Transformation for Wellingborough horses saved from floods in large-scale rescue

  • Ponies rescued from a flooded field in February as part of a major multi-agency operation will shortly be seeking new homes.

    A total of 43 illegally fly-grazed horses were removed from the waterlogged site in Wellingborough in a major rescue, involving a drone and a hovercraft.

    Some have now found new homes and a number of others will be available for rehoming shorting following an “incredible recovery”.

    World Horse Welfare field officer Chris Shaw visited the site after the charity received a call from a member of the public and found a number of underweight horses fly-grazing.

    The wet winter and flooding had significantly reduced the area the horses could access. Many had overgrown feet, several had conjunctivitis and the lack of food was a real concern.

    A drone was used to see how many horses were there and hay was provided by the charity and concerned locals, but no owner came forward.

    The landowners used the Control of Horses Act, which meant the horses could be removed, and the major rescue ensued.

    The horses in Wellingborough in February

    World Horse Welfare, the RSPCA, Blue Cross, Redwings, Bransby, police, vets, landowner, transporters and a hovercraft pilot worked together to safely remove the horses.

    “A few of the horses were happy to be caught and a headcollar put on, and many of the others followed these horses into the pens from where they were loaded, but some were semi-wild and rounding those up made the job even harder and more challenging,” said a World Horse Wefare spokesman, adding that a hovercraft was used to access flooded areas and ensure no horses were left behind.

    “Eventually all 43 animals were caught and checked over by a vet. Some came into the care of World Horse Welfare, but the only space available was at Belwade Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Aberdeenshire and 25 of the animals were considered strong enough to cope with the long journey that would entail.

    “Eleven went to a holding yard and then on to the Blue Cross and the remaining animals, too weak or sick to travel far, were boarded by the RSPCA at a local holding yard.”

    The colts that arrived at Belwade were castrated once they were in a suitable condition and are now looking for new homes.

    Most of the mares were pregnant and will stay in the centre until their foals are reading for weaning, and all are getting used to human contact.

    A pair of foals from Wellingborough mares

    “At first all the ponies were unhandled and some of the mares in particular were very protective,” said Belwade centre manager Eileen Gillen.

    “One mare really didn’t want you anywhere near her and was certainly not afraid to let you know but now she has had her foal and learnt that we are not going to hurt her – and are the providers of food – she has turned into a really nice, compliant and willing pony.

    “Her foal will be weaned just before Christmas and I am confident the mare will make someone a lovely rehomed pony.

    “Eight foals have now been born to the Wellingborough mares at Belwade Farm, four fillies and four colts.”

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    Mr Shaw added seeing the transformation from the “ill, semi-wild animals we struggled to round up in appalling conditions” to happy, healthy and friendly ponies is “quite emotional”.

    “I normally only see the horses at the rescue stage, but this time I have been able to follow the progress of some of them right through,” he said.

    “I take my hat off to the grooms at our rescue and rehoming centres for the amazing work they do turning these ponies around and giving them a great future.”

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