Gemma Owen takes in tiny pony: from severe neglect to social media stardom

  • A tiny pony who was rescued in one of the worst cases an equine welfare officer had ever seen is to become a social media star with Gemma Owen, his rehomer.

    The dressage rider and Love Island contestant “fell in love with” yearling Bert, who was one of a group of 19 Shetlands rescued and taken in by World Horse Welfare. His breeder was sent to prison and banned from keeping all animals for life.

    Gemma became a patron of the charity last year after she visited its Penny Farm rescue and rehoming centre. It was during the visit she met Bert and offered him a home once he was ready.

    “When I first met Bert, I knew he was special,” Gemma said. “His cheeky personality and spirit despite his early hardships moved me deeply. I am thrilled to welcome him into our home and to share his journey with my followers.”

    Bert was a few months old when he was rescued by World Horse Welfare, with his mother Lacey, and the other Shetlands, in “one of the worst cases field officer Sarah Tucker had seen”, a spokesperson for the charity said. “Sadly, eight of the ponies needed to be euthanised due to severe health complications, but Bert was one of the lucky survivors.”

    H&H reported last month that in July 2023 World Horse Welfare was contacted about concerns for ponies being kept at Wrancarr Lane, Moss, Doncaster. Field officers found 19 Shetland ponies in “varying states of neglect”, and secured the RSPCA’s help to investigate further.

    A World Horse Welfare spokesperson said at the time of sentencing that “most of the ponies were overweight, many had overgrown hooves, and a number showed signs of extreme laminitis”.

    “The owner had a ‘veneer of respectability’ within the showing world, with two of her ponies well looked-after and in show condition, but she allowed the others to suffer in such a dreadful way, despite having received a previous caution for identical offences,” the spokesperson said today, adding that some of the ponies showed signs of extreme laminitis. Six had to be put down on site and two more later owing to their health issues.

    “One of the best parts of my job is seeing ponies like Bert thriving after rescue and knowing that they will be rehomed into loving, safe homes for the rest of their lives,” said Sarah. “I was delighted when I heard that he is going to Gemma and I look forward to finding out how they get on. Bert will certainly keep them entertained and he couldn’t ask for a better home.”

    Gemma has more than two million followers on social media, who will be able to follow Bert in his new life.

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