A tiny pony who was dumped and left to die lost his fight for life – but his legacy is a fund aimed at helping other equines in a similar position.
Members of the public reacted in overwhelming fashion to support a donation page set up to help treat Sweep, a young coloured pony found in Biddenden, Kent, in late February.
Despite the best veterinary care and attention, and the fact he initially seemed to be responding to treatment, the ungelded youngster died a week later.
But supporters, who had read his story on social media, had already donated thousands of pounds, which those who set up the fund plan to use not to set up an equine rescue or similar charity, but to try to help dumped horses make the transition to new homes.
Kate Morris, owner of Blue Barn equestrian centre in Ashford, Kent, offered to pay for the pony’s treatment, and with Liz Roberts and Sharon Walker, has been organising his care – and the fund.
“I said I’d pick up the bill if someone could get Sweep to a vet the next day – and that started it,” Kate told H&H.
“People were saying they’d help and Liz had a GoFundMe page set up anyway as she’d had three rescues previously, so she set up another one, Little Sweep’s Fund.
“Within 12 hours, we had £500, and within 24 hours, nearly £1,000. Before we knew it, it was nearly £4,000.”
Sweep’s story captivated supporters as he seemed to improve after vets RW Equine took him into their clinic, and vet Reuben Whittaker had offered him a home. But on 3 March, his “little body just couldn’t take any more”.
By that time, another much younger pony, a months-old colt, had also been taken in by Kate, having been dumped, close to death, in a field nearby.
Having been treated by RW Equine vets, and then taken to Bell Equine veterinary hospital, at a total cost of nearly £3,000, Bertie is looking better and is to stay with Kate, who paid his Bell Equine bill from her own pocket, to keep cash in the fund.
“Sweep knew he was loved in those final days, his story touched so many hearts and
thankfully we had the fund intact to help Bertie when he was discovered,” Kate said, adding that the law concerning abandonment notices and the appropriate times to assume ownership of the ponies has been followed in all cases, including that of little Romeo, another recently dumped pony.
The three equestrians were clear they did not want to be a charity, or sanctuary, so have decided to use the funds to smooth the transition between rescue and the pony moving on to a new home.
Liz explained that there are a great many equestrians willing to offer homes, but who cannot foot the initial vets’ bills, and other essential expenses such as microchipping and passporting.
“It’s never been the idea to challenge any other charity or be one of them,” Sharon said, as Liz added: “We want to operate differently. Rescue centres are inundated and they can’t find homes for all the horses and ponies, but a lot of these abandoned ponies are brilliant, in my experience, and people are willing to take them on, but the initial ‘setting-up’ costs put people off.
“People have given money to help these horses, and we can use it to fund and give guidance.”
Sharon said the idea is still in planning, but all new owners will have to submit applications to prove they are able to take equines on. The fund will not retain ownership, but will ask that Little Sweep’s Fund is the prefix for passport names, to raise awareness of the initiative in future.
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“I think there’s a gap in the process,” Sharon said. “The rescue centres are full but there’s a lot of compassionate people with a spare stable who want to do something. We get that they might not have the income to meet the initial costs, and that’s where we want to step in.”
Liz added that if the model works, it could be rolled out to other counties.
“If we helped 10 to 15 ponies a year, and the same in the other areas, we could help 480 to 700 ponies every year find homes,” she said. “That would be amazing, and what a legacy for Sweep to leave.”
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