A rider has called for fellow horse owners to be on the look out for bats after she found an unexpected visitor on her horse’s rug.
Mary Bannister, who lives in Hertfordshire, was putting a rug on her 13-year-old 15.2hh Irish sports horse Blue when she discovered the bat.
Mary told H&H: “The rug had been sat folded up over the wall in an open barn. I put the rug on Blue and noticed a blob on it. I didn’t have my glasses on, but I looked closer and thought ‘Oh my god, it’s a bat’.
“I went to get some other people to look at it and three of us stood there thinking what do we do now? It was beautiful. It was about the size of a mouse hanging upside down. I think it must have been clung on the rug when I’ve put it on and somehow I hadn’t disturbed it.
“My friend moved the bat into a box and put the box up high up in the barn where no predators could get to it.”
Mary decided to wait until the morning to see if the bat had flown away.
“The next morning it was gone so we assume it must have flown off. I put a post on Facebook which got loads of responses; apparently bats like warm spaces and other people have found bats in rugs too,” said Mary.
“Going forward I’ll be very careful and check rugs, and now we know what to do. If you find one it’s really important to be careful.”
Bats are a protected species meaning it is illegal for bats to be killed or deliberately injured.
Samantha Pickering of North Devon Bat Care said bats’ roosting places are also protected.
“A horse’s rug isn’t quite the usual roosting location for a bat so it isn’t suggested you have to leave the rug there all winter,” Samantha told H&H.
“If you find a bat on a rug that is in use, you should use a cloth or a glove to gently move the bat to another location in the same building you have found it. Typically if you find a bat in a rug it’s usually a young bat that has gone into the wrong roosting place. Once a bat is asleep they sleep deeper than a teenager and don’t want to wake up, which is why if you move a blanket they don’t fly off straight away,” said Samantha.
From alpacas to rabbits, here is our selection of horses and ponies with the most unlikely animal friends
It's natural for horses to find others to interact with, but they don't always have to be horses, as this
Samantha added if you find a bat on the floor in a barn or stable, it can be offered water in a milk bottle lid and contained in a box with pencil-size air holes with a glove or cloth for the bat to hide.
“Don’t use straw as it can get caught in their wings,” said Samantha. “Once the bat is contained you should call the Bat Conservation Trust or your local bat rescue who can advise on whether it can be safely released or if it will need collected.
“Bats in this country only eat insects so there is nothing to worry about. Their job is to eat all those midges and flies that pester you when you go for a ride.”
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.