A foal who was the focus of outrage on social media when he was photographed in a bit and roller on rubbish-strewn land has gone on to showjumping success.
The then-10-month-old colt was the subject of an RSPCA investigation four years ago when he was spotted in tack made of rope and bailing twine.
The 14.2hh gelding, known as RSPCA Jones, is now a five-year-old and has a home with Jill Atherton and her 13-year-old daughter Pippa in County Durham.
Jill originally adopted Jones to ride herself but he was soon taken over by keen showjumper Pippa.
“Pippa came with me and also tried him; she said she didn’t get on with him but it didn’t matter, as he was for me,” said Jill, who adopted Jones in April last year.
“He had just been backed and we just hacked him and got him going forwards. Then I asked Pippa to try to get him going over fences for me and from the first teeny cross pole he jumped, that was it, I’d lost my pony. He had a massive jump.”
Jones showed great aptitude for coloured fences and produced a double clear around the first track he jumped at the British Showjumping Academy teams competition at Stoneleigh last July, where the County Durham team finished third. The partnership had only had one jumping lesson before the show.
“When the coach first found out he was a rescue pony I think she was a bit sceptical but by the end of the competition she was turning round everyone who would listen to tell them in amazement that he had come from the RSPCA,” Jill said.
Jones attended several “stay-away” shows last season including Cricklands and Arena UK, collecting all his British novice double clears, then had a break until this spring, when the pandemic halted play.
“Pippa’s been getting him going again for the past month and he’s come back amazingly,” Jill said. “We’d like to do some bigger shows with him and her ambition is to qualify him for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) one day. It would be great to take an RSPCA rescue pony to HOYS.”
Jill added that Jones seems to have been able to leave his traumatic early start in life behind him.
“He has a scar under his tail from where he was trussed up in bailing twine but he is very quiet to handle and we’ve found him very trusting,” she said. “The RSPCA does a great job backing them and for the most part you know you are taking on something unspoilt, I am always recommending them to people.”
Jones is one of eight ponies Jill and Pippa have between them, several of whom are rescues. They also have RSPCA Boro, who was rescued from a ditch in Middlesborough, and are soon to be joined by 15.1hh Jemima Puddleduck, who was found swimming across a lake during Storm Dennis.
“My husband, who is a vet, thinks we’re mad!” Jill said.
While Jones is the “most talented” of the rescues, five-year-old RSPCA Boro, who is also 14.2hh, is “the most honest, brilliant little pony” who brings “so much pleasure”.
Jill is also fostering another two ponies for the charity on her 30-acre farm.
“As we have had lovely Jones and Boro from them, we thought it was only fair to help out,” she added.
Second crisis warning
This week, the RSPCA has warned that the UK could now witness a “second wave” equine crisis following the coronavirus outbreak and is appealing to the public for help.
The charity was called to 2,000 equine incidents during lockdown and is concerned that the looming financial recession could lead to even more dumped and neglected horses.
By the end of 2019, there were already more than 900 horses in the RSPCA’s care, leaving itsrescue centres full and the charity having to fund hundreds more in private boarding. The RSPCA spends approximately £5,200 per year for the care of each horse taken in, totalling more than £4.8m per annum.
It believes an estimated 7,000 horses are now “at risk of suffering” in the months ahead.
Members of the public have urged the RSPCA to intervene. The organisation said it has "serious concerns" about the welfare
‘Whatever happens at HOYS, he'll always be the best pony in the world’
Pictures of the foal wearing a bit sparked outrage on social media last year
Christine McNeil, the charity’s national equine inspectors co-ordinator said: “This is a truly worrying time for equine charities — we still haven’t got a handle on the repercussions of the current horse crisis, and it now looks like the worst is yet to come.
“The public’s help is absolutely vital to keep the RSPCA afloat during this extremely difficult time. We can’t stress how much we need loving homes for our horses and ponies, and we are urging those with experience of horses to please consider rehoming one of our wonderful rescue horses.
“Last year, we rehomed 242 horses and ponies to loving new homes, with many going on to become superb children’s riding ponies, happy hacking horses, fantastic project youngsters, and wonderful retired companions.”
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