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Ponies found living with rotting carcases continue on their road to recovery

A group of the “most fearful” ponies a sanctuary has ever cared for, rescued from “horrifically squalid” conditions where they were found living with the rotting carcases of animals, are continuing on their road to recovery four years later.

The ponies, named after famous Charles Dickens characters including Tiny Tim and Marley from A Christmas Carol, were part of a multi-agency operation in August 2015, and taken into the care of Redwings Horse Sanctuary.

A spokesman for Redwings said while two of the 13 ponies had been rehomed, owing to the “extremely complex” needs of the remainder of the group, they continue to live at the sanctuary’s specialist behaviour centre in south Norwich.

“The group were rescued as part of a operation which involved more than 60 feral horses and ponies being removed from a farm, having been kept in horrifically squalid and upsetting conditions,” he said.

“Alongside the unhandled horses, cattle, pigs, sheep and goats were living knee-deep in faeces with no food or water in a yard littered with hazardous old farm machinery and scattered with the rotting carcasses of animals who had sadly perished before help had arrived.”

Redwings behaviour manager Sarah Hallsworth said the ponies were some of the most fearful the centre had ever cared for.
“When they arrived they were absolutely terrified of people – they would turn themselves inside out to get away from you which considering the terrible life they had led up until that point, is completely understandable,” she said.

“It was very important for their wellbeing, and our safety, that they became more comfortable around humans as this meant interventions, such as farriery visits and routine veterinary checks, were not as daunting for them and they could enjoy a relaxed and happy new life at the sanctuary.”

The spokesman said as part of the ponies’ training they had been getting used to being approached in the paddock, wearing headcollars and having their hooves picked out.

“In a calm, predictable environment with consistent training and a lot of patience, some of the ponies have progressed well with their handling and two have even been rehomed which makes us incredibly proud,” Sarah added.

“But for some, their traumatising past ordeal means that small steps such as simply allowing us to approach them in their field or introducing them to a headcollar are real achievements.”

The spokesman said it is unlikely that any more of the group will be suitable for rehoming in the future but added they have been “pledged” a permanent home at the sanctuary.

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“Those who will require specialist handling for the rest of their lives will enjoy a loving, permanent home at the behaviour centre,” he said.

Redwings’ chief executive Lynn Cutress said the behaviour team has been doing “incredible” work to give the ponies the chance they “desperately deserved” at leading new happy and healthy lives.

“Without our dedicated behaviour centre, many horses and donkeys in need with complex behavioural issues would have nowhere else to go,” she said. “We’re very lucky that thanks to our supporters we can fund this amazing facility and turn around the lives of so many feral and traumatised horses,” she said.

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