‘They were very curious!’ Rescue ponies meet Max, their newest ‘equine’ neighbour

  • Introducing Max – the newest equine resident of The Mare and Foal Sanctuary, being greeted by some of his new stablemates.

    The charity has “rehomed” Max, a life-size, fully articulated equine mannequin, and a “vital and very unusual piece of lifesaving kit”.

    Max will be used to help train emergency teams in rescuing horses and ponies from dangerous situations.

    “Rescuers rarely get the chance to practise realistic livestock rescue scenarios, so The Mare and Foal Sanctuary hopes to offer professional extraction teams the opportunity to learn best practice alongside them in future training exercises,” a spokesman for the charity said.

    The sanctuary set up its first Crowdfunder campaign last autumn to buy Max, with an £8,802 target. It raised £9,289 – but also prompted a donation of £175,000 from Lesley Willan, in memory of her late friend Jeff Ward, who was a supporter of the charity. As a result, The Mare and Foal Sanctuary asked Lesley to name the mannequin.

    She said: “I wanted to help with the purchase because this was something that would have a direct impact on the welfare of the horses in the southwest that Jeff cared so much about.

    “I knew straight away that it should be called Max, after Jeff’s late dog. Sadly, Jeff’s partner Patricia passed away eight years before Max’s arrival. From then on, Max was always by Jeff’s side, providing comfort, companionship, and unconditional love until he passed away. So, in Max’s memory, I see the mannequin horse as a quiet, unassuming companion who is always there, ever ready to train people to rescue equines in a number of scenarios.

    “I’m proud that Jeff’s donation will make such a huge difference to the lives of horses, ponies and the people who care about them. This donation was about enabling one of his favourite charities to purchase much needed equipment and leave a lasting legacy.”

    Mare and Foal Sanctuary head of equine welfare Syra Bowden said that “too often”, the charity encounters cases of horses and ponies trapped in tight spaces, or stuck in rivers or bogs.

    “Such rescues are highly dangerous and can result in the death of the equine and injury to rescue team members,” she said.

    “Specialist training exercises using Max will help us build emergency response partnerships and develop more effective extraction techniques. This kit could help to save lives in the future, so we would like to thank the generosity of our Crowdfunding supporters and particularly to Lesley for gifting so much in Jeff’s memory.”

    A spokesman for the charity told H&H that Max was introduced to his new neighbours with great care.

    “Calvados and Wave were a little spooked when they first encountered Max,” she said. “Our behaviourist believes they realised that he looked like a horse and had his ears forward in a positive position, so they weren’t fearful, just very curious!”

    The Mare and Foal Sanctuary hopes to work with rescue teams in the southwest in training exercises using Max this year. It is also hoped that he will be make public appearances as a visual demonstration of the importance of equine safety and welfare.

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