A filly found with “horrific” burns to her legs earlier this year has been crowned rescue pony of the year at Equifest (17-21 August).
Yearling Elsa was found abandoned on a country lane in Tyne and Wear in January.
She had severe wounds on her hind legs, which were “enormous and so severe that even her muscles were exposed”.
(Click here to Elsa’s wounds in January — warning: very graphic image).
She was rescued by the RSPCA and over the last eight months has made a full recovery.
At the weekend (20 August), Elsa was awarded the title, in an emotional class which left audience members and judges in tears.
“We just couldn’t be prouder of Elsa, the whole show was emotional for us, but to hear Elsa’s name announced in the main arena at Equifest, as the rescue pony of the year, was just wonderful,” said the RSPCA’S Lisa Paulin, who handled Elsa in the class.
“Elsa’s road to recovery has been long and tough, but the team and I can’t put into words how proud we are to show the world just how far she’s come.”
The tough job of choosing the winner was down to judges Julie Templeton, Daniel Park, Adam Pike, Linda Lodge, Sandra Lawrence and Jo Jefferson.
The six judges also praised reserve champion Crackerjack, a pony also rescued by the RSPCA and rehomed from Equifest three years ago to Thomas Marshall.
This year was the fifth rescue horse/pony of the year competition.
It attracted 75 entries, more than ever before, for the six in-hand and ridden qualifying classes.
Other entrants came from equine charities and sanctuaries including Blue Cross, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, British Horse Society, and World Horse Welfare.
The horses and ponies were judged on their stories of survival as well as their transformation.
Champion Elsa will soon be looking for a new home.
“It won’t be long before Elsa will be ready to be adopted,” added Ms Paulin.
“Whoever gives her a forever home will be a very lucky person.”
New homes found at Equifest
Several RSPCA horses and ponies found new homes at this year’s show.
Horses from the RSPCA’s Felledge Equine Centre, Millbrook Animal Centre and Lockwood Centre for Horses and Donkeys were taken along to the event to meet members of the public.
Seven were reserved, with the majority going directly from Equifest to their new owners as home checks were completed during the week of the show.
“What a wonderful Equifest show this has been,” said RSPCA chief inspector Cathy Hyde.
“From rehoming seven ponies and seeing more reserved, to watching the wonderful Elsa be crowned rescue pony of the year, it’s been fantastic.
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“Equifest is such a great way to celebrate the work of charities, sanctuaries and new owners as well as showcase horses and ponies who need new homes.
“We are so proud of Elsa and Crackerjack, they are a shining example of the work we do here at the RSPCA.
“I’d like to thank all of our generous sponsors and the organisers of Equifest. Without them this increasingly popular competition would not be possible.”