Three ponies and a foal, originally rescued by a Northern Irish horse charity, have begun a new life at Redwings Horse Sanctuary in Norfolk.

Annie (on left of picture), and her two companions Archie and Amy (on right of picture), had been running loose for three days on the roads in County Antrim.

They were caught by staff from Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary as they were galloping down a slip road onto a motorway, headlong into oncoming traffic.

Annie was suffering from concussive laminitis brought on by the hard road surfaces, and her feet were terribly overgrown and split (see picture below).

She was also very thin and a vet found she had underlying neurological problems too.

She was given corrective surgery on her feet and specialist plastic shoes but her gait is permanently affected.

Annie’s owner Bridget Doherty was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering, banned from keeping animals for ten years and fined £650 plus court costs of £4,000.

The three ponies were signed over into the care of Crosskennan and around the same time Amy gave birth to a healthy foal called Merlin.

Rachel Angell, senior welfare officer for Redwings, said: “The welfare situation in Ireland is pretty dire at the moment and Crosskennan are being completely inundated with rescue cases.

“It was clear that Annie will always need specialist veterinary care which is something we can offer here at Redwings, with the bonus being that Crosskennan will now be able to offer homes to four more horses in desperate need of help.”

Janice Watt from Crosskennan Lane said: “This was a landmark case for equine welfare in the province and has served as a warning to those who fail to provide adequate care for their horses.

“We felt Annie and her friends would never have a secure future whilst still on Irish soil and are therefore delighted that Redwings have provided them with a safe haven to ensure they will never return to the horrendous life they once endured.”

Redwings Horse Sanctuary: www.redwings.co.uk or call 01508 481000.

Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary: www.crosskennanlane.org.uk or telephone 028 9446 5384