Horses terrified of human touch when rescued from a M25 site have undergone an “immeasurable transformation” in the care of Redwings Horse Sanctuary, which has welcomed seven new foals from the pregnant mares among the group.
Last year World Horse Welfare was alerted by a member of the public of more than 130 horses at the site. The charity coordinated the multi-agency operation to remove the horses, with the cooperation of the owners, during several months with the large herd being split between equine welfare charities.
Redwings Horse Sanctuary offered a home to 32 of the horses, including a number of pregnant mares.
“Many of the horses taken into our care were underweight and required veterinary help for worms and lameness. The biggest challenge was their behaviour – many had seemingly never been handled by humans before,” said a Redwings spokesman.
“After a stay at our specialist quarantine facility in Norfolk where they received immediate veterinary attention, they were transported to the Redwings’ behaviour centre.”
Redwings equine behaviour manager Sarah Hallsworth said many of the horses were “very fearful” and would not tolerate human touch.
“To provide just basic care involves a number of interactions so it was really important that we worked on building their trust so they could feel comfortable in their new surroundings and we could care for them safely,” said Sarah.
The horses arrived in two groups; the first receiving names after famous artists such as Picasso, Raphael and Banksy, while the second group was named after currencies, such as Florin, Stirling and Dime.
“Through clicker training, positive reinforcement and a lot of patience, many of the horses are now happy to be approached in their fields, wear headcollars and be led. They are about to embark on leg handling training – essential for veterinary intervention and farrier visits,” said the spokesman.
“It is hoped some may be suitable candidates for rehoming in the future. Even those with existing health issues, who will likely spend the rest of their lives at the sanctuary, have come on in leaps and bounds.”
Sarah added there are some in the group such as mare Silver, who were terrified to begin with but have been “transformed immeasurably”.
“Since starting her training Silver now really enjoys human attention, which is exactly what we want for all of them,” she said.
“While Silver will remain a permanent resident, it’s very rewarding to know she will spend the rest of her life free of fear and enjoy all the fuss and love we desperately want to give her and her friends.”
The birth of seven foals from the group this year has provided an “extra challenge” for the charity.
“While our training schedule suddenly got much busier, foals present a really lovely challenge,” said Sarah. “Because they have not experienced what their mothers have gone through, they do not have the same fears. We have an opportunity to start their handling at a young age so we can give them the best chance possible of finding loving guardian homes in the future.
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The rescue was a joint operation by National Equine Welfare Council members including the British Horse Society, Blue Cross, Bransby
The foal was discovered in March severely underweight with a body condition score of 0.5 out of 5
“Foals like Lira are really enjoying their training sessions and are already wearing headcollars, but like their mothers, some are more wary than others, and are only at the stage of wanting to eat from our hands, like Rupee.”
Sarah added the charity treats every horse as an individual and training will progress at their own pace.
“Whether they go on to find new homes or end up better suiting a life here at the sanctuary, we’ll make sure they remain safe and happy for the rest of their days,” she said.
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