Newsletter Spring 2009

As we finally pull through a long, tough winter it will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that there has been a huge increase in welfare calls for hungry, starving and abandoned equines, particularly thoroughbred horses.


Mr Horse joined us shortly before Christmas following a call from a distressed person who had found him, in pain and barely able to walk, trying to graze the grass verge of a public road where he had been abandoned. He was pitifully thin with ribs, hips and backbone all prominently showing, severe rain scald and a badly injured eye which was swollen closed with infection and weeping pus.

Welfare case Welfare case

Mr Horse looking pityfully thin and his badly injured eye

Welfare case

Mr Horse in late April 2009

As it was coming on for dark and the roads were frosty we had to act quickly and we are indebted to two young men from the neighbourhood who helped to load him into our horsebox. A subsequent search for an owner met a dead end - no surprises there! Veterinary inspection places Mr Horse at around 17 years of age, not a youngster but by no means at the end of his useful life. Medical attention was essential for the first few days of his stay at the Sanctuary but once his eye began to heal Mr Horse made it quite clear that he wanted to be out grazing rather than stuck in a stable trying to eat hay which he couldn’t chew properly. Although his teeth needed rasping his face was too sore for him to tolerate dentistry at the time, so he spent the next two months, courtesy of our neighbours who had plenty of grass, well rugged up and eating to his heart’s content all day and stabled only at night. His damaged eye needed constant nursing but by mid February it was completely healed though it remains permanently sight-impaired. The first phase of dentistry work was also carried out in February but it was not until later when power work levelled the “tables” that he was able to chew normally. We look forward to watching him gain weight and grow a new glossy coat throughout the summer.


Angela with Mr McNulty

This beautiful donkey came to us in October to be looked after during the winter as his elderly owner was too crippled with arthritis to manage the feeding and cleaning on a regular basis. We were deeply touched to be trusted with his care as it was obvious from the outset that master and donkey had a very special bonding: there were tears in the old man’s eyes as we loaded the donkey and drove him away. To our consternation Abraham McNulty pined for his owner too, refusing to eat and showing little interest in either his surroundings or the other donkeys.

Despite hand feeding, tempting with endless tasty tit-bits and loads of hands-on attention, he continued to lose weight until we were afraid we might lose him altogether, then, suddenly, at the point when we feared we would have to contact his owner and get the two of them back together, McNulty turned the corner and began to improve. He made friends with many of the donkeys, particularly Little Nel and Esmeralda and is now a very happy, cuddly fellow who pushes in for his food and greets us with a loud bray just like the other donkeys in our care. Sadly we learned much later that his owner had died mid-December, about the time McNulty decided to start eating and get better. Did he know his owner had died or is this just a coincidence? We will never know.


Dancer and Nipper

These two young donkeys were relinquished to us when their family outgrew them: the children went off to University and the parents felt the donkeys needed more attention than they were able to give them.

As they were healthy donkeys in need of nothing more than a trim of their hooves (the family had been having difficulty obtaining the services of a farrier for some time) they were quickly placed in a wonderful foster home with a family in Co. Wicklow who are also involved with equine rescue and rehabilitation, so although they are far away, we get regular bulletins on their new life. We have no doubt they are having a fine time in their foster home!



One of many calls to apparently abandoned animals concerned “Brownie”, a small Shetland type pony who was left tethered on a 20 acre bog in North Sligo area. The pony had plenty of rough grazing and water in the ditches and was in relatively good condition. Whoever owned him, however, showed little interest in moving his tether and it was apparent from the heavily eaten down circular areas we found that the pony had been straining at the end of his rope for many days at a time, trying to eat grass that was out of reach. The result was a series of deep wounds across his nose where first a rope, and later a head collar, had worked its way into the flesh causing infection, swelling and suppuration.

Initially he was reported to our County Vet who asked for our assistance to bring him into care and nurse his wounds but the day we arrived to collect him someone had already removed the rope and head collar and Brownie was making very sure he was not going to be caught again! It must have hurt having the harness torn from the wounds and he didn’t want a repeat experience. Friends who lived nearby agreed to feed the little fellow on a daily basis until he could be petted, which they did with great success. Then the day before we went to bring him into Sanctuary care, he disappeared. Neighbours reported seeing a 4-wheel drive and horsebox in the area but could offer no further information. We just hope whoever has him now realises the damage caused through careless husbandry and learn from these mistakes.


We have become so busy with visitors over the past few years that it is with regret we have to restrict our opening hours in order to allow time to continue our welfare work efficiently. This year we will only be open to casual callers from :

1st April - 31st October

Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays 10.30am - 4pm

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday by prior arrangement (tel or text 0861031932)

Closed all day Monday and Tuesday

We understand this is a disappointment to the many regular callers who are used to coming at any time but with only a small volunteer staff covering a large area (Counties Sligo, Mayo, Leitrim, Roscommon and South Donegal ) and an ever increasing number of equines in trouble, we feel the above is in the best interests of both visitors and equines. Obviously we will always do our best to accommodate anyone who is only in the area for a limited period of time - just give us a call and see how we are fixed! However, we are sure you will agree the animals must come first.

Several welfare cases brought to our notice this winter have involved such quantities of horses and ponies that it has been impossible for a small (and not wealthy!) charity like ourselves to accommodate them all at the Sanctuary and in these cases we are indebted to both our County Vet and to the IHWT and the ISPCA for giving support and even taking on the problem entirely in some cases. It is important we all work together for the benefit of these misplaced animals who are left to suffer through no fault of their own and it is a credit to the bigger charities that they are so willing to help out.


We have an enormous list of thank-you’s this time, especially given that everyone is feeling the financial pinch this year. Particular thanks go to Kean O’Hara for a tonne of Cool and Easy feed; Willowbrook Equestrian Supplies for their Christmas Horseshoe Appeal, raffles and sale of Christmas cards; Diane Keevans and Steve Furlong for selling Xmas Cards and holding a collection in Londis SuperValue, Ballymote, Co. Sligo, during March, in which they raised over €1023.00, Inge and Elke, Helen Cafferty, Joy Brett and the girls of Ballymote P.O. for selling Christmas cards; Marlene de Jongh who converted the abundance of her Bramley apple tree into a very fine apple sauce which she sold to friends and colleagues, raising in excess of €500!

Our webmistress Katie deserves a real pat on the back for the wonderful on-line Advent Christmas Card, snow effects for Christmas and amazing firework display for New Year (look under ‘Extras’ on our website, if you missed them first time round). There were also floating hearts and a resounding donkey kiss on St. Valentine’s Day and shamrocks for St. Paddy’s Day!

Very special thanks go to Karen and Keith, and to Lizzie, Kim and Deryl of UK; all of whom made it possible for us to take a break and have a much needed holiday at the end of March.

There are, of course, many more who deserve our thanks - not all wish to be mentioned but thank you all!



To our amazement in these financially difficult times we were again selected for an ex gratia payment of €10,000 from the Department of Agriculture and Food towards our welfare work with the animals. This support is enormously helpful as our annual overheads run in the region of €60,000, all of which has to be privately fundraised. This payment provides the opportunity for planning our year ahead with subsequent savings through bulk buying of certain items like feedstuffs, bedding materials etc, and gives us the security of employing part-time help to assist with the heavier workload.



Noah, one of our very elderly gelding donkeys of around 40 years, suffered a stroke late in February and we expected to have to euthanase him as he could no longer stand or eat unaided.

Thanks to the dedication of everyone here, Noah has made a complete recovery so we dare hope he stays around to enjoy at least another summer with us.

Goatie Goatie's kids
Goatie and her twins

We also hope for similar success for Goatie, one of a band of feral goats who live with some of our ponies on the hillside.

Goatie suffered a prolapse prior to kidding, but being wild, we were unable to catch and help her, so when she disappeared for several days we feared the worst.Eventually she reappeared sufficiently weakened that she could be caught and she is currently receiving medical treatment. If her aggressive greeting on each “hospital” visit is an indication, she too will recover.

On 10th April she birthed twins! Fingers crossed for a good summer!




Top House

We are pleased to let you know that the Sanctuary cottage is available again this year for self catering holiday rental.

It is an older style property with two double bedded rooms, a sleeping loft suitable for a small adult or child, a large kitchen, sitting room, utility, bathroom and porch, OFCH and an open fireplace in the sitting room.

It is situated at the Sanctuary and has views to die for, looking north to the Donegal hills. The surrounding garden could be called "wild" in a generous moment, through lack of time to attend to it, but the house itself is very comfortable.

We are fully booked for May but at present still have some vacancies every other month. Tariff €150 per week (all monies after expenses go straight to the donkeys and horses) If you are interested please email or telephone and talk to Sue.

Tel: 00353 (0)7166196

Mobile: 00353 1061932


This isn't the end of this newsletter . . . see below


The pictures in the last part of this newsletter are typical of our findings on most of our winter call-outs for horses. Some of you may find them distressing and for that reason the newsletter continues on a separate page. (We have spared you the carcasses)

Click here

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