Newsletter Spring 2008


We have two new donkey faces to greet our springtime visitors, both elderly mares, both relinquished, though from different homes, when their elderly owners were no longer able to look after them. DAISY is 41 years old and ESMERALDA around 25-30 years old.

Neither had been kept with other donkeys but both settled in admirably, Daisy with the main herd of “golden oldies” (though she can hold her own with most of the other donkeys too) and Esmeralda has made a special friend of Penny Biscuit, our little Shetland with a damaged foot.

This bonding was largely manipulated as Esmeralda arrived with such terribly foreshortened front hooves she was tip toeing on “ballet points”. Our farrier acted immediately to lower her heels so as to take some of the pressure off the bones inside the hooves, but it is essential for many months yet that Esmeralda is kept on soft land and deep bedding to protect what is left of her hooves while they regrow.

Esmeralda's hooves

Daisy Esmeralda

Daisy, 41 years and Esmeralda, 25-30 years


Undoubtedly this drastic trimming was well intentioned but for the immense discomfort it caused this little animal it is nothing short of criminal. We cannot repeat enough that hooves should ONLY ever be trimmed or shod by a qualified, registered farrier! At this stage we can only pray that lasting damage has not been inflicted on either the hooves or the joints of her front legs.


Derry was brought to the Sanctuary from Drumshanbo Mart. He was extremely emaciated, filthy with a felted, matted coat and obviously in pain from a very twisted spine. Priority after feeding was to have him attended to by an equine chiropractor which gave him small relief at first but has shown enormous improvements on successive treatments, so he is now able to move easily and has even started to play with a younger pony. He still needs some extra weight on his bones and will look a different pony when he loses his old winter coat.

Thanks go to Jill and Des who have fostered him throughout this period as he was too frail and damaged to be kept with our other horses and ponies.



Welfare case
Welfare case


We hope for a happy ending to Willow’s story. She was removed by the Gardai, on veterinary advice, from a saturated bogland area in bitter winter weather.

When we found her she was with three other horses, two very thin mares, not yet in immediate danger of collapse, and one dark bay filly who was skeletal, staggering and barely able to walk through malnutrition and cold (see below)

It was already dark but we contacted a vet and the Gardai immediately. Both acted speedily to have her and Willow removed early the next morning but to her loss someone informed the owner that the welfare people had been around so he removed this extremely sick filly overnight and subsequently denied she ever existed (we have photos!) Willow proved difficult to catch or she might have suffered the same fate but fortunately we were able to bring her to the Sanctuary where she is slowly transforming into a pretty but still nervous mare. Originally we all thought she was old but she is only about 12 years. Her teeth badly needed attention and her back and hips were sore: another candidate for successful chiropractic treatment! Her photos, taken only two months apart, tell their own story.

Willow now

Missing fillyMissing filly
The missing filly




The unfortunate filly has never been found but we live in hope that someone, somewhere, knows about her and will come forward with information of her whereabouts - if she survived.



A very aged donkey mare brought to us on the pretext of needing retirement care. We were told she had some difficulty getting to her feet on slippery surfaces but once up could walk and graze perfectly. She was delivered in a filthy cattle trailer late on a Sunday evening in January, lying down, unable to get up and unable to stand unaided. She was in renal failure and had pneumonia. Outraged at the ignorance and meanness of her owner, we made her as comfortable as possible for the night hoping against hope she was just exhausted from her journey. On veterinary advice she was euthanased the next morning. We hope her ex-owner enjoys the money he saved!



Now here’s a gentle giant! 16.3 hh Saxon joined us when his owner died unexpectedly in tragic circumstances. A one-time race horse he had been used for hacking for a number of years before his recent retirement at23 years of age. Soon after he arrived we noticed he dragged his hind legs when walking and didn’t seem comfortable standing for long periods without constantly shifting his weight, so once again David Focardi, our equine chiropractor got to work. After three treatments Saxon was passed fit for light hacking again. We are now searching for a loving, experienced and permanent foster home for him, which offers winter stabling, but be assured, we will keep VERY close contact with this wonderful horse. We regret not being able to keep such a lovely fellow permanently mooching around the yard!


Hezzy modelling a rug


During the very bad weather our older donkeys enjoy the extra warmth and waterproofing of a lightweight rug which keeps them warm and dry and which will reduce the amount of extra hard feed needed to provide the energy for them to keep themselves warm. Well fitting donkey rugs have always been hard to find but recently we have discovered that a few of the small pony rugs fit very well, even around the shoulders. These rugs are generally inexpensive and of immense value to aged donkeys or donkeys living out without a shed for shelter. Here Hezekiah models his pony rug which was obtained from Willowbrook Equestrian in Boyle., Co. Roscommon.



This is a highly controversial subject here in Ireland just now. Although the law has required all equines in transit to have an up to date passport since October 2004 , this has not always been enforced. Now, with an increasing awareness of the devastation that could be caused to our horse industry through the unwitting introduction of diseases such as equine infectious anaemia (swamp fever) , the Department of Agriculture and Food advises all horse and donkey owners to take the subject seriously. We recently attended a local Mart where the Department “spot-checked” for passports with the result that only 60 lots out of a possible 300-400 were allowed to be sold. Anyone without a passport was simply turned away! Donkeys and registered breeds of horses and ponies have to be micro chipped but mixed breeds need only a passport signed, stamped and with identification colours and markings drawn in by a veterinary surgeon. Contact the Irish Horse Board for information.




FRANKIE, now a more grown up Franklyn, has been fostered to a wonderful home with another pony and one of our donkeys, Jeremiah, who was fostered from us many years ago and has enjoyed a very privileged lifestyle since. Franklyn will be trained for driving as he is really too small for riding.

TAUS is enjoying a new life in an experienced foster home locally where she too has a few more privileges than we can offer her here, like her very own stable! Her front hooves have at last grown sufficient wall to take a lightweight shoe so with the addition of barrier boots for her rear hooves, it is hoped she will be able to enjoy some light riding suitable for an elderly but gracious lady. She was missing her horse friend Nancy who died in January at 30 years old, so she needed a new interest in life. So far she seems to be loving every minute!



Once again we are extremely grateful to the Minister of Agriculture, Mary Coughlan, who has acknowledged our work in the field of equine welfare with a donation of €10,000. With 36 horses, donkeys and ponies to look after plus our commitment to the education of the next generation of animal keepers, we will certainly put this money to excellent use.

We are indebted to many, many, people for their continued support and wish to extend thanks especially to Angela Baber who has volunteered hard work help with the mucking out every weekday morning since December - that’s real dedication! We extend thanks to Diane Keevans, Inge Trotsaweicki; Elke Behmel; Kim and John; Kean O’ Hara; Isolde; Lizzie C and Eileen G, Willowbrook Equestrian , and the family of the late Joan O’ Hara for asking for donations in lieu of flowers at Joan’s funeral. Joan’s donkey Jenny spent many years here and was a much loved character - just like her owner!

Unfortunately space doesn’t allow us to thank every deserving supporter but please KNOW your help is invaluable to our work. However, we should not forget our incredible Webmistress who continues to improve our website on a daily basis. Many of you will have enjoyed seeing on the website snow and fancy hats at Christmas, fireworks at New Year, floating, pulsing, hearts on St Valentines Day and shamrocks on St. Paddy’s Day ............whatever next? Keep in touch and see!

* From the Webmistress - Thanks Sue - It's just a little bit to support you and the Sanctuary. I love my time with you and all the Sanctuary residents but I live too far away to help with the everyday feeding, mucking out, sweeping, manure collecting, grooming, talking to visitors, answering phones and emails (on a very poor dial-up connection), dealing with the mail, the accounts, welfare calls and visiting outlying equines in various fields in the local area etc etc. How you manage it all, day after day, I just don't know!*

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