearing how horses have made an impact on the lives of their rehomers in so many different ways, from companions to carriage drivers.

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“I hope that you will enjoy reading the 12 ponies of Christmas stories over the next few days and that you might even consider offering a home to one of them or another World Horse Welfare horse in 2017.

“On behalf of everyone at the charity, we wish you, your family, friends and of course your horses a very Happy Christmas and new year.”