Rescue pony who looked ‘ready to die’ helping young people 10 years on

  • A “skeletal” youngster who had to undergo six blood transfusions when he was rescued 10 years ago is providing “life-changing” support for struggling young people as an equine-assisted learning pony.

    Staff at HorseWorld worked round the clock to save the life of cob Buddy when he arrived at the charity in 2011, weighing a third of his ideal body weight.

    Groom Kayleigh Silver, who helped care for Buddy, said the gelding looked “ready to die” and was so weak that his head had to be supported by grooms.

    “It took a drip and six blood transfusions to give Buddy the strength to support his own weight. He had to be lifted to his feet every two hours day and night for the first two weeks,” she said.

    “If he laid down he was unable to get himself back up again and became distressed that he couldn’t get to his food. He couldn’t be left lying on his side for too long. In his efforts to get up, he would rub sores on his shoulders, hips and head where his bones protruded through his fragile skin. Buddy’s bed had to be very deep with huge banks of straw around the edges for him to push against while we were lifting him.”

    A HorseWorld spokesman said Buddy weighed 108kg on arrival and his “skeletal frame” was hidden under his thick, matted coat.

    “He should have weighed around 280-300kg at his age. He was also suffering from severe diarrhoea that was full of redworm,” he said.

    “Once nursed back to health and allowed to mature our team of specialists worked with Buddy to train him to be ridden. The aim was to find him a new home on our loan scheme where he would receive all the love and one-to-one attention he deserves. Buddy did find a home but had to return to the charity through no fault of his own.”

    Buddy has since become a fully trained equine assisted learning pony and is involved in HorseWorld’s Discovery courses, which help young people who are struggling to learn in a classroom environment.

    rescue pony HorseWorld equine assisted therapy

    Buddy in 2021

    “Young people are often referred to our courses with a wide range of complex and challenging social, emotional and mental health needs or learning difficulties. They complete a six-week course alongside the rescue horses. It is a chance to learn vital life skills outside of the classroom setting in a positive and encouraging environment,” said the spokesman.

    “The rescued horses have been given a second chance and have beaten the odds to survive. This resonates with a lot of children who are struggling to overcome difficulties in school and in their personal lives resulting in strong bonds forming between students and horses. Horses naturally desire calm and strong leadership and have no preconceived judgements, allowing the students to develop relationships based on mutual respect.”

    HorseWorld yard manager Sarah Hollister said Buddy was one of the worst cases of neglect the charity had dealt with and now seeing the gelding enjoying life and making a difference to children and young people makes it all worthwhile.

    “He clearly loves his work and will whicker to the children as they arrive. He’s helped so many young people to build their confidence and communication skills, he really is a special pony,” she said.

    “Buddy is fully recovered but is just one of many rescue cases that HorseWorld helps. The winter being the busiest time when the cold weather and lack of grazing means that horses that are abandoned or neglected become emaciated and ill very quickly.”

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    The spokesman added the charity relies on the support of the public to rescue horses and to be able to run the Discovery courses.

    “We have set up an appeal to help even more young people and more rescued horses to have a future with clear direction and focus, a positive purpose in life,” he said.

    “If you wish to donate to HorseWorld’s discovery courses, and be a part of this life-changing program, offering a safe space and an exciting new future for both the young people and the horses and ponies that work with them, please visit our website.”

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