Newsletter Spring 2012


Early in autumn 2011 two small ponies joined our permanent residents from the Irish Horse Welfare Trust which is based in Co. Wicklow. MIA and HUGS.

MIA (right) , a pale grey mare of about 11hh has cut ears, we believe as some sort of identification process when sold from the moors in the UK, and she suffers chronic laminitis. She has been with the IHWT for many years but with their influx of larger horses Mia was a bit overwhelmed and we all agreed it would be kinder for her to live out her days amongst other small laminitic ponies of her own kind.

HUGS (left) , an ancient chestnut Shetland mare was found wandering the roads: her coat was matted and her mane and tail tangled almost beyond redemption; she was crippled by grossly overlong and malformed hooves.


She is a dear little pony – at the front end – the back end is like a whirling dervish!!! But, we are working with her and over the winter she has improved greatly though, for now, it is still a resounding “No” to the farrier which leaves her rear hooves a very strange shape for the moment.


Next to arrive was NEDDY O’C, regretfully relinquished by his lady owner as one of her two horses had produced an allergic reaction to the donkey. It was thought to be lungworm (which donkeys can carry without showing symptoms) yet the horse mare tested negative to lung worm larvae.

Poor Neddy was very upset at being parted from his horse friends and took some time to settle in despite having the freedom to choose for himselfif he wanted to stay with the ponies or the donkeys. None of them quite matched up to his big 17.2hh friend.

Time is a great healer, however. As self promoted boss-man of the yard Ned is now in charge of two elderly ponies and a supply of haylage. To say nothing of trying to drive a friend’s jeep . . . and seemingly quite happy with the arrangement!




ERMINTRUDE, a small badly abused little donkey mare with great attitude was fostered as companion to another donkey mare locally and the two have bonded inseparably. We always felt Ermintrude was overshadowed in the herd, especially by the larger donkeys, so we were happy to give her the opportunity to become a family pet where the two donkeys could spend their days being thoroughly spoiled and loved silly by both young children and adults alike. Apparently Ermintrude agrees with the decision.





GEORGE, a 4 month old donkey foal, came to us for a few months to help him overcome the loss of his Mummy. George and his mother were left tied to a fence behind the showground after the last Ballinasloe Horse Fair and not found for a week.

The little mare was severely dehydrated, malnourished and weak, having given her all to the foal, George, who was also in a pitiful state but better nourished than his Mum. Sadly, despite the very best of care from the GSPCA the little mare died of pneumonia shortly afterwards. George was eating independently but needed a surrogate Mum to comfort him and teach him how to behave amongst other donkeys and just when she was needed most, Nellie arrived, a donkey angel from heaven.

NELLIE, is an elderly grey mare who was rescued 6 years ago by a young couple who found her tied by one front foot to a fence. They had nursed and looked after her over the years until work demands made it impossible for them to care for her.

Nellie’s front leg is twisted from years of straining against the rope-tie but she is in good health otherwise and immediately embraced her new responsibilities with George, who quickly learned to follow her everywhere mimicking her behaviour with the other donkeys.

George was a very entertaining and popular little character so we were sorry when the day finally came for him to be moved to his permanent foster home which he shares with two other gelding donkeys.

It was a tough call for him to be moved from all things familiar for the second time in his short life and it took time for him to adjust but after a couple of weeks he is now, happily, ‘one of three’ that are never more than a few metres apart. We wish him a long and happy life after such a traumatic start.

Nellie, on the other hand, didn’t seem to mind relinquishing her responsibilities one bit and soon settled into the more serious matters of eating, and exploring her new home.




More recently, we were asked to take MATILDA, a large and stunning looking dark brown mare donkey, on a long/short term basis to “work our magic” on her.

Her overgrown back hooves bore testament to her problem; she kicks! And how!! Like lightening she would lash out at anything or anyone that passed behind her, a problem which will not be solved in an instant although we notice she is already far more tolerant of other donkeys who seem to ignore her behaviour.

If she really hurts, they thump her back. We are full of admiration for our intrepid farrier who worked with her patiently and with great courage until he could eventually trim her back hooves. We hope Matilda realises that nothing terrible happened throughout the process and that she may be less upset next time around . . . fingers crossed.





Late in November, in abysmal weather, we received a call from another animal rescue colleague asking if we could take in an elderly mare donkey who was abandoned on a bog near Gurteen, Co. Sligo. The donkey had been seen hunched up, shivering and soaked to the skin at 6 o’clock that morning and was still in the same place by 5 o’clock that evening.

Meanwhile we received another call asking us to come out to a dark brown foal donkey that was on it’s last legs. Both calls turned out to be the same address and thankfully turned out to be the same donkey who was just so wizened up with cold it appeared to be half its size. The donkey was collected and brought to us by the man who first noticed him and who had the heart to forego his own food and comfort and brave one of the foulest nights of the winter to bring this poor creature to safety, where we rubbed him down best we could, rugged him up, fed him small amounts of warm food and let him rest overnight in a deeply bedded stable.

By morning our ‘mare’ and ‘foal’ had evolved into a full blown, very tall and noble looking donkey stallion!! He had just been so cold he had sucked up all his equipment so at first glance there was nothing to give him away as being a boy. Quite a turnaround! We named him Barrington for his aristocratic looks and noble character.

Fearful of pneumonia we asked for a full vet-check in the morning: his lungs were rough, he was painfully thin and had no muscle tone whatsoever, yet his coat and hooves were in good condition. We could only surmise that he had been kept or left in a shed without proper nourishment or exercise, possibly for a number of years. Gelding him in this condition was out of the question so we were extremely grateful that he is such a gentle soul. Apart from the occasional playful nip he displayed no stallion behaviour for several weeks, by which time his condition had improved immeasurably – and he had a new friend, another gentle stallion called JERRY.



JERRY and his friend TOM were discovered in forestry just after Christmas by three teenage girls and their Mother, out for a walk from their nearby holiday house. Tom, the smaller donkey, was lying down and unable to get up so they enlisted the help of their uncle, who had a nearby farm, and with the help of a small tractor and transport box they were able to roll Tom over and carry him to the shelter of an old house which stood only a few metres away. Here they made the two donkeys as comfortable as possible, brought them water and called us.

We are appreciative of the help given by Michael, one of the vets from The Green in Boyle, who came immediately to diagnose the probable cause of Tom’s collapse and administer painkillers, antibiotics and a tetanus injection.



Tom had been gelded some considerable time earlier and we have reason to suspect a connection but the tissue around his rear was grossly swollen and discoloured. His internal functions appeared to be working normally, he was eating and drinking and we were hopeful of recovery, but unfortunately he was too damaged and tired and it was not to be, so on the fifth day, when he had still made no attempt to stand despite our lifting him and he was obviously exhausted and in pain, we asked the vet to euthanase him.



Had we been able to bring him back to the Sanctuary we might have stood some small chance of saving him but as it was, even with us doing the round trip of 40kms three times a day, plus great support from the girls who supplied water for the donkeys and coffee for ourselves during the long, cold waiting times, it just wasn’t enough and it was kinder to let little Tom die in peace.

The following day we collected Jerry and introduced him to Barrington – a match made in heaven it seems, as they were devoted to each other from the start and have proved to be great company for one another while they healed at all levels. It was quite an exercise keeping them separate from the mares until they were gelded but overall they behaved well and have made two lovely boys.



To have a horse in your life is a gift. In the matter of a few short years, a horse can teach a girl courage, if she chooses to grab the mane and hang on for dear life. Even the smallest of ponies is mightier than the tallest of girls. To conquer the fear of falling off, having one’s toes crushed, or being publicly humiliated at a horse show is an admirable feat for any child. For that, we can be grateful. Horses teach us responsibility. Unlike a bicycle – or a computer – a horse needs regular care and most of it requires that you get dirty and smelly and up off the couch. Choosing to leave your cosy kitchen to break the crust of ice off the water buckets is to choose responsibility. When our horses dip their noses and drink heartily, we know we’ve made the right choice. . . anon





Early in March we were involved in taking four pony stallions who were living in appalling conditions and were horribly emaciated, full of parasites and terrified of people. Again HHO came to the rescue by offering them sanctuary while they recovered enough to be gelded, microchipped, passported and eventually re-homed. Our involvement was to collect them from Westport and deliver them to HHO near Longford. Even with years of experience behind us we were still shocked at the condition of the largest, 14hh pony. His condition is nothing short of criminal; the tiny ones look better but underneath their long, fluffy coats, they too are just carcasses and our vet report confirmed a serious lung infection. Their ‘owner’, who is a chronic alcoholic, is now in care himself.












Happily Meredith and Morgan found a new, permanent and loving home with good friends Tom and Mary Latchford of Co. Galway. For years Tom and Mary have generously shared their supply of hay with us and spoiled us with fresh vegetables from their garden plus home made jams and preserves par excellence.So when their elderly, retired horse, Norma, needed new donkey companions (Norma had been kept with donkeys for years) Meredith and Morgan were chosen as they had lived with horses prior to coming to the Sanctuary. They have their own stable adjacent to Norma (which has a communicating partition) where they spend their nights and any wet, miserable hours of the day if they choose, but mostly daytime finds the three of them apparently joined at the hips as they graze together in sight of the house and yard where they keep eye out for tit-bits and attention.


As always we have been feeding a number of donkeys and ponies whose owners cannot or will not look after them properly. It’s not an ideal answer but in the absence of more facilities and finances with which to intervene and bring the animals to Sanctuary we feel this is a preferable alternative to allowing the animals to suffer malnourishment and subsequent misery. Many of you have contributed consistently during the winter to enable us to continue to do this, in spite of the mileage, costs and time involved. On behalf of all these animals, thank you.




We have an extraordinary list of people to thank this time starting with Sally Anne Maguire who bravely undertook a parachute jump for the donkeys and raised €310 (every cent well earned in my opinion!)

Kean O’Hara is deserving of heartfelt thanks for a generous gift of a tonne of Gain Cool and Easy hardfeed – a considerable gift by anyone’s standards. – Tom and Mary Latchford for a van load of hay and straw plus homemade treats for the house – Eileen Carty and family who again stamped and put airmail stickers on the years’ newsletters – Mary Taheny and friend Kathleen who stood many a church gate collection, often in miserable cold weather. Mary recently underwent an operation but is impatient to get back to her fundraising activities for the animals. Good luck Mary and take care!

Stalwarts Diane Keevans and Steve Furlong raised over €500 with a jumble sale plus their considerable efforts over the Crazy about Creatures Walk, which due to pressure of work didn’t happen until October 2011 – far later than usual – and even then wouldn’t have happened had not Joost, Diane and Steve taken on the responsibility of organising it on our behalf (we thank all ‘old faithfulls’ who turned out on the day and walked despite the rain!)

In February 2012 Diane and Steve raised over €400 at Church Gate collections – thanks to everyone who gave so generously.

We also pay tribute to Christine Coulson and staff at LAWT who have consistently helped out on many occasions when, during our own welfare calls we have come across dogs in bad situations. These dogs certainly went on to lead happier lives!

We were even involved in taking a number of poultry out of a situation where the owner was incapable, for mental health reasons, of looking after the birds. Their condition was greatly distressing and we salute Chris Bowyer for her dedication in nursing them back to health and giving them a chance to lead an untortured life.

Sylvia, who visited from Switzerland to help some of the more traumatised animals – Roisin and Enya, both first year veterinary nurse students at UCD, and Christina who gace their help for two weeks each in return for work experience- and most of all Christopher Bovee, from Washington DC, USA, an 18 year old volunteer who offered his services for 5 winter months to help with the daily routine of heavy mucking out/feeding and to tackle some of the outstanding jobs that are now beyond my personal capabilities.

These included digging back a fallen wall along a small boreen and replacing the stones so it is now wide enough for our small tractor to pass up to the back fields in an emergency; digging out all the old gravel in the yard around the Top House and the pathway leading down to the yard, using it to build up a parking area at the front of the property, and then replacing the removed gravel with new gravel; laying water drainage pipes down the Historical Trail roadway which crosses the Sanctuary land, planting trees . . . There were many other occasions where Chris put his ‘shoulder to the wheel’ to help out, all of which have been of enormous benefit and we are immeasurably grateful to him for all his hard work. Good on you Chris!!! You’ve been a lifesaver. Hopefully he will be able to return in the future to enjoy the fruits of his labours.

Christopher working



Recent meetings of the Department of Agriculture have revealed that much progress is being made in the area of equine welfare generally, including improved animal welfare laws which should be passed through the Dail by the end of the year and which will bring Ireland into alignment with EU regulations on many issues. One clause we particularly needed gives owners of animals ‘the duty of care’. This means that in future it will be possible to intervene in situations where animals are being neglected or maltreated BEFORE the situation gets out of hand and becomes a case of cruelty whereas under current laws, which date back to 1911, it is necessary to prove’ unnecessary suffering’ before action can be taken.

All equine premises now have a legal requirement to register with the Department before 1 st May 2012. This will help to identify the many branches within the equine world, from dealers, riding schools and charities to racing stables and studs, and should lead to better equine management generally.

To date only cattle, sheep and pig marts needed to be licensed but now, at last, the Mart License is to be extended to include equines ie: it will be illegal to hold a horse sale at an unlicensed premises. The granting of the license will be subject to certain regulations and requirements, such as sufficient adult, trained handlers on site at each and every sale of animals within the Mart. Already animals are disallowed from sale unless they possess a correct equine passport. The onus for default will be on the Mart owner or manager so it is in his/her best interest to ensure all customers comply with the regulations.

Individually these are all small steps but collectively they have the potential to improve equine welfare and husbandry in the future and we applaud Minister of Agriculture and Food, Simon Coveney for, at last, taking such action to bring Ireland up to date.



This cheeky chap is a small Welsh stallion rescued along with two little mares from impossibly wet and muddy conditions. Their owners had run into severe financial difficulties and didn’t know where to turn to for help. Fortunately their own family was able to take care of the mares but MightyMouse, as a badly behaved and unhandled 4 year old stallion, was unwanted. He is currently resident at Hungry Horse Outside (HHO) where he has met his match with a donkey colt who has shown him who is The Boss!

Hopefully they will both be gelded in the Spring and eventually rehomed. We offer enormous thanks to Hungry Horse Outside for helping out on many occasions when we haven’t had space or facilities to take a particular animal at a particular time, invariably stallion ponies and horses.





THE DUCHESS, a cob mare, was rehomed into an excellent home and is living a privileged life with her appreciative fosterers. She is a beautiful girl with a gentle yet mischievous nature which endears her to all that meet her.







Sadly we had to say goodbye to dear old Hezekiah, a characterful donkey and a favourite of many visitors.

Hez had been with us since 2000 and was a delightful old gentleman – how old we cannot be sure, but certainly a very big age. He was a rangy, aristocratic looking donkey who always had problems holding his weight but passed away looking fitter than ever before. He is, of course, greatly missed by everyone.




Once again we are more than grateful to the Minister of Agriculture,, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, who acknowledged our efforts by granting an ex-gratia payment of €8000 towards our rescue, educational and rehabilitation work. We invested the money in upgrading our compact tractor to a 2007 30hp 4WD which is better able to cope with our expanding work demands and has a range of readily available equipment which can be added in future as need and funding allows.

Shortly afterwards we purchased a power front loader with bucket to fit this machine, an absolute must when it comes to cleaning sheds and a host of other mucky jobs around the place. Altogether a much needed piece of equipment.



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