Newsletter Autumn 2009

Our summer has been dominated by stallions: unwanted stallions. Unfortunately, a dysfunctional economy, coupled with a degree of personal irresponsibility, has led to many stallions and colt foals being superfluous to requirements. They are the casualties of their sex. The cost of castration for a horse or pony is generally in the region of €150 - €200 and for donkeys sometimes more, due to their uncertain drug tolerances. These are costs which cannot be redeemed in the sale ring during the financial recession. Many of these stallions are older and difficult to handle, so are naturally the first to be culled. Often a cute young foal wins the heart of his or her owner who finds his habits of nipping, kicking up his heels and rearing up to box with his front feet all rather endearing only to find to their cost that this behaviour becomes unsociable when the fluffy baby reaches 200 kilos and is the proud owner of full size teeth and hooves. One such example is Banjo, whom we brought in early in the Spring, as a handsome but unmanageable five year old, skilled in the art of breaking fences.



Banjo joined us in April as his owner was finding him impossible to contain. If kept inside he had to be firmly restrained and outside he would break through any fence or gate to gain his freedom leaving a trail of damage behind and some very unhappy neighbours as he was also extremely noisy. To be fair to Banjo, he was lonely and probably only looking for company.

When he arrived at the Sanctuary he had several superficial wounds to his head and neck from ropes and head collars that had been used in an attempt to restrain him.Banjo



He was wired as tightly as a coiled spring with energy and frustration and just desperately wanted to get to the mares!

It was fortunate, particularly for our fences which were reaching the stage of having repairs done to the repairs, that he could be castrated (gelded) within a couple of weeks and that all went well, so as soon as his wound was healed he could be turned out with the stronger geldings for the five weeks necessary to ensure his infertility.

He is such an ebullient donkey we still would not risk mixing him with the older mares but hope that in time he will learn manners from his stablemates. Although pushy and bold, he is a cheerful and likeable character who has integrated well.




This delightful little fellow was regrettably relinquished as his mother, who was near to foaling again, rejected his presence and was giving him a hard time. His owners were short of space so were unable to separate them, or to take on another youngster to companion Charley. When it didn’t work out with Riley (see next report) we spoke again to Linda of The Donkey Sanctuary which turned out to be a stroke of luck for us all as she had a 17 month old stallion donkey which she had taken off the mare before she foaled again, and a suitable companion was needed for him. So, early in August the two youngsters met and haven’t stopped playing since! They travelled to Mallow mid-August where they had the “little boy’s operation” in September and hopefully they will stay together.


Riley is one of the lucky ones. He and his companion donkey, also a stallion, were dumped on a farm in Co. Roscommon, where to his credit the farmer did everything in his power to befriend the animals and look after them, but after several occasions when he found the unruly pair chasing his cattle and trampling his sheep he had no alternative but to shut them up in a shed and look for another solution.

Luckily, we located an excellent home for them on a reliable promise that they would be gelded at the soonest opportunity. Tragically, the day before collecting them for the journey to their new home in Co. Galway, one of them broke his leg and had to be euthanased. We went ahead with relocating Riley and a week later attempted to team him up with a younger stallion donkey (Charley) but Riley was too aggressive so home we came to start over again to find a suitable match. Meanwhile Riley has settled into his new home with Graham and Mary where he is receiving the best of everything. Once he has had “the snip” and quietened down we may attempt to find him a companion more his own size, age and weight for although he enjoys the cattle on the other side of his paddock fence and is besotted with the pet ducks, he still pines for someone of his own kind. Meanwhile the family collie keeps him rounded up and within bounds!


Two beautiful gelding donkeys which needed to be rehomed due to ill health were happily settled with another family near Ballina, Co Mayo


welfare case

Late in August we were called to a mare and foal living rough on local bogland. The mare was thin and suffering from mastitis with considerable infection and swelling of the mammary glands and had rain scald, a wire cut back leg and badly neglected hooves. The foal was severely emaciated, was badly rain scalded and suffered mud fever (cracked heels) on all four feet.

The Gardai and vets involved had no hesitation in giving us permission to bring these two sorry souls in for treatment and refuge. The foal received four days of fluid rehydration, vitamin/mineral supplements and both had antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and painkillers.

welfare case welfare case







The foal was so weak he was unable to stand without assistance and sadly, despite the best of vets and nursing, he died 10 days later. We hope the mare will recover fully in time, though naturally she is distressed at the loss of her foal. At the time of writing the Gardai are still trying to locate the owner. If successful, we hope for prosecution.

Update - This is the same mare in October, you can still see the swelling on the injured leg but it doesn't stop her.

welfare case - update


We are pleased to report that Mr Horse, who featured in our Spring newsletter, is doing well. During the summer months he underwent dental treatment which included the removal, under anaesthetic, of a huge tooth. The tooth was growing sideways into his lower jaw, effectively preventing correct mastication so most of what Mr Horse managed to graze remained insufficiently chewed and was expelled from the mouth before swallowing. Hence he was not gaining weight as he should despite being out on good grass. During August he received chiropractic treatment to help straighten his twisted spine and he is unquestionably far more comfortable and moving more easily.

Mr Horse Mr Horse Mr Horse

Mr Horse in April and then in August.



The horse and pony situation is far from encouraging as all the equine welfare organisations in the country are full to capacity. Even in July and August, at the height of the grazing season, there have been regular calls to attend undernourished horses, often mares with foals at foot; injured horses; horses abandoned on the roadside; horses left behind after marts and sales; horses secreted in other people’s horseboxes or stables; in a nutshell - unwanted horses.

The situation is so serious that we have again seen adverts for horses wanted for slaughter. With our own Irish abattoir over-subscribed one has to wonder what these unfortunate horses have to endure before they reach their final destination. Surely if all options fail we owe it to our equines to have them humanely destroyed rather than be left in a field or roadside to starve to death or subjected to long haul live-transport abroad for slaughter.

We make no apologies for labouring the situation and beg anyone who has a notion of breeding to be absolutely certain of their motives in doing so. In this economic climate it is essential to be prepared to take responsibility for the animal long term and to be able to pay the castration fee if it is a colt. ( a 50% chance after all)


Two new galleries of photos and the latest newsletters have been added to our very popular website and in response to many requests we are opening a Questions and Answers section where we will endeavour to answer the many questions about donkeys regularly put to us – or at least point in the direction of further information. Donkey owners seem to be on the increase and thankfully there is a genuine upsurge in awareness that donkeys are not only a little different from horses and ponies but, in some cases, quite specific in their needs and we are delighted to see such an interest.


What do donkeys eat?
How do I pare a donkey's hoof?
What is the difference between a mule and a jennet?
How can I tell if my donkey has mange and what can I do about it?
How do I recognise symptoms of plant poisoning in horses and donkeys?

Q - What do donkeys eat?

A – Food

A donkey’s dry matter intake is higher than other large herbivores, being up to 3.1% of their live bodyweight which means they need considerably more fibre and less protein than horses. Ideally, they will eat up to 5% their live bodyweight daily in feeding straw (barley) or hay.

Donkeys out at grass do not need good quality grass and should be carefully monitored for overfeeding in the presence of rich, lush, grass and clover.

In the wild they may travel up to 30km a day grazing and browsing for food which would include a large variety of shrubs, bark, berries and different types of plants.

Over feeding leads to obesity and heart disease, as does lack of exercise when confined to a limited area with nothing to do but eat; and both can quickly lead to laminitis, an incredibly painful condition which manifests in the hooves and causes permanent damage.

If it is necessary to supplement a donkey’s feed, as with older donkeys, sick donkeys or donkeys with tooth problems, always choose a low protein mix (6-10%) without oats (generally known as a cool feed mix) as oats are very warming and can also lead to laminitis. Lightly molassed chaff or chaff with no molasses are good for filling if there is difficultyin chewing hay or straw and soakable fibre nuts are excellent for donkeys with mouth problems as they can be served as wet as is necessary to facilitate eating.

A salt lick or mineral lick is usually appreciated by donkeys which do not have a large area of natural terrain to browse as it will supplement any missing minerals.

A – Water

Donkeys have a lower water requirement per unit of bodyweight than any other domesticated animal except the camel, but it does not have the capacity to store water. Usually a donkey will drink 18-35 litres of water a day, depending on dry matter intake and temperature, but they can withstand up to a 20% loss of bodyweight due to dehydration and still recover the weight when water is available. In most circumstances they can survive up to three days without water but this is NOT an excuse to leave them without water at all times. Surviving without water for three days and being comfortable without water for three days are two different things. Donkeys are also very particular about having CLEAN water and have been known to refuse dirty water even when thirsty.

Q – How do I pare a donkey’s hoof?

A – You don’t

This is the job of a fully qualified and registered farrier who has undergone a full 4 year training or apprenticeship. There is an old saying, “no hoof, no horse” and this applies to donkeys as well.

The structure of the hoof is complicated and sensitive and can be likened to our own fingernails, except the nail wraps all round the finger. The nail is the outer hoof wall which protects the sensitive inner laminae which supply blood to the tissue and bones of the hoof. Over paring of the outer wall exposes the inner sensitive laminae and causes just as much pain as when we tear a finger nail below the ‘quick’. Incorrect paring will result in a mis-shapen hoof, which in turn causes the hoof to be out of balance. In order to counteract the stress caused by such imbalance, the bones inside the hoof will rotate and twist, causing considerable pain. Over the years the bones may even burst through the soles of hoof, at which point the unfortunate donkey has to be euthanased.

In most European countries it is against the law (with substantial fines) for anyone other than a qualified farrier to trim the hooves of any equine.

Q – What is the difference between a mule and a jennet?

A –

The terms are subject to localised interpretation but officially a mule is the product of a donkey stallion and a horse or pony mare. A jennet (or hinny) is the product of a horse or pony stallion and a donkey mare. In both cases these animals are hybrids and sterile ie. They cannot breed themselves.

Q – How can I tell if my donkey has mange and what can I do about it?

A –

A donkey infested with mange mites will be suffering intense irritation to the skin which will have lesions, scabby areas and conseequent loss of hair. As mite numbers increase so do the skin sores and scabs until the skin becomes raw and leathery in some areas. There are many different types of mange mites and treatment will depend on both the type and how far the condition has progressed before diagnosis. In all cases a veterinary surgeon should be consulted for a correct diagnosis as the syptoms are very similar to both lice infestation and rain scald.

In the case of lice infestation the lice themselves, and certainly the eggs, can usually be seen on the coat very close to the skin, whereas the mange mite is invisible to the naked human eye. Lice can be treated very effectively with some pour-on products like Butox and Redict, which are primarily made for cattle and sheep but beware as some pour-on products are dangerous for equines.

Mange invariably needs to be treated with washes specific to the type of mite and can take from one week to one month to eradicate.

Rain scald is usually caused by the donkey being left out in wet weather without shelter. The rain seeps deep into the coat and causes chapping, which in turn causes irritation so the donkey rubs a sore patch with subseqquent scabbing and hair loss. As long as rain scald is not seriously infected it may be treated by carefully trimming away excess loose hair and applying an antiseptic cream or gel to the area. Seriously infected skin may require antibiotics and other veterinary intervention. NB. Neem oil has been reported for successfully treating scabies which is a serious skin disease caused by one of the same mites that causes mange.

Q – How do I recognise symptoms of plant poisoning in horses and donkeys?

A –

First of all, if you have ANY reason to believe your equine has been poisoned, call your vet immediately giving as much information as possible, however trivial it may seem. Whilst some poisons are not aggressive, and can be treated, others are very aggressive and, if treatable at all, are extremely time sensitive.

Symptoms cover a huge range and can sometimes be contradictory:


Excessive sweating
Lethergy or over-excitability
Unco-ordinated movement
Weight loss

Frothing at the mouth or regurgitation
Dilated pupils
Excessive salivation
Twitching of the head and eye muscles

Mouth blisters
Clamping of the jaws
Weak/rapid pulse
Blood in urine
Fluid on the lungs
Renal failure

Worldwide the list of poisonous plants is considerable but some of the most commonly found are listed below:

  Yew - taxus species (perhaps the deadliest of them all)
Anemone (all species)
Beech mast
Bluebell bulbs
Bracken fern
Bog Asphodel
Columbine (Aquilegia)
Common Sorrel
Corn Cockle
Daffodil bulbs
Field horsetail
Globe Flower
Greater Celandine
Green Potato sprouts
Horse Radish leaves and flowering shoots Laburnum
Monkshood (Aconite)
Oak leaves

Snowdrop bulbs
St John’s Wort
Thorn apple
Wild Peas

. . . and many more

These Questions and Answers have been added to the main website Information page and the information on Poisoning and Poisonous Plants also has it's own page. Both sections will be added to as time allows.


Very special thanks go to the family of the late Michael, who generously asked for donations, in lieu of flowers, to be collected on behalf of the donkeys in memory of this donkey lover who passed away in his early fifties from cancer. The family are private people who wished only that the donkeys would be the beneficiaries of this kind gesture.

Another donkey person and long time supporter of the Sanctuary, Katie, opened her garden to the public in early July and raised a staggering €300 for which we are extremely grateful. Katie is a professional landscape gardener who designed and created the garden from a back yard and field and it is stunning! Despite the hard work Katie is encouraged to repeat the experience again next year when we hope she will get better weather to show it off.

For the second year running Leanne B**** of Achonry asked for contributions to her donkey fund in lieu of birthday presents and visited with her Mum and other family and friends to personally present the donkeys with €200. We think this is a wonderful achievement and hope her warm hearted idea rubs off on a few other children. Congratulations Leanne for a tremendous achievement and thank you!

Thanks also go (yet again) to our stalwart fundraisers, Diane Keevans and Steve Furlong who continue to fundraise on a regular basis … and to The Bogtrotters Trail Riding Centre of Aclare, Co. Sligo who raised €94, to Inge and Elke and Karen and Keith … Nor do we forget the very many of you who have continued to support our work with regular donations as and when you can, and through our popular Adopt a Donkey (Pony) Scheme. We quite literally can’t manage without you.

One of our many unsung heroes is Gunter Linke of Kilmanonagh, Collooney, Co. Sligo who makes the signage for the Sanctuary and has recently donated, together with his father who paid for the materials, yet another sign to place at the beginning of the road leading up to the Sanctuary. It explains that we are placed at the end of a Cul de Sac with no acess through to the megalithic site of Carrowkeel … We hope the sign saves a few people some inconvenience as parking is limited at the Sanctuary and turning can be a problem when we are very busy.


We have come across two cases recently of donkeys contracting tetanus (lock-jaw) This is an extremely painful condition that is caused by bacteria in the soil that enters the blood stream through a cut or scrape and which invariably leads to a horrible death. If it is to be treated at all the disease must be detected in the very early stages and even then the prognosis is rarely good. To leave an animal dying of tetanus on a whim that it, “just might get better”, as we witnessed in one of these cases, is unforgiveable negligence: far better to have the animal immunised against the disease in the first place! With over 40 equines in our care we fully understand the expense involved in vaccinating for various diseases but tetanus is a must (for yourself as well) It is not overly expensive and can be administered by a vet to an animal of any age.


We are truly indebted to everyone who was involved in our annual sponsored walk which was held in Union Woods, Collooney, Co. Sligo on 21st June, just as the lovely weather broke. Though, as it was sunshine and showers and pleasantly warm we shouldn’t complain for an Irish summer. The event again proved very popular and was well attended. Dave Campbell of the Sligo SPCA, with whom we share the monies raised, organised a splendid selection of refreshments which were enjoyed by all. The overall figure raised reached €3,500 – a clear €1,500 for each charity after advertising and printing expenses. Although this figure was half of the previous year’s, we all felt that given the credit crunch and subsequent difficulty in getting sponsors, it was a very worthwhile event. A heartfelt thank you goes to everyone for their dedication, loyalty and sheer hard work!

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