Newsletter Autumn 2017

It has, thankfully, been a productive summer with enough dry weather early in the year to allow us to catch up on last year's jobs and add a few new improvements alongside. First on the list was to clean, lay webbing and gravel a roadway from the donkey sheds across our own field to our neighbour's rented field as this is an area in constant use which becomes a quagmire in wet and wintry weather. In time it will grow over with grass but will still retain its hard, dry surface on which animals, humans and machinery can travel without being bogged down.

The new roadway

Similarly we cleaned off the old road which leads from the gateway of the ‘pony field' (where the manure sheds, big haybarn and pony shelter stand) right up through the next gateway to the top of the hill where our own land meets the mountain land.

Here we have access to c. 30 acres of rush and bogland, partly wooded with scrub and heather, ideal for the native ponies in the summer and during a dry winter but treacherous in consistently wet weather.


At this junction we hung a gate and again cleaned the area of excess soil and laid road webbing and plenty of gravel to make a safe, dry gateway. We also created proper access with hanging gate at the end of the ‘ring fort field' onto to the hill land. A road which is part of the Historic Walk was cleaned off, two consistently wet areas in different fields were dug out to create ponds with safe access from which animals can drink and other dirty areas were cleaned and gravelled – all in the hopes of a cleaner winter!

Large stretches of fencing were in dire need of repair both at the Sanctuary itself, at Corrig in Ballinafad and on rented land just down the road. This was a mega-job undertaken by professional fencer Dominic Frizzell and we are relieved to know our boundaries are safe and secure once again. Dominic also made a gateway and hung a new gate through the shelter belt between the ‘pony field' and the adjacent ‘ring fort field' so now we are able to move stock between all our fields without having to bring them out onto the road at all, a great comfort especially when dealing with naughty ponies and mischievous donkeys looking for any excuse to create a diversion!

The new concrete pad for winter feeding

Animal lover and long time supporter of the Sanctuary Declan Wilson, agreed to lay us a concrete pad in the ‘pony field', opposite the big haybarn, where we can out-feed the horses in the winter months, using a haybell placed over a round bale of hay or haylage. The pad measures approximately 10m x 7m and means the horses can feed without standing in the mud all the time and it provides us with an area that is infinitely easier to clean than the previously existing rough gravel. As a professional builder Declan does not usually undertake jobs of this nature, so we are more than grateful to him for sorting out this rather daunting (to us) task.

The prepared pad awaiting a dry day for concreting

Adjacent to this pad is a small raised area of waste land made up from the mixed soil and stone which was excavated at the time the big haybarn was built. As it is unlikely ever to grow decent grass we have fenced it off and planted trees to give extra shelter (eventually) to all the sheds and feeding area.

And talking of trees, we managed to root out all the dead and damaged trees and branches from the donkey-damaged shelter belt ( see 2017 Spring Newsletter ), generally clean up the area and re-fence the entire length so it is once again secure against unwanted donkey administrations. The shelter belt itself has been reduced to a windbreak as all the underlying shelter has been destroyed, though we hope to underplant a few shade tolerant bushes in the winter and hope it will thicken up again naturally in due course.

Manure spreader


Our last major expenses of the year have been the purchase of a second hand side slinger manure spreader in very good order with new tyres and chains. Sadly it didn't arrive until after all the glorious warm dry weather had gone, when conditions were ideal for spreading the manure, but at least now we can choose our moments and get the stuff out whenever the weather allows, instead of having to rely on farm services.



Then, thanks to a substantial donation from someone who wishes to remain anonymous, we were able once again to upgrade our tractor to a 4 wheel drive machine which will be able to do all our work including pulling the manure spreader when the land is too wet to venture forth with a 2 wheel drive. This is of massive benefit to us and we cannot express our gratitude for the donation which made this possible.



Infection caused by embedded wire

It has also been an extraordinarily busy year with stock as the numbers of unwanted an abandoned animals continues to escalate, a situation exacerbated when we brought in ten donkeys from one farm in Keadue, Co. Roscommon where they were on the ANC Scheme – a Scheme run by the Department of Agriculture which allows farmers in certain circumstances to keep a calculated number of donkeys in lieu of cattle when their bovine stocking rate is not high enough for the acreage farmed.

Sadly many farmers on this scheme are unaware of the special needs of donkeys and treat them as cattle, often leaving them out in all weathers without shelter, and even more commonly, neglecting to trim their hooves.

In this case, in spite of every attempt being made to educate the farmer about the needs of donkeys, none of them had had their hooves trimmed for two years or more (they should be trimmed every 8-10 weeks) and without exception were barely able to walk on what simulated 'clowns' slippers.

Some of them had hoof infections; all had seriously overgrown and twisted hooves and one beautiful mare had a double row of wire, with knot, embedded deeply inside one of her back legs just above the hoof. The farmer claimed he had been bathing the wound with salt water but did not see it warranted the expense of veterinary advice!


x-ray of embedded wire

Obviously a wound that refuses to heal over a lengthy period has complications: it was badly infected and extremely painful. We took xrays immediately so our vets knew what they working with, then they operated to remove the wire, an exercise that was easier said than done as the wire was so deeply embedded it was extremely difficult to remove.


embedded wire after removal

From the amount of proud flesh that had grown over the wound they estimated the injury was a great deal older than the farmer's assessment of ‘two months'!

Fortunately the mare responded well to treatment and healed quickly. She is no longer lame but will always bear the scar. But it would make your teeth fur up to think of the pain she suffered.


Others in this group included 5 of our own donkeys and 4 from HungryHorseOutside which had been fostered in good faith (although admittedly against our better judgement) to this farmer. We should have trusted our instincts as we both lost donkeys which ‘died in a drain'. We were not informed at the time and but for our homechecks when we realised the numbers no longer added up, we probably would not have found out.

Consequently we will no longer foster donkeys to anyone wishing to place them on the ANC Scheme unless or until there is a mandatory national education program, re: the care of donkeys, put in place before farmers are allowed to keep donkeys for payment. This is not the first time we have come across such cases and whilst there are many farmers who care about their animals and look after them well, there are, unfortunately, plenty of others who would never consider keeping donkeys at all if it were not for the money.



Most of the other donkeys taken in this summer are stallions. Three we were able to geld early in the year and they were placed almost immediately into foster homes locally. Another elderly fellow and two young stallions, all abandoned, were taken in through the Pound once they were well enough to travel and were consequently accepted by The Donkey Sanctuary in Co.Cork who arranged for their gelding operations.



Left: George, an aged stallion who needed a hospital castration.

Below: Two timid young donkeys who stayed with us until their condition had improved sufficiently to allow the journey to Cork.

All three were accepted by The Donkey Sanctuary for gelding and rehoming and are now safe and doing well.


Timid donkeys









A pretty but quite bold young stallion donkey fell on his hooves when he was taken in by a couple currently living in Wicklow but in the process of moving to Co. Sligo by March of next year. As they had nowhere to keep STEPHEN we agreed to take him, have him microchipped, passported and gelded and look after him for the winter (the couple are covering his expenses).


Stephen's first days here were busier than expected as despite keeping him separately, well away from the mares, he somehow managed to break out and lure 14 of our girls to his patch! Thanks to veterinary intervention we are spared the possibility of 14 more foals but it was none the less a Godsend when another older and very quiet stallion donkey called Duncan arrived, as with a companion Stephen settled down and stayed within his own boundaries.




Right: DUNCAN was abandoned along a river bank where he was befriended by a couple living on one of the boats nearby but as they had no land on which to keep him they asked us to help.

We were warned that Duncan seemed to have a skin condition which turned out to be very severe ‘sweetitch' – an allergy to midge bites (there is nothing ‘sweet' about it, being extremely irritating, sore, and in Duncan's case, heavily infected).



Our vet prescribed anti inflammatories and antibiotics and we washed and dressed him with Bio wash and cream until he healed. To keep the midges and other insects from pestering him we administered a spot-on treatment called EquiSpot which was developed in Canada to protect against blackflies and is certainly a match for the insistent Irish midge.

As Duncan is around 8-12 years old – unquestionably a mature stallion - the castration operation would be severe on him so we were grateful when the
Donkey Sanctuary of Co. Cork agreed to operate in their hospital environment.

Bold boy Stephen went along for company at the beginning of September, as it meant he also could be done immediately instead of us having to wait until the end of September or October when the flies have gone – and goodness knows what mischief he could get into in that time! Happily both lads are fine and will soon be able to integrate with the other donkeys and lead a more sociable life. Duncan was immensely popular at the DS with his gentle and mannerly ways!



Other intakes include two little mules, one bay mare called JOSIE who is friendly and very sweet natured, the other a foal who came through HHO as abandoned with some ponies. Because of his diminutive size we called him HOBBIT.

Hobbit with Bene and GuinnessLeft: the Hobbit with friends Bene and Guinness

Below right: Josie

He was so depressed and miserable we decided to try him with Josie, as one of his own, but it seems he prefers the company of the Shetland ponies and has befriended an older chestnut called Bene.









He remains shy but is obviously a much happier little man now he has ‘someone special' and as all the ponies and Josie are friendly we hope he will gain confidence very soon. .



SALLY a 16.2hh thoroughbred ex racehorse joined us in the Spring as her elderly owner had died. She and Johnny Rainbow spend most of their time together though unfortunately Sally is a ‘wind sucker', which is nasty habit usually acquired by bored, over-stabled horses whereby the horse will grab a post, stable door or such like and suck in air.

Some research suggests they do it because they have digestive problems (quite possible with the high grain diet of most race horses) and others claim it causes digestive problems. It is also generally accepted that other horses will copy the behaviour though we have seen no evidence of this and have actually had wind suckers before who eventually gave up the habit altogether. Obviously we hope this will be the case with Sally.



BRUCE came to us as a two year old stallion on a temporary basis with wounds on his back which refused to heal. His owner was concerned that his other two donkeys were making matters worse by ‘playing rough' and biting him on the back. Bruce was extremely timid so the first priority was to gain his confidence so he was happier with people and consequently whatever treatment had to be administered, which included getting him gelded.

Bruce with bandage








This, as it happened was the easy part of the job as he soon became a ‘pocket' donkey, always eager for fuss and attention from most people, but his back remained a stubborn problem, healing to within a few millimetres and then breaking out again.

Our vet concluded he has some kind of fungal infection which is responding to treatment slowly though we are by no means confident it is completely cured even now. The hair has grown back over most of the affected area and it is no longer sore to the touch so we continue treatment and live in hope for a completely recovery. He is a dear little man, nervous by nature but so willing to be friends when given the opportunity.





ZARA arrived through similar circumstances but with a hoof problem. She had been taken in when found, severely lame, wandering on the road but her new owner needed someone to look after her as he was committed to a month's holiday in Australia which had been arranged long before Zara came on the scene.

At the moment Zara is chilling out with Mr McNulty, Beth and Roki.

Later in the year when we were really bursting at the seams Danny Curran from the Donegal Donkey Sanctuary helped us out by taking the next eight unwanted donkeys from us; which gave us breathing space to complete some of our fostering arrangements. Danny had hit hard times financially earlier in the year but thanks to the generosity of all the wonderful people who supported his online ‘Go Funding' enterprise, he was able to rescue the situation and continue his valuable work in north Co. Donegal.





Our summer rehoming has been slow although we now have several possible foster homes in the pipe line for both donkeys and ponies.

Two older sibling donkeys, LEONIE and LESTER , were very fortunate to find themselves picked for a 5 star forever home in southern Germany where they were badly needed as company for an older donkey mare who had recently lost her lifelong mate and was pining badly.







Transport was arranged through HungryHorseOutside who regularly home horses and ponies into Germany, Sweden and Finland so are familiar with the procedure and have experienced professional drivers.

Naturally we were anxious about the long journey but both donkeys travelled well and settled quickly in their new home. Leonie (left) arrived with a bit of a cold but quickly recovered with loving help from her new owner Daniella.

Hopefully they will spend many happy years being adored by their new family and friends, which include horses, ponies, dogs, goats and children, in a climate better suited to their needs than in Ireland.

Two very pretty skewbald Shetland ponies were fostered locally into an excellent situation where they will be cared for by their young owners, overseen by Dad, who is a vet. Provided the ultimate responsibility is undertaken by a knowledgeable adult we believe children can learn a great deal from having to be responsible for animals, to care for them properly and understand their needs, whatever the weather or other commitments and we have no doubt these two ponies will have a great life in this very animal oriented family.













They were both very timid when they first arrived from HHO along with five other Shetlands, all needing time and space to chill out and recover from their individual traumas but after the summer up on the hill, being visited and fussed everyday by ourselves and given frequent attention and titbits by neighbouring children, they soon became friendly and interested in being around people. We believe the girl (left) has been named BELLE and the little boy (right) BENDY, by their new young owners.

We were lucky to place two more Shetland ponies from Hungry Horse Outside, a mare and a gelding called TOTTIE and FELIM, into a foster home near the seaside where they are doing a great job entertaining the neighbour's children as well as the fosterer's own grandchildren.

This home ideally preferred two donkeys but conceded their land was not suitable as although it has loads of natural shelter suitable for Shetland ponies, it has no shed or area of permanent hard standing essential for the long term keeping of donkeys. Shetland ponies grow a waterproof winter coat of anything up to 13cms thick and have tough, hardy little hooves which generally only require trimming 2 or 3 times a year: donkeys do grow a thicker winter coat of up to 5cms in length but have no waterproofing and as they originate from desert areas their hooves are totally unsuited to our wet, soft and often boggy land, so consequently require trimming regularly every 8-10 weeks.




While all this was going on Sue once again had to spend a couple of weeks in hospital having her third and hopefully last operation, leaving the running of the Sanctuary in the capable hands of volunteer Neil (centre), part-time employee Rebecca (left), Tus Scheme worker Aisling (right), regular volunteer Geraldine and a few other volunteers who help out when they can.

Given the very wet spell over this period this entailed daily muck outs of the big sheds along with the regular feeding and medication of some of the donkeys and a great deal of fetching and delivering of animals to and from different grazing areas, new homes and helping out with collections for the Pound at HHO, Newtown Forbes, Co. Longford – a tall order for a small group of people who rose to the challenge and are, yet again, to be congratulated for keeping the place immaculate and running like clockwork.

A huge ‘Thank you' to you all.





Trojan Battery Company Ltd volunteers


Local supporters from The Trojan Battery Company Ltd, Sligo IT College, are also to be thanked for a special full day's work volunteered by three of their group who came to help dig out and carry out a great deal of rubbish that we inherited on the hill land which is now available to us for rough grazing.

It was dirty, heavy work though thankfully the day was dry and warm and their claim to have enjoyed every minute of the exercise has since been supported by their ‘adopting' a donkey with a collected donation of €150.

Bless you guys – you are stars! The help was invaluable in reducing several days' work to one.

Right: The volunteers being inspected by Rufus





Financially you, our supporters, have been outstanding in this last year with many very generous donations and three outstanding and substantial contributions which will allow for further improvements and expansion as the opportunity arises.

We cannot begin to express our gratitude – the words are just not sufficient! – but please do be aware that we can do NOTHING without your support. We may constitute the wheels of the organisation but YOU are the engine that drives the wheels.

Often people say to us “I wish I could do more” when what they are doing by donating so consistently and generously is actively keeping the Sanctuary running which in turn makes it possible for us to help the animals that come to our attention.

Again, those two inadequate little words ‘Thank you' are poor recognition and we can only reward your kindness by continuing our dedicated commitment to help equines of all ages, sizes and states of health to the very best of our ability.



Our thanks goes to Joost, who despite his 81 years, set about designing and making a set of new wooden gates to replace the now well rusted and almost useless metal ones which separate the bottom yard from the small sand area just outside the big donkey sheds.

New sandpit gates

Above: the first big new gate in situ

This was an impressive undertaking which smartened up the yard considerably. We have spoken severely to all the donkeys NOT to chew on them though I doubt they will all listen when it comes to long, wet, boring days in winter which seem to encourage their most destructive tendencies. . . but for now, they look magnificent!




ARABELLA and JAGO (right) provided a mutually convenient service over the latter weeks of the summer by grazing a couple of overgrown fields for friends of the Sanctuary: they are home again now looking nicely rotund from having so much grub all to themselves and their ‘sponsors' are happy with their new tidy fields.


Cherokee and Lyric




Likewise we say thanks to Sandy and Declan who offered to take ponies Cherokee and her daughter, Lyric, (left) as company for another large horse we were asked to help who was in need of grazing while his own area of grass recovered for the winter.

In both cases the animals were watered and checked several times a day on our behalf, essential for us as we do not have the manpower to be driving distances daily to be checking on them ourselves. Thank you all.





This year's Donkey Day at the Museum of Country Life near Castlebar, Co Mayo, was again attended by Neil and Rebecca while Sue was in hospital. They took along Bruce, (right) shown here modelling his colourful headband, and Luna with her friend Anastasia, the choice of donkeys being to highlight some of the problems common to donkeys.

In Bruce's case this was his chronic skin condition and in Luna's case the removal of wire from one of her back legs. Photos of the process of treatment and healing plus, in Luna's case, the actual pieces of wire themselves brought the problems into focus and caused a great deal of interest, hopefully raising awareness.

Sometimes we wonder if such occasions do have an impact on people but from the amount of comments we have received since, especially about the donkeys' colourful bandanas (lovingly crocheted by a friend) we have to assume they do!

Once again we thank our hosts at the Museum and also the stalwart Beryl Knell, to whom the organisational tasks usually fall, this year being no exception. It is a great deal of work and hassle which we very much appreciate.




On the rare occasions we receive a legacy in someone's Will we always have mixed feelings: sadness at their passing of course, especially if they have been long term supporters of our work, mixed with immense gratitude for a solid sum of money which generally allows us to move forward in a productive way.

Recently we were very much taken by surprise when we received what is to us a substantial legacy from an unexpected quarter. We are not about to mention names, (not having permission to do so) but none the less wish to express our enormous appreciation of the trust put in us to use this money for the direct benefit of the horses, ponies, donkeys, mules and occasional ‘other' who come into our care with continued commitment and dedication. Thank you.


Now, repeated by popular request:

The Donkey

I saw a donkey, one day old
His head was too big for his neck to holdFoal

His legs were shaky and long and loose
They rocked and staggered and weren't much use

He tried to gambol and frisk a bit
But he wasn't quite sure of the trick of it

His queer little coat was soft and grey
And curled at his neck in a lovely way

His face was wistful and left no doubt
That he felt life needed some thinking about

So he blundered round in venturesome quest
And then lay flat on the ground to rest

He looked so little and weak and slim
I prayed the world might be good to him




CHRISTMAS CARDS AND CALENDAR (These may have sold out)

We are pleased to be able to offer two new Christmas card designs in our usual 6 x 4 inch (15 x 10cms) format selling at £1 sterling or €1 each with envelope.

Christmas cardChristmas card


Both cards have Christmas greetings on the front and a brief resume of our work on the back page and the inside is left blank for your own Christmas message.




We also offer a beautiful one photo a month calendar ( a glimpse shown here) which will make a stunning gift whilst helping the animals at the same time. These are selling for €12 each including p&p and will make an enviable addition to anyone's Christmas present list. Please contact us direct for purchasing. (The calendar may now be sold out)











Thank you and Happy Christmas with a wonderful and fulfilling New Year to follow






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