Newsletter Autumn 2014

It has been a great summer here in Ireland so with the help of an extra 55 acres of rented grazing land we have, for the first time in many years, had an abundance of grass for our growing family to enjoy. The ‘faerie fort field’ was rested for the whole summer rewarding us with a meadow reminiscent of childhood days, which included a carpet of primroses in the spring, followed by an unusual display of several varieties of wild orchid and grasses resplendent against a tapestry of wild flowers. We have been able to let all go to seed before grazing and hope to be able to repeat the process again next year. With luck we shall witness the re-emergence of many varieties that have been overgrazed in the recent years of overstocking due to the equine crisis.

Donkeys sleeping in the sun

Our newly planted hedges and trees have also benefited from a mild winter and decent summer. Although the trees are still small it is a joy to see them in leaf and looking healthy: there’s room for plenty more to be planted yet but at least we could send photographs of ‘Scarlet’s Belt’, where baby trees are in evidence above the tall grasses, to Scarlet’s family in Australia.

A couple of year’s ago they donated money to be spent on creating a new shelter belt of trees in memory of their beautiful daughter who died in a freak accident aged 18. As much as possible we have planted trees and shrubs that reflect the colour of Scarlet’s name though we’ll have to wait a few more years to enjoy the results in full.


New concrete floor

Other summer jobs included finally completing the concrete floor in our fourth donkey shed, which will make the winter mucking out easier and the erection of the second part of our big hay/straw storage barn, part of which we hope to section into winter accommodation for the aged horses.

Storage barn







The new concrete floor (above)
The new storage barn (left)
and later (below)

Taus and the dentist


We now have five big horses over the age of 20, four of them over 25, plus a thoroughbred with a double heart murmur and feel it is time to have them close at hand for the winter rather than out-grazing a few miles away at Ballinafad.

Although they all appear to be in good health there is comfort in being able to see them constantly instead of a once a day check and feed.



Taus and the dentist



Our aged TB mare, Taus, underwent dental work to remove a loose tooth which was preventing her from eating properly, resulting in weight loss, and has happily regained weight since.


Here equine dentist Lisa Molloy is at work




Due to our being able to rent more grazing land for this summer we were able to help HungryHorseOutside by taking five of their skinny rescue horses and three very elderly TB mares to give these animals a chance to rest, recuperate from their traumas and gain the necessary weight needed to see them through the next winter. When they return to HHO those suitable for riding or driving will undergo a training program so, ultimately, they can be fostered into permanent homes where they and their new owners can enjoy each other.

Some will be suitable for light hacking only though statistics show that many do go on to performance level: indeed many of HHO’s rehabilitated horses won prizes at local shows throughout the summer months, a huge achievement given that most of these animals would have been killed through the Pounds, had HHO not intervened by taking on Pound status themselves.




Brio, a lovely 12 year old, 15hh TB x mare, joined us early in the spring. She had been riding up until the previous October but underperformed compared with another horse in the same home and her owner could not afford to keep them both.

Brio arriving



We had hoped to be able to find Brio a gentle foster home where she could undertake light hacking but it soon became apparent that her hooves are fragile so we decided to let her ‘chill out’ for the time being to let the hooves regrow, hopefully stronger with the help of supplements in her winter feed.


Brio arrives


Brio meets Torrin


Meanwhile Torrin is besotted with his new field companion: the pair of them are usually to be found together grazing, mutual grooming and lying back to back in the sunshine . . Yes! We had plenty this year!!!

Nutty meets Brio






Twinkle arrived in late June from HungryHorseOutside. A frail, depressed and scruffy looking little pony having been found abandoned, miserable and hungry.

She is an archetypal example of the tinker pony – about 11hh high, skewbald, hairy legged and in her case, noticeably ‘roached back’ a condition in which the spine is convex along part of the back instead of either lying flat, or more usually being slightly concave.

It has been likened to the condition spina bifida, though thankfully, in Twinkle’s case it is fairly mild and does not over-inhibit her movementments .

Twinkle's feathers


Twinkle's lovely feathers (left)



In fact when you watch her kicking up her heels and galloping about you would doubt she is inhibited in any way – except she always suffers for her extravagances for a while afterwards with a pronounced stiffness and awkwardness in her gait.

She is delightful, friendly natured, desirous of human company . . . and freedom.


At first she hated being enclosed in a field and would only enter a shed if there was a second exit but gradually she relaxed, forsaking her ‘long acre’ for time spent with the other animals, initially the donkey mares then eventually settling with the older, more damaged ponies where she seems content to stay, for the time being anyway.

When she first arrived, Swiss volunteer and animal communicator Silvia was staying at the Sanctuary for 3 weeks so Twinkle had a great deal of special one-on-one attention which helped her to feel at home, secure and loved. She adores being groomed so Silvia dutifully obliged everyday to their mutual satisfaction and our scruffy little pony was soon gleaming. As a visitor remarked, she is a great ambassador for the Sanctuary! I’m not sure if she meant Twinkle or Silvia!



In July we had an unusual request to help five donkeys who lived on Innishbiggle Island, Achill Sound on the far west coast of Ireland.

Inishbiggle donkeys The donkeys’ 93 year old owner had died and although ‘big men were in tears’ the day the donkeys left the island, there was no-one left living there who could reasonably look after them.

It fell to the executor of the Will, who lives in Scotland, to arrange for the donkeys to be trailered to the mainland at a specific low tide when the strand was fully exposed to allow for their transport.


Rufus and Little Nell meet the Inishbiggle Five (above) and Jethro (below)

Inishbiggle donkeys



It is credit due to her, the men who helped and our stalwart volunteer Alan, who between them transported the donkeys back to the Sai Sanctuary where they arrived in good form and have settled in really well.



The matriarch of the group is Inis Bess, a 33 year old mare. Then there is her daughter, Belinda, Belinda’s colt foal Joey, a beautiful, small black donkey we called Jethro and a mid brown gelding who was already named Jake. Jake had been rescued earlier from a bad situation on the mainland and seems to be particularly attached to Bess, though on the whole the five of them stick together.




August brought a glut of extra donkeys to our gates starting with the relinquishment of Milo, a handsome fawn donkey measuring almost 14hh and his friend Seamus, slightly smaller and dark brown.

Milo (right)
Crowds at Donkey Day (left)

Donkey Day





These two are amongst the most people friendly donkeys anyone could wish to meet so were the perfect choice for attending the annual Donkey Day, which was held as usual at The Museum of Country Life near Castlebar, Co. Mayo on Saturday August 30th.


Donkey Day Given that it clashed with the Mayo/Limerick football match we still had a good attendance and the day itself remained largely dry apart from a couple of drizzle showers. Milo and Seamus showed off in their bespoke multicolour fly veils and noseband nameplates, crocheted for them by our webmistress.

SaemusMilo seemed to enjoy wearing his, though Seamus was more interested in rolling his into a hayfilled browband, much to the amusement of the crowd.

Our thanks go in particular to Beryl of the Irish Donkey Welfare Organisation who handled the organisation of the event.


Seamus (left) and Seamus at Donkey Day (right)




Huckleberry and Finn

These two delightful small stallions were abandoned in the Castlerea area of Co. Roscommon about 18 months ago and had been fed tit-bits by local people all through last winter.

Their concern became urgent when Finn sustained a serious injury of the off hind fetlock and pastern when he became entangled in wire. The wire became embedded in his flesh and festered so by the time he was brought to the notice of the County Vet, who authorised his seizure to the Pound at HHO, he was in a sorry state.

Initially the family who had been looking after him were happy to continue helping until the donkeys could be rehomed but given the problems with Finn’s injury they asked if he could come into care to receive proper veterinary treatment.

Huckleberry and Finn (right)
Finn (left)




Gradually after many days of poulticing, antibiotics and painkillers, the wound cleaned and began to heal and his melon sized fetlock reduced to an almost normal size.

Our vet is concerned that a tendon may have been compromised but hopefully this will also heal in time. They are a contented, cheerful and friendly pair who will make lovely pets in the right home.





Moses is yet another casualty of the times.

He and a filly donkey were swopped for two hens and two ducks. The filly donkey was given to a third party because ‘at least she could be bred’ and Moses, as a gelding was destined to be dragged around the sales and marts until he could be swopped again for a packet of cigarettes or something of similar value.


Fortunately my well practised ‘nagging’ finally resulted in him being given over to the Sanctuary where he will be microchipped and passported along with Huckleberry, Finn and another new donkey, Little Luke. Moses is dark brown, very quiet and affectionate and average size.



Little Luke

Little Luke ( we already have a ‘big’ Luke!) owes his rescue to a Dublin man who confiscated him from children who were abusing him – where the parents were and what they were teaching their children is another matter!


As the young man lives on a housing estate in a built-up area it was not possible for him to keep the donkey himself and sadly he received no response and no help from the Gardai or any of the rescue organisations he contacted in and around the Dublin area – another sign of the times that so many organisations are so grossly over-subscribed they have been obliged to ‘close the doors’.


In desperation he turned to us and although we too are oversubscribed with 50+ donkeys and 30+ horses and ponies we felt a responsibility to help when a person had taken the time, trouble and some personal risks to prevent further suffering to this animal. Even then Little Luke had to remain in this fellow’s back garden for almost three weeks until we could find space and arrange to have him transported down to Castlebaldwin on the other side of the country (thanks again to Alan).

Had he been a gelding he could have come immediately but accommodating stallions when we have so many mares is always a juggle. It only worked now because we are at a time of the year when the vets will perform the castration operation – no flies, no frost - being the golden rule.



We tell the story of HANORA to highlight the danger of leaving an unattended animal with an overtight halter or headcollar.

Hanora came into HHO (Hungry Horse Outside) through the Pound with a large group of horses and ponies found abandoned in Co. Galway. Her pictures tell the story (see below): an overtightened rope halter permanently left on her head during the months of Hanora’s growth from foal to 2 year old during which time the rope had bitten into her flesh for at least an inch (2.5cms) both over her nose and under her chin; resulting in horrific festering wounds full of blow-fly maggots.

Medical intervention was both urgent and essential. The rope was successfully removed and over time the infection was brought under control. What no-one can change is the damage to the nasal passages and the senseless disfigurement of an otherwise beautiful pony.

Please NEVER leave harness of any kind on any animal that is not checked for rubbing and chafes on at least a daily basis!

Hanora was one of the lucky ones who was found in time and HHO have since placed her in a very caring home close-by where she will be treasured for the lovely girl she is and respected for the suffering she endured. The tragedy is that she had to suffer at all.

*WARNING* Some of you may find the photos of HANORA upsetting so they have been placed on a separate page.

Double Click the donkey



Our three little colt donkeys, TORO, INTI and BRAN, were all gelded in the Spring and being so young hardly even noticed the operation. All three are growing up into beautiful donkeys with lovely temperaments. Bran often plays with the older donkeys and also adores Megana and Juniper Berry, two filly foals of around the same age. Inti and Toro remain closely bonded so were an obvious choice to join a family near Strandhill, Co. Sligo on our permanent foster loan scheme. Here they will benefit from a great deal of attention from three children and their parents (Dad is a vet which is good news) all of whom are looking forward to teaching the donkeys to walk with them so they can visit the beach together. It is exciting for us too when our donkeys are embraced into a home that really includes them as a part of the family with plans for their mutual enjoyment. We hope to be invited to the first donkey beach party.

DOUGAL (not Charlie Dougal!) and BREFNI were placed together in a foster home near Castlerea and POPPY ROSE and ELLIE have spent the summer in a home near Ballymote, though they will return to the Sanctuary for the winter months. Ellie remains timid so we hope to work with her over the winter to help her gain confidence so she stops hiding behind the gregarious little Poppy Rose. We had many offers of temporary homes for donkeys as ‘lawn mowers’ but remain firm to the opinion that constantly moving animals around for short periods of time is unnecessarily stressful to them – as well as us. Anyone able to offer a long term, caring home to two donkeys or two ponies on our Foster Scheme is invited to contact us



On Friday, 16th May we attended an Animal Welfare Conference which was convened by Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, and held at Dublin Castle. The event provided opportunity for the different animal welfare and animal rights groups to discuss and question all aspects of the new Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013, including some of the less popular clauses. Although it was not possible to please everybody present the overall atmosphere was positive and constructive.

For those of us involved in equine welfare we were delighted to hear Minister Coveney confirm that he would NOT authorise an equine cull as he felt that this did not solve the long term problem of overproduction of equines. Nor did he want to ‘reward’ the irresponsibility of the many breeders, dealers and individuals who continue careless and indiscriminate breeding despite awareness of equine overpopulation in this country.

Instead Minister Coveney pledged to support financially any equine rescue organisation that would set up an Assisted Gelding Scheme in order to reduce the number of unwanted stallions and the subsequent unwanted foals.

Our own Assisted Gelding and Passporting Scheme has been going well so we have reapplied for funding during 2015 from the Minister so we can continue working with local vets to reduce the costs involved and encourage more people to geld (castrate) the stallions and comply with mandatory legislation for microchipping and passporting of equines. As a result many animals which would end up in dubious circumstances heading towards a difficult and probably short future, can look forward to a good life in family homes. Some will become pets and others will aspire to greater heights!




donkey poemWhen your day seems out of balance
And so many things go wrong-
When people fight around you
And the day drags on-and-on-

When parents act like children
And everything goes wonkey
Go out into the pasture and
Wrap your arms around your donkey

His gentle breath enfolds you-
He watches with those eyes
He does not have a PhD-
But he is oh-so-wise!

His head rests on your shoulder,
You hold him very tight
He puts your world in balance
And makes it all seem right

Your tears – they soon stop flowing
The tension now has eased,
The stress has now been lifted
You are quietly at peace

So when you need some respite
From the turmoil in your day
The best therapy ever
Is out there eating hay!

Author unknown



BILL AND BEN - Two troublesome little men!

As HHO continue to take the less manageable donkey stallions on our behalf and keep them at the ‘Bold Boys Farm’ until they are ready for gelding, it was a special pleasure to be able to help out with the quiet fellows. Amongst these stallions were two almost white fellows who were relinquished by a lady in Roscommon who had been persuaded to look after them for a few weeks by a man of dubious character (look up Michael Harrington on the internet!) and was left with them over last winter.

Bill and Ben

Despite living in a mobile home and having almost no facilities for keeping equines this lady did her utmost to look after them but naturally enough couldn’t face into another winter when she already has three ponies of her own to fund.

Bill and Ben were reputedly very quiet, so I took the risk and brought them here to the Sai Sanctuary, only to have to move them post haste to the Bold Boys’ Farm at HHO when they discovered GIRLS and became instant demons.

We are used to donkeys behaving badly but when they start fighting and injuring each other it is time to re-evaluate and these two certainly slotted into this category!



The lads will be brought into line this autumn when they are gelded, after which they will be fostered out with a best friend (since the falling out over lady donkeys it is not absolutely guaranteed to be each other).



For more years than I care to remember Jean and her helpers have been fundraising in Cornwall, UK for many animal welfare organisations and regularly sending us donations of upwards of £100, sometimes several times a year which is an enormous boost to our funds. Here Jean, second from the right, is busy at a car boot sale in Rosudgeon.

Others continue to subscribe with standing orders, direct debits and unsolicited donations and most of the lovely people who visit the Sanctuary to see the donkeys pop money into our collection box in the ‘Information Hut’ – as a friend said recently it must be the smallest information centre in Ireland, but it serves its purpose to illustrate the desperate condition of many of the animals when they first arrive here– and why, unfortunately, there is a need for such places as the Sai Sanctuary.



We had an unusual and delightful privilege in May when we were asked to foster two pine marten kits for a few days until they could be transported to the Kildare Wildlife Sanctuary.

They were discovered in the eaves of a house when builders were replacing the roof and naturally, by the time the nest was inadvertently disturbed the damage had been done, the mother deserted them and the builders were left with the problem of sorting them out.

Credit due that they phoned the ISPCA who in turn contacted us and arranged for the wildlife sanctuary to talk to us about travel arrangements, which were undertaken a few days later by friend Greta, who was going as far as Port Laoise. She had hoped for some company on the journey but being nocturnal the little kits slept the whole way!


They were to be returned to the wild once able to fend for themselves. Apparently we can count ourselves lucky that they came to us with their eyes just open as they become easy to feed at this stage: earlier it is a two hour commitment, mostly through the night . . . we consider ourselves blessed.


Our 2015 Sathya Sai calendar is in its usual 13 in x 10.4 in (32.5 cms x 26 cms) format with a different photo for each month, each showing animals from the Sanctuary. They are selling at €10 or £10 each inc p& p.

Please order early to avoid disappointment. Thank you.







We have two styles of Christmas cards with envelopes, both measuring 6 x 4 inches (15 x 10mm). ‘The Donkey Family’ (below) comes in packs of 6 for €5 or £5 and have a glitter effect. They bear the greeting ‘Wishing you a magical Christmas and a Happy New Year‘.


'Snowbound’ can be bought individually in any quantity at €1 or £1 each. P & P included.

It has a message on the front ‘Greetings’ and is blank inside.














For those who prefer a more general card we have five different blank cards with envelope measuring 7 x 5 in (17.5 x 12.5 cms) at €2.50 or £2 each in cellophane cover. All include the words “We can do no great things, only small things with great love”. There is one 6 x 4 in blank card at €1 or £1 each.




With thanks to you all!

Sathya Sai Sanctuary Trust for Nature

Castlebaldwin, Co. Sligo, Ireland

00353 (0)861031932



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


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