Newsletter Autumn 2019

It has been an eventful summer helped by the good weather of May, June and July which gave us the perfect combination of sunshine and rain to produce an unprecedented growth of grass. Coupled with an extra 30 acres of rough grazing land we are currently renting from an adjoining neighbour we were able to rest all the fields in turn which is not only hugely advantageous for parasite control but rewarded us with a spectacular display of wild flowers in the older meadows, much to the benefit of many forms of wildlife.

We had three foals born this summer, all to mares who came in pregnant. With so many unwanted equines already saturating the country we neither breed ourselves, nor encourage breeding, but sadly we have no control over the whims of others; some of whom find they only want a foal for the first few enchanting months of their lives before abandoning or selling them to an uncertain fate.

Oakley when found

Oakley, it seems, was just such a one, found abandoned in forestry in North Leitrim, entirely alone, malnourished and only around 6 months old.

Despite an extensive search of the c.100 acres of forestry by our welfare officers no sign was ever found of his mother or any other donkeys. There were, however, many carcasses of both donkeys and ponies/horses, some quite recent.

The situation was reported again to the Gardai who are familiar with the problem: in June 2018 we rescued Maple, a severely lame and undernourished elderly mare pony from the same area, together with several other donkey stallions and ponies who were taken in by the Pound.


Pony Eva and her foal Ash



Sadly, unless the people discarding these animals are caught red-handed there is little to be done though we are hopeful that our activities and continual monitoring of the area will discourage further dumping.

Happily, Oakley was found in time and after a good clean up, worming, de-lousing, hoof trim and regular feeding he began to improve, changing quickly from a terrified bundle of matted fur to an affectionate little man who loves attention. His growth is probably stunted: certainly he will not be a big fellow. He is not robust so lives with the smaller herd of older, damaged and very young donkeys where he has found a soulmate in Verity.



In the early hours of 1st June, a year almost to the day of her arrival at the Sanctuary, the beautiful Dawn gave birth to Verity.

We were doubly lucky: Dawn was rescued from a situation where she was the only mare with 4 donkey stallions and 4 pony stallions so we knew there was a good chance of her birthing a mule foal and of course a 50% chance of it being a male. So when Dawn presented us with a totally enchanting black filly donkey foal we were overjoyed.








Pony Eva and her foal Ash


Dawn is an excellent Mum being both attentive and careful of her offspring and generous of sharing her with their many admirers.

Dawn is the sweetest donkey you could meet. When busy working, sweeping the floors or poop-scooping, there will be a gentle nudge in the back and there is Dawn, big eyes pleading for a hug. No wonder Verity is growing up unafraid and delightfully cuddly.

She and Oakley soon became best buddies which has helped Oakley to grow in confidence and the pair of them are often to be found galloping around the field in an exuberant game of ‘tag’.




Pony Eva and her foal Ash When born to skewbald rescue pony Eva in the early hours of May 22nd 2019, Ash was the stunning silver grey of the Weimaraner breed of dog.

Appropriately named for her unusual colour by Sunday volunteer Isabella, Ash gradually changed to more of a black/brown colour which may change again next year when she loses her foal coat.

She is a tough little girl, curious but not particularly friendly as her mother Eva is afraid of people and tries to protect Ash from making contact. Ash has other ideas however – she has noticed the friendlier ponies get more treats and attention and she is not about to miss out! Already she is defying Mum’s reticence and squeezing between the other ponies for her share of goodies so we are sure she will become more tactile as she gets older.




When Shanti came to us from a derelict housing site just before last Christmas (see Spring Newsletter 2019) she was in such poor condition it never crossed our minds that she could be in foal but as the summer progressed she morphed into a gloriously glossy and rather round lady of almost 17hh until we had to accept there was definitely a baby on the way.

Saracen was born on 17th July, a big strong foal with splayed front legs that thankfully corrected themselves within a few hours of birth. We suspect his sire is a Clydesdale, a lovely mix with his registered thoroughbred dam. Saracen had a few problems with an infection in the first month of his life but recovered well.

Again we are blessed with Shanti’s kind and trusting nature as she allows us to handle Saracen easily whilst remaining attentive and protective herself. We don’t know if she has had previous foals but for an elderly Mum she is wonderful! It warms the heart to see her happily grazing while Saracen frolicks nearby.

Below: Shanti and the baby Saracen


Shanti and Saracen


Saracen Violet and Viola joined us in May from Temple House Hotel, Ballymote, Co. Sligo where as very shy donkeys they had failed to fulfill their intended role of ‘petting’ donkeys for the hotel guests. They are two very big grey mares, probably mother and daughter. The older of the two, Violet, is more friendly than the younger and larger Viola though both are easily distressed in human company. It is almost as if Violet is suspicious and warns Viola to stay a safe distance away.


At first glance they appeared to have been well cared for but their hooves told us a different story. Their feet were so overgrown they must have been painful and the stress on their tendons severe. (They were on an area of 80 acres so it is possible they could not be caught easily).


Master Farrier Brian Horohoe again came to our rescue to start the long process of repairing this neglect. Gradually they are gaining confidence with people since discovering that visitors often have delicious treats to share and it is a joy to see them becoming less afraid as time moves on. Though rarely found apart they have integrated with the herd to the point of interaction and grooming of other donkeys.


Brownie Bumble is a charming little Exmoor pony mare relinquished to us by an elderly man who felt he could no longer look after her. At c. 15 years old she was the perfect candidate for a foster home with friends of the Sanctuary who were looking for an older pony to keep company with their 20 year old Welsh pony mare who had recently lost her pony friend and was very unhappy on her own.

Brownie Bumble and Cherry Bomb


Any new friend would need to be easily handled, able to live out all year round and not require extra feeding in the winter as the bereaved pony, Cherry bomb, is laminitic.

Although BB ticked most boxes there were still problems as she was extremely nervous and highly strung, especially in the field when it was impossible to catch her or put on a headcollar and lead rope.




Her hooves were terribly overgrown too so it was a real gift when our farrier, Brian Horohoe, offered to take Brownie Bumble to his place and work with her alongside other ponies he was training. Within a few weeks BB was transformed: she is still easily upset but far more trusting and since meeting Cherry Bomb has become an altogether more settled, happy and loving little girl.

Thank you Brian for your skills and endless patience which has ensured a forever home for this misunderstood and lonely pony.


Merlin was relinquished in sad circumstances when her elderly owner died and the remaining family lived elsewhere so were not able to look after her. A family pony all her life, who had taught a generation of children how to ride, this beautiful 14.2hh piebald mare is now 22 years old, arthritic and needing the extra gentleness required by us all in old age.



She joined the bigger horses at the beginning of the summer and spends her time mostly with Johnny Rainbow and Pharoah, now both nearer to 30 than 20 years of age and the 2 year old Colombo.

She has always lived out so we hope she will thrive throughout the winter when provided with a good weatherproof rug and a field shelter, lots of grub and good company. She is a sweet girl, not overly tactile but easy to handle and deserving of a peaceful retirement.


Mr Ructions, so named for his resolute intention to destroy everything in his path from fences to sheep and dogs, arrived as an angry young stallion suffering from a severe ‘little man’ complex. Small he might be yet in his own eyes he was a mountain of a man with the long neck, fringed hairdo and haughty demeanour of a giant llama. He wanted to be friendly but didn’t know how, convinced as he was that everything in life was conspiring to contain and demean him. In short he was a problem, exacerbated by him sporting a large and uncomfortable looking sarcoid on his donkey manhood which meant we could not put him with other donkeys, not even the males, for the risk of injury or flies spreading the virus.

An emergency phone call to chief vet Lawrence at the Donkey Sanctuary in Co. Cork undoubtedly saved his life when Lawrence agreed to accept him into their hospital to be gelded and to remove the sarcoid with laser equipment, a procedure for which our regional vets lack the equipment.

Mr Ructions

Neil and Rebecca transported Mr Ructions to Liscarroll at the earliest opportunity where several sedations later he was forcibly transferred to his private quarters and with much careful handling eventually had his operations.

There is no question the poor lad was sore afterwards: he remained in the care of Lawrence and his excellent nursing staff for over two weeks and still had to be kept apart from the main herd for several weeks on his return to us, though after a few days Denver and Duncan joined him for company. Duncan is small lad feisty like himself and Denver a big, placid but authoritarian presence.




Fortunately Mr Ructions settled with their company until we could be certain he was sufficiently recovered to join the gang. Although he continued to try and pick a fight for a few days he quickly learned that he was outsized and outnumbered.

It is a tough road for him but he is learning social skills, making donkey friends and beginning to show signs of welcoming human contact. Underneath the bravado we are sure there is an affectionate little man who is already making his peace with whatever had caused his angry mistrust of the world.


Henry, when he arrived, couldn’t have been more different.

A 9 year old dark bay rather tubby gelding of average size, Henry exudes a gentle friendly charisma which guarantees he is everybody’s friend. As he needed to be transported to the vet the next day for microchipping, mark up and a tetanus booster, we left him, as we usually do, out on ‘the long acre’ overnight ie the driveway to the Sanctuary, with access to an open field, the garden and separate shed, where he could get to know the other donkeys and ponies across gates and fences without risk of chasing or bullying.

Mr McNulty, as our designated ‘meet and greet’ donkey for both new donkeys and human visitors took on the task of showing Henry around and to our delight the pair of them appear to be bonding.

As Mr Mac has never before singled out a special friend we are touched to see him enjoying Henry;s companionship. It may not be a lasting union but certainly it has eased Henry into his new situation: it is big change after all to go from being one of only two donkeys to becoming one of a herd.



Blue was relinquished for chasing cattle, a common ‘fault’ with donkeys, especially stallions, who probably mean no harm with their antics though the results can often end in injury to calves and cattle chased through fences and into ditches.

He is a strong, handsome, light grey/brown stallion with the stripey legs often found with this colour.


Once again vet Lawrence O’Sullivan offered to geld him at The Donkey Sanctuary.

This is hugely helpful to us as otherwise, without the necessary hospital facilities where he can be operated on indoors away from flies and the inevitable risk of infection, we would have to wait until late September or October before we could operate here, after the flies have gone for the year and before the risk of frost which could damage the tender membranes of the wound and cause complications in healing. As it is Blue will be free to join the gang by the end of October if not before, thereby terminating his lonely exile.


As always we stress the importance of castrating stallions as soon as possible, while they are still young and the operation is nowhere near as hard on them as it is for a mature stallion. The sooner it is done the less chance there is of yet more unwanted foals arriving in a country already saturated with abandoned and abused equines of all ages and sizes. Foals are cute: no one denies that, but unless you are prepared and able to give them a home forever – which can be up to 50 years in donkey terms – PLEASE be responsible. Do NOT breed.



Late in August a routine check on the forestry at Drumcondra alerted the welfare team to yet another pony in distress and with clearance from the Gardai Hickory was brought home to the Sanctuary.

At only just one year old this little trotting pony colt had a well worn set of shoes and noticeable harness scars, plus several other bite marks, probably where he had been bullied by other horses. He was thin, severely dehydrated, scouring badly and very depressed so the first few days were a struggle to persuade him that life could be worth living after all.

Thanks to the constant care from Neil and Rebecca, he is now showing improvement even to a hint of ‘attitude’ which gives us reason to hope.



REHOMINGSLuke and Ambrose

It is never easy to part with our charges even when offered excellent foster homes but it is an essential part of the work if we are to make space to help other unfortunates.

Most donkeys and ponies benefit from the extra love and attention they receive in a foster home, often with the chance for experiences like being taken for walks, on picnics etc, which are denied them here due to lack of manpower.

Right: Luke and Ambrose


As such we were lucky this summer to be offered some excellent foster homes. First to leave were Luke and Ambrose, two smallish donkey geldings who have both lived previously with horses, an important factor as their new job is to companion Buddy, a lonely piebald horse gelding of 15hh. At first the donkeys found Buddy’s enthusiasm for company a little overwhelming but by the end of the day they were all hanging out together and grazing. Now it is rare to find them apart.

Jethro and D'Arcy

Shortly afterwards Tigger left to join two lovely ladies who had one lonely, and very upset, recently bereaved donkey.

Finding just the right donkey to accompany another in these circumstancesis not always strightforward: too bold a new donkey can take over and become a bully: too shy and there is no interaction with the original donkey who is pining. A big difference in size can bean issue whereas often a donkey of similar size and colour will be accepted more easily.

In this case Tigger made the choice himself, latching onto the two ladies and practically demanding to go with them. His instincts proved correct as he and donkey Clive bonded immediately. Tigger is delighted with all the extra attention he gets as one of two instead of one of 67 and the two ladies are over the moon to have happy long-eared friends again. We wish them many years together.





Shanbo fulfilled a similar role to companion a recently bereaved donkey.

He is a very 'laid back' little character who always seems happy to slot into whatever life requires of him. He loves adult people, children and other animals but had no special friend so once again everyone was pleased when he bonded with his prospective fosterers and settled down immediately in his new home with his new friend.

Jethro and D'Arcy




Jethro and D'Arcy joined a family near Ballyhaunis, fulfilling a lifelong ambition to have donkeys as pets.

They have other anmals as company including a horse also named D'Arcy so it is likely our boy will have to undergo a name change! With the extra love and attention being showered on him by his doting new family we don't think he will have a problem with that!

Left: Jethro and D'Arcy


Jethro and D'Arcy



Right: Belinda

Belinda joined another of our long term foster donkey mares called Emintrude who has companioned Lady donkey for the past 8 years. When Lady died recently of old age Ermintrude was lost without a friend so hopefully she and Belinda will get along together in this lovely home where they receive loads of attention. They are both circa 20 years old and prefer being in a pair istead of a larger herd.



Sasha with Eva

, a miniature Shetland pony mare and Trigger a standard Shetland gelding were welcomed into the same family as Belinda but one generation younger.

Left: Sasha

Below: Trigger

Jethro and D'Arcy




Although we would not normally recommend Shetland ponies for young children this family is experienced with horses and already owns two draft cobs. They are aware of the feisty nature of the little ones like Sasha who is a Madam with a capital 'M'. Sometimes it seems the smaller they are the more of a handful they can be though we expect no such problems with the laid back Trigger who asks for little more than food, shelter and lots of love.



We have also had our losses with dear Jessica, an aged donkey mare early in the year and more recently Candles, Fairy Snow and Molly.

Jessica Jessica had been one of the ‘golden oldies’ group almost since her arrival so her passing was not altogether unexpected but greeted with sadness all the same. She was a shy but very kind girl with the most compellingly expressive eyes!


Left: Jessica


Right: Candles


Candles was a little miracle in that she lasted many more years than we could have anticipated given the sad state of her hooves when she arrived so many years ago with chronic laminitis, exacerbated by a neglect to trim.




She had not had a serious laminitic attack for several summers but with the extraordinary grass growth this year she had a major relapse despite all our best attentions. Laminitis is an incredibly painful condition which manifests with crippling results in the hooves. It cannot be cured but it can be managed though ultimately, as in Candles’ case, it cost her her ability for free movement and rendered her in constant severe pain. It was time to let her go…..she is remembered on a plaque in the field made and erected by Evie, a devoted Candles lover from Holland.


Fairy Snow and Charlie
Fairy Snow, a 14hh albino mare and a favourite with visitors, suffered, as do many albinos with skin melanomas, mostly growing under and around the base of her tail though latterly they had started cropping up all over her body.

Once the melanomas had grown to the extent they prevented her from laying her tail flat and were threatening even her basic function of passing her manure, we made the tough decision to put her to sleep before she became too distressed.

It is never an easy choice: we thank our vet Sabine Conboy for the efficient yet kind way she handled an unpleasant situation for us all especially Fairy.


Left: Fairy Snow with best friend, the 31 year old Charlie


Right: Molly


The beautiful Molly made her own decision to leave apparently passing in the early hours of an August morning without pre-amble or struggle. We found her soon after dawn, apparently sound asleep in the field: it was only the behaviour of the other ponies in her group that alerted us to a closer investigation which revealed she was on a longer journey than a good night’s sleep.

Molly, like Candles, was a chronic laminitic though we have no cause to suspect this was implementary in her passing.


All four animals had the sort of problems that would have resulted in them either dying alone in agony, or being euthanased many years before, had we not been given the chance to offer some extra good quality years here at the Sanctuary. For that we feel greatly privileged. They were all beautiful souls who gave nothing but love and gratitude in return for this care.



Raffle at Beltra Craft Fair

Our thanks go to Janine Feldmann who came up with a novel prize for a raffle which he held over a number of weeks at the Sunday Beltra Craft Market. This was a book featuring the image of the Irish Claddagh made from cutting and folding the pages of the book: the image appeared as a concertina within the hard covers of the book. This is an extraordinary skill to produce a unique and desirable artefact for safe keeping. Such was the enthusiasm for the raffle that Janine raised the extraordinary amount of €320 despite the ticket price being more than reasonable. Thank you so very much Janine!

Secret Gardens

We also offer thanks and appreciation to Howard and Maeve Preston of Ballinful, Co. Sligo for once again including us in the funds gathered from opening their beautiful garden on the Secret Gardens weekends throughout the season. Only gardeners can really understand the work and dedication that goes into creating and maintaining a garden of such beauty—then to have the generosity to let others enjoy it too— ! …..and then donate an awesome €353 to the donkeys and ponies!

OTHER THANKS go as always to our faithful band of volunteer helpers including Gail and Stewart, Neil and Rebecca, Sasha, Geraldine, Cathy and her two children Isabella and Jude, Ilena and her two girls and many others who have cheerfully oiled the wheels for another year. The winter months herald our greatest need for extra help, especially in the mornings when the feeding and mucking out becomes arduous through the long dark days, and again for the second mucking around 4-5pm in the afternoons, so any other willing assistants would be very much welcomed.

Enormous thanks go to Sean Keyes for his generous donation of round bales of haylage and to Des for the promise of more haylage later in the winter should we need them. To have this sort of back up and support is amazing!

In April we appreciated help from Sybille and Rainer from Germany who joined us specifically to help in any way they could for a week. Despite working from a wheelchair Sybille proved herself a stout groomer of donkeys and painter of everything she could reach – and some she couldn’t but somehow did! – and Rainer turned his hand to everything from routine mucking to demolishing an outworn field shelter ready for rebuilding. Fortunately, although cool the weather remained dry so we didn’t have to follow Sybille around with an outsize umbrella. Thank you guys, you were amazing.

Right: Sybille and Rainer



With regret we are breaking from tradition this year in that we are not selling or supplying Christmas cards. Sales have been tailing off over the last few years, due in part to the modern preference for e-cards and social media messages, until it has become too expensive to produce the small number we can realistically expect to sell. We still have a few of last year’s designs for anyone who would like them and definitely wish to thank everyone who has supported these sales over the many years of their production.

Enjoy your winter!

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