Newsletter Autumn 2013

We thought Summer would never come.

As the winter fodder crisis dragged on it remained wet and cold into late May with no sign of the grass growing or even most of the trees and bushes awakening.

As the Sanctuary site is high and exposed it was June before before we saw the grass growing and even then progress was slow.

By mid June we had the unprecedented sight of spring daffodils and tulips still in bloom with primroses and violets, the whitethorn blossom only just thinking of opening as the gorse was in full flower and horse chestnut trees bolting from a leafless skeleton to full flower in under two weeks: an extraordinary year.


Naturally this took its toll on the animals, especially those which had wintered outside and were already thin and weary. The Department of Agriculture rose to the challenge and imported a wealth of fodder from the Continent to assist the commercial farmers where possible but even so many had to sell their stock prematurely in order to survive. Our donkeys and ponies ended the winter with a new streamlined look, the envy of all on slimming diets, but fortunately came to no long term harm.




We had our losses, though only one was unexpected.

Despite her amazing recovery as reported in the Spring newsletter, little DAPHNE donkey had a major relapse from which she never recovered and basically died of old age late in March, shortly followed by by our beloved old donkey mare ESMERALDA, whose joints finally became too dysfunctional for her to continue and she was euthanased on humane grounds - with great regret and respect for her enduring spirit.

Right: Daphne a few days before her final illness
Below: Esmeralda in her prime




Then late in April a young donkey, BENSON, only eight years old, died suddenly from a twisted gut, presumably from impacted colic though without a post mortem examination we cannot be sure.

It was a sad and depressing time for the Sanctuary though in retrospect we realise we came out of last winter’s problems with relative ease compared with the losses suffered by many farmers and rescue centres as a result of the prolonged cold weather and shortage of feedstuffs.  






We also learned a valuable lesson and have committed to using the ex-gratia payment from the Department of Agriculture together with some extremely generous donations from a few special supporters, to build a large shed suitable for the storage of big square bales of hay and straw.

New Barn


To date we have only been able to store the small bales: even round bales were inconvenient and somewhat wasteful.

So with the face of agriculture changing towards greater efficiency we move to update ourselves in order to accommodate full lorry loads of fodder straight from the field.



Above: The first half of the shed under construction. A second shed of the same dimensions is to be added in the Spring

The shed will be large enough to store two or three pallets of woodchip bedding alongside the feedstuffs and will eventually (maybe not this year depending on the time and weather conditions for building work) include at least one internal loose box for stabling bigger horses. As a rule we do not keep many horses over 15hh but those we do have are elderly and require more care than their hardy pony friends. We have also purchased two large, moulded plastic, rodent free feed bins from ibc plastics in Connemara in the hopes we can discourage our small furry friends from being so destructive!  

Meanwhile, the work continues...  



Duchess, a magnificent cob mare, was returned to us in March from her foster home to summer here, along with another mare, Bronagh, both of whom will pass to Hungry Horse Outside later in the year to commence their training for riding and driving. Both are young mares with superb temperaments, deserving of the stimulation they should expect from a good foster home - places to go, things to do...



On May 19th we had a real suprise when Megan, a rescue donkey mare, presented us with a filly foal after 13 months gestation.


Although it is generally understood that donkey mares can carry their foals from 9 months to a possible 14 months this is our first experience
of one going beyond the more usually alloted 11 months.

Little Megana is quite small and was initially very shy. She is well guarded not just by Mum but also by Aunt Kessie.

Megana and family









Left: Megana at two days
Growing fast at one month  

Regular followers will remember Megan and Kessie coming into Sanctuary together from HungryHorseOutside following confiscation by the Gardai from a seriously abusive situation. Kessie subsequently birthed a malformed, stillborn colt foal about a month later, so it is good for her that Megan is happy to share little Megana with her friend: the three of them are never far apart!

We were gratified when Megan and Kessie’s owner was prosecuted for cruelty and ordered to pay a total of €8,000 including costs, most of which was awarded to the welfare societies involved, including ourselves, in recognition of the work and expenses incurred. We sincerely hope to see more of this “hard-line” reaction in the courts if animal cruelty is to be recognised for its brutality.


. . . AND JUNE

Three weeks after Megana’s arrival ISPCA rescue donkey mare, Annie, produce a filly foal named June for the month of her birth. Soon afterwards June and Annie joined us here so the foals would have a playmate, and learn the social structure of the herd; how to share etc.


June is a bigger, stronger foal than Megana and far more confident. She adores attention, especially having her back scratched, so has been good for Megana who follows her example and grows daily more self assured.

If ever we need a lift to our spirits we have it now! The two foals chase and tumble, incorporating all the antics expected of young creatures learning the language of survival through play.  

Left and below: June at two weeks old being her adorable self  













KD and Wilf

KD and Wilf joined us from Co Cavan in July and were placed, almost immediately in a foster home only a few miles down the road from us.

These two young donkeys have been together since they were foals, have never been abused and are full of fun, making them ideal family pets, safe around children and no threat to the family dog.

Their owners were sad to part with them but were having to downsize their property due to health problems and felt that the ‘ boys’ would have a more interesting life with a younger family - whom they can visit anytime for an update and a hands-on cuddle!

KD and Wilf have settled well and really enjoy the endless grooming and attention they receive.  


Murphy and Marley


Early in August we offered respite to two 8 year old donkey mares whose owner is undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

Murphy and Marley are beautiful donkeys but timid in human company. Tit-bits over a fence are acceptable but they feel threatened once the human steps into their space.

They are currently spending time in the main area for visitors where we hope they will watch and learn from the others that petting is good.

Marley was born with a “clubbed” front hoof but happily it gives her no problems.  






TillyMill, as she is known, came to us in March from the ISPCA National Animal Centre.

She is an elderly donkey mare who had been found abandoned in poor condition with extremely severe rainscald infecting the entire area of her back.

Her mouth is deformed, probably due to having been broken at some time, so extensive dental work was undertaken to removed broken and infected teeth. As her bottom jaw twists downwards she is unable to hold in her tongue, and despite the dental work she still impacts food into her cheek pouches, making for a comical countenance more recognisable as a chipmunk.

She is an endearing little person, very affectionate, loves being groomed but hates having her mouth and teeth cleaned (no surprises there!) . As she is in good health otherwise, she joined us here in sanctuary to free up a space at the ISPCA for a younger, rehomable animal.  




Due to being already overstocked we have continued to network with other welfare societies and private people to rehome as many donkeys and ponies as possible without bringing them into the Sanctuary itself.

We are indebted to everyone who has taken in such animals in both temporary and permanent situations and especially to those who have agreed to take full responsibility for gelding, microchipping and passporting, expenses we would otherwise accrue, as this allows us to help others who cannot manage these expenses.

We are especially grateful to Hilary of Hungry Horse Outside who has taken four donkey stallions from the Rockingham and Ballymore areas of Co. Roscommon and had them gelded on our behalf. Paying the vet for his service is only a small part of the story - handling and nursing these animals is a much heavier workload as most of the stallions are unhandled and extremely strong!  


Just a horse

From time to time, people tell me, “lighten up, it’s just a horse,”
or, “that’s a lot of money for just a horse.”

They don’t understand the distance traveled, the time spent,
or the costs involved for “just a horse.”

Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a horse.”
Many hours have passed and my only company was “just a horse,”
but I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a horse,”
and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “just a horse,”
gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.  

If you, too, think it’s “just a horse,” then you will probably not understand phrases like
“just a friend,” “just a sunrise,” or “just a promise.”

“Just a horse” brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust and pure unbridled joy.

“Just a horse” brings out the compassion and patience that makes me a better person.

Because of “just a horse” I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future.

So for me, and the folks like me, it’s not “just a horse”
but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future,
the fond memories of the past and the pure joy of the moment.  

“Just a horse” brings out what’s good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that someday all will understand that it’s not “just a horse” but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “just a woman/man.”

So the next time you hear the phrases “just a horse” just SMILE - because they “just don’t understand!”  






This handsome fellow came to us for care as his lady owner has to undergo a second hip replacement and is, therefore, unable to look after him for the forseeable future.

He’s a real cuddly chap who is unused to being with other donkeys - though that is about to change! He does like ponies, however, and spends most of his time with them.  




Lady's Brae


On September 14th we were called to check a ‘herd’ of donkeys which were roaming a large area of the Ox Mountains known as Lady’s Brae.

Although we tracked them for several kilometers we only found 4 , which we were unable to catch. Two days later 8 of them had wandered down to the public road and were herded into the garden of a young couple who kept them restricted until we could arrange for the Pound to collect them.

The rule of thumb here is that if no owner comes forward within 5 days, they can be ‘disposed of’ thankfully in this case to The Donkey Sanctuary in Co Cork where the 3 stallions will be gelded.

There were also three mares, one heavily pregnant, a young foal and a yearling.

All were in reasonable condition though the hooves of the adult donkeys were severely overgrown. ( No owner was found).  














Left: Dumphy and right:Bartly



Regrettably DUMPHY and BARTLY donkeys were returned from their foster home this spring: their fosterer had enough worries trying to get his cattle through the winter though for sure he had not spared food for the donkeys who came back in great condition!  





BARTLY has since befriended TEDDY (Left) and the pair of them have moved into a new foster home near Drumkeerin in Co. Leitrim where they stand a good chance of becoming very spoiled!






NELLIE and SHY started a new life locally at Petele Dog Boarding Kennels, Doocastle, where they are on permanent grass mowing duties and will receive a great deal of attention from real animal lovers.

Left: Nellie and Right: Shy

















If anyone in the Doocastle area has a spare acre of grassland they could offer for Nellie and Shy’s grazing duties, we would love to hear from you as they are so efficient they could now use a little more!

MILE and CHARLIE G travelled to Co. Wicklow to take up residence for the summer at a popular caravan site at Redcross. Both are very sociable donkeys whom we expect to enjoy their new role though we look forward to having them back again for the winter.  



Which brings us back to the need for a national castration program to prevent irresponsible overbreeding, which continues regardless of the lack of demand and despite the probability of hereditary health issues.

Tighter regulations on the keeping of stallions are definitely in order as typically a large percentage of unwanted and abandoned equines are stallions for which separate facilities, and preferably separate premises, are required for the safety of other equines and people alike.

Most welfare cases inevitably include one or more stallion donkeys or ponies roaming the roads or dumped in forestry or on bogland (there is a common misconception that these areas are ‘commonage’ so fly grazing is rife).

Usually these animals are not microchipped so no owner can be traced and without the goodwill of welfare societies who arrange for their collection, welfare issues, gelding and rehoming, their future is bleak.


In one such case, 12 donkey stallions, none over 8 years old, were apparently abandoned on bogland. A random 5 of the 12 scanned out with microchips registered to one owner and further investigation strongly suggested that all 12 animals were registered to the same owner plus 4 others.

Sadly by the time the Dept of Agriculture completed a check only 5 animals could be found.

Although all but one of these donkeys was in good body condition the hooves were a disgrace.

These 5 ‘ legally’ owned donkeys did have their hooves trimmed but what happened to the remaining 7 has haunted us ever since as the ‘owner’ denied all knowledge. The thought of them still struggling to survive with overgrown hooves like the one shown left is NOT a happy outcome !  



Extension to sheds

As always we are more than grateful to the many of you who have continued to support us with donations, direct debits and fundraising.

Some of the donations have been substantial, (thank you Audrey, Mary and the late “John”) allowing for the construction of the new fodder storage shed, and the completion of an animal housing extension at the back of the donkey sheds.

Left: Housing extension at the back of the sheds
Below: Even more housing extension


Extension to sheds


We still plan to improve the overwintering shelter and feeding site on our leased land at Ballinafad, subject to time and weather as, thanks to you all, we do now have the funds.

We also thank Deirdre and Rhys who gifted a very generous cash donation, and many others who have contributed so generously be it in money or carrots and biscuits!

All contributions, however small, are appreciated and respected for the spirit in which they are given. We cannot reiterate often enough that without your support we are severely limited in what can be achieved to help the animals!

In other words, we need you!  

Our stalwart fundraisers include the faithful Diane and Steve who have organised two huge sales of secondhand goods, churchgate collections and musical gigs - the work they put in to help all the local animal charities is substantial and deeply appreciated.

Mary and friend Kathleen who have also stood churchgate collections.

Annette and Trevor who donated a much needed large trailerload of hay at a time when it was like gold (thank you - you really helped us through!)

Mary and Tom who similarly donated two vans full of hay plus jam and chutneys for the workers.

And Pam who raised €200 on a sponsored cycling event.

Thanks of a different kind go to our local postmistress who regularly “licks” the stamps on the 600 plus newsletters we send out bi-annually.

And special recognition goes to two young girls, Rachel Connelly and Jodie Fergus for holding a raffle which raised an amazing €138.

We cannot mention everyone, but please don’t think any of you is forgotten!   Thank you everyone!!!    



The saddest news we have received in a long while is that of the death of Scarlet, a truly beautiful 18 year old young woman who had spent many long hours here at the Sanctuary as a child prior to her family emigrating to Australia. A keen music lover, Scarlet tragically fell through a roof where she and her friends regularly gathered of an evening to play their different instruments. Unknown to them at the time the roof was unsafe, with devastating circumstances.

Naturally her family is still struggling to come to terms with this tragedy.  In memory of Scarlet her parents and younger sister, Georgie, have donated €500 to the Sanctuary with the intention that we use a part of it to plant trees in Scarlet’s memory. Due to the late Spring where the ground remained frozen until mid May we were only able to plant part of a shelter belt dedicated to Scarlet, plus one Canadian Maple as a specimen tree.

The hunt for trees and shrubs with scarlet overtones in the leaves, flowers and berries is fairly restricted on our north facing, exposed site so we have started with plenty of native Rowans, set off with the white bark of Silver Birch and plan to add native wild fucshia, guelder roses and hardy rugosa roses. All suggestions welcomed!  



This year we have something a little different with two designs of a larger card, 7x5 in or 17.5 x 12.5cms sold in packs of four for €5 or £5. Both cards display photographs of Sai Sanctuary animals and have a traditional Christmas message.

We also have our usual 6 x4in or 15 x10cm Christmas card, this time using a photo taken by volunteer Doris, of rescue donkey mares Kessie, and her friend Megan, with her beautiful filly foal Megana, who was born at the Sanctuary on May 19th. This card has snow crystals inlaid in the background and bears the message inside ‘We can do no great things, only small things with great love’ along with the traditional Christmas message. These cards are €1 or £1 each.

card card









Similarly we have two general cards, blank for your own message, both of the larger format, one featuring a collage of photos and one again featuring Megan and Megana with the same message as above incorporated in the photograph. These sell at €2 or £2 each. We hope you like them!






Retailing at €8.50 or £8.50 + post our calendars this year feature one main photograph for each month and make a lovely gift for animal lovers everywhere. Enjoy!



Please may we ask that you order early as we are unable to keep huge supplies in stock.

Thank you.



Early in September we were called to help our colleagues at HungryHorse Outside, who operate from Co. Longford, to bring in 12 abandoned ponies which had been evicted from private forestry and were roaming the public roads.

Safe ponies


Fortunately for them they were found by an animal lover who herded them into his one acre field, then contacted HHO.

Not unexpectedly, no-one claimed these ponies, so Hilary of HHO organised a Department of Agriculture approved horse transporter to meet us on site and with plenty of help they were loaded without mishap and taken to HHO where they were isolated. pending veterinary checks.

Several of the ponies were very sick, all were emaciated and all bore a heavy parasite burden. They range in size from miniature to around 13hh.

Left: Safe and on their way to a new life through the welfare network  


The stallions will be gelded at the first opportunity and most of them will need to spend the winter regaining their full health, after which they will be offered for rehoming on our respective foster loan schemes.

Sadly these 12 are a ‘drop in the ocean’ as every week produces more unwanted ponies and donkeys, some as young as a four month pony colt abandoned and locked in a wire mesh cage. His mother was nowhere to be found and he too was collected by, and taken to HHO where, after several days of intensive care he thankfully started to eat again. He is currently companioned with an older gelding and thriving - no thanks to his callous ‘owner’ whoever he/she may be!


"Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened." ~ French poet Anatole France (1844-1924)


Previous  |  Index  |   Next