Newsletter Spring 2013

Daphne was one of the highlights of our winter. An elderly frail and tiny brown donkey mare, Daphne had all but given up hope when we first met her mid December, not through neglect or unkindness but because she had lost her beloved goat friends.

Daphne's owners had rescued her 8 years previously when they bought her from a mart in very poor condition and nursed her back to health. Their lives took an unexpected turn in 2012 which required them to move to a house without land on which to keep animals. The two younger goats were rehomed but Daphne's best friend was kept to keep her company. Yet, despite all good intentions, the goat died of old age shortly afterwards, leaving Daphne unexpectedly alone.

Donkeys are not good at coping with big changes in their lives and especially not losing long term companions when the stress factor alone can place them in serious decline.
Daphne was bereft, lost weight dramatically and became seriously depressed to the point where she was literally wasting away.

Despite being already overstocked when asked to take her we just couldn't refuse. We all had doubts she had the reserves to pull through but fortunately, between expert dental work from equine dentist John Collins (who helped us out as our usual dentist, Lisa Molly, was busy having a baby - congrats Lisa!), careful feeding and loads of TLC this stoic wee donkey decided it was ok to live again and three months later we are delighted to report she is a feisty, happy girl, given to bursts of mad-moment gallops........ just because she can. She reminds us daily that love conquers all.



Prior to Daphne's arrival we had given a home to Sebastian Buddhaboy, a very large fawn-coloured gelding with an amazing, gentle, cuddly nature. A victim of the recession his owners had the heart to place him with us rather than try to sell him and risk him falling on hard times (or ending up in someone's lunch-box). As we had just rehomed two donkeys we were able to welcome Sebastian into their space - and he filled them both!


Sadly we have not been able to take in all the donkeys on the list this winter through lack of space and facilities. Most owners have understood, many have managed to make other satisfactory arrangements and some have struggled on, doing their best for the animals which they accept as their responsibility.





Mid February we were called in to help three luckier donkeys, all stallions, which were accepted by the ISPCA after their Inspector received a report of them being abandoned in forestry near Frenchpark. The donkeys were painfully thin and suffered overgrown hooves. A fourth donkey had died trapped in mud some time earlier.

As it happens we know the ‘owner' of these donkeys but as they are not micro-chipped ownership cannot be proven and a prosecution cannot be taken. The plus-side is that the donkeys have been legally confiscated and can now look forward to a decent life in a loving home, something we would wish for the many other donkeys, ponies, horses, cattle and dogs ‘owned' by the same man; who has already been prosecuted and banned from keeping dogs and is due back in court for breaking this order.



Three more very lucky donkeys were rescued by Hilary Robinson of Hungry Horse Outside from seriously bad conditions and as they are all geldings we were able to accept them here. Hence in late February we collected Byron, Claude and Teddy, Byron to stay with the ‘golden oldies' as he was still very malnourished and frail, Claude and Teddy to join the more robust youngsters.




Byron and Claude with Teddy, below, who is recognisable by a rope-wound necklace



Happily all settled really well: Byron has gained weight and quite literally found his feet to the point that they have to be avoided whenever there is a feed bucket about, so there's little doubt he too will be strong enough to join the main gang when it is time to turn them out for the summer.

Despite already having had several hoof trims for their exceedingly bad hooves before they arrived, our farrier, Brian Horohue, trimmed them again on his routine visit. Claude's are by far the worst and will need ongoing special care for some time but at least they are all beginning to look like hooves in stead of mis-shapen Aladdin's slippers!




Hilary also took Nadia, our 14hh Welsh/Arab filly pony back into training for us with a view to finding her a perfect foster home.

Nadia started her training as a three year old last Spring but was far too young to be ridden or worked, so she returned to spend the rest of the year in carefree playtime with her friends during which time she has matured into a beautiful girl with a lovely temperament.

She has recently been fitted with her first set of shoes of which she is apparently very proud, but it will be more show than work for some time yet as we do not believe in rushing the youngsters.




Followers of the Sanctuary may remember a case where on 8th February 2010 we assisted our county Vet and the ISPCA to remove donkeys and horses from J. P. Curley of Culleens, Dromore West, Co. Sligo.


We accepted into care 5 donkeys; Harriet and her foal Hari, Hannah, Hepzibar and a little filly foal who's mother had already died.

We called her Hermione but sadly she was too weak to survive and was euthanased.




J. P.Curley was found guilty of cruelty by the District Court, fined and obliged to reduce his stocking rate and adhere to certain regulations laid down jointly by the ISPCA and the Department of Agriculture. It was not enough.

This December the ISPCA was obliged to remove four more donkeys in appalling condition and were making arrangements to take and rehome a further thirteen donkeys and some, at least, of the 24 horses alleged to be on site. Before they were able to collect these animals the horses were sold (we believe to the factory) and the thirteen donkeys were killed at a local knackery. To say we were all angry and upset doesn't begin to cover our feelings of repugnance and despair. There is another prosecution pending on the four that were recently confiscated and we just hope the judgement passed is much tougher this next time around.

Happier days at Sai Sanctuary. The silver lining is with the four lucky donkeys that were saved, all of whom have been rehomed into loving families. When we were approached by prospective foster‘parents' who held a strong preference for a mare and/or filly donkey, we had only geldings or older mares to offer and so it was that ISPCA donkey mare Salt and her filly foal Pepper, have found a dream home only a few kilometres away from us here. As Cathy at the ISPCA had earlier re-homed Harriet and Hari into a delightful home for us, it was an absolute pleasure to return the compliment. We wish Salt and Pepper a happy future.



Other rehomings include Mr Jinks and Rosie who went together to a family home near Boyle. Mr Jinks is a small, dominant, yet insecure gelding who just doesn't like other males and Rosie is a shy, mistrustful little mare who had been miserably lonely. Although it wasn't an obvious match it has worked out beautifully as Mr Jinks gave Rosie confidence and Rosie gave Mr Jinks his one special, very own girl! Rosie has blossomed into a peaceful and quietly assertive mare who manages Mr Jinks' more ebullient moods with joy.



With our facilities so overstocked this winter we were very grateful to a family near Tubbercurry who had not only donated summer grazing to several of the larger horses but also agreed to take a pair of donkeys for the winter.

Morestina and Luke fitted the bill and relieved us of a problem as we felt that Morestina was too old to live in the big communal sheds this winter, yet she is far too naughty to be trusted loose in the yard with the other ‘golden oldies'.

Ringleader in every sense of the word, Morry would have caused chaos, opening gates and shed doors, breaking into feed bins, hopping over the garden wall into forbidden territory.....and probably taking most of the others with her.

Even the ‘long acre' (grass verges of the roadside) are out of bounds as she walks across the cattle grid with impunity (which is supposed to be the ultimate boundary), with her ever faithful Luke closely in tow! The gentle restrictions placed on the pair of them in their foster farm gave us all peace of mind and the two bandits have enjoyed being warm, dry, thoroughly spoiled and groomed to within an inch of their lives. They probably won't want to come home.



I remember a time of better places,
kind, gentle hands and warm, smiling faces;

The occasional treat of carrots and oats,
or even a brush of my thick winter coat.

Like clock-work each morning I'd stand at the gate
In rain, sleet or snow, no matter the state.

And wait for the moment when my day would be made,
when love was shared and loneliness slain.

But then came a different morn from the rest,
I searched the horizon but there came no guest.

I tried not to let my hope dissipate,
"Don't worry" I soothed "they're likely just late."

But they never came again after that day
And slowly but surely my hope crept away.

My bones grew weak from the cold frosty air.
The grass beneath me thinned - and so did my fur.

My hooves became long, twisted and sore,
to the extent that I found I could walk no more.

The rain hammered down and I feared the worst.
I could feel myself slipping away from the Earth.

And as I lay in despair, so utterly fragile,
A sound crawled to my ears - one I'd heard not for a long while.

My eyes wouldn't open, though I wanted to peek,
But I'm afraid my body had become just too weak.

A caring hand ran over my bones
and then they whispered "I'm bringing you home."

I awoke at a place I'd not seen before,
The sun shone bright, there was fresh grass galore.

I arose to see more of my kind,
chasing and charging and gleaming with pride.

At peace were they, and happy - long last!
A great distance they'd travelled from their terrible past.

Lucky was I to have been found and saved,
From hunger, from sadness, and an early grave.

Amy-Lee Owens.



Mowgli, our 12.2hh Connemara pony gelding, now 24 years old, has moved to Lough Gara where he is playing knight in shining armour to another of our elderly fostered ponies, now 28 years old. Clara lost her companion of 8 years about a year ago and her fosterers temporarily homed a cob mare who needed somewhere to go and who subsequently foaled a coltfoal.

Ultimately the pair of them proved to be too much of a handful for Clara's staid lifestyle and they were accepted by Hungry Horse Outside for training and rehoming. Hence it was Mowgli to the rescue! Ever the gentleman he courted Clara through her sadness and bewilderment, patiently waiting for acceptance into her routine.

Now the two, who even look remarkably alike, are inseparable except at feeding time, when Clara is still the boss.





MATILDA (left)

Naturally we have had our sad moments too, none more so than on losing 3 year old donkey mare Matilda, very unexpectedly to a form of tetanus. Our lesson to be learned from Matilda's untimely death it is to be more vigilent about vaccinating against this horrible and unscrupulous disease which can attack randomely and without favour, any animal of any age, even those in good health.

When it was obvious that Matilda was not responding to treatment we decided on euthanasia rather than prolonging her suffering but we remain somewhat shocked by the suddenness in which her young life was ended.




BONNIE (right)

We also said goodbye to Bonnie, the most adorable and lovable pure white fluffy pony gelding who had been with us for far too short a time.

We are deeply grateful to his owner for giving us the opportunity of knowing Bonnie and looking after him for the last few months of his long life: we had hoped he would stay many years but a series of strokes, which rendered him unable to control his legs and his mouth, decided otherwise.

Bonnie was a huge age yet remained active, independent and cheerful until the last, preferring to be outside even on the wettest of days for a few hours at least, before bringing himself in to nestle into the comfort of the haybarn in the company of some of the older donkeys. He won the love of all who met him.






Mucci and Agnieszka grabbed the hearts of the nation when Agnieszka set out to walk around Ireland, taking Mucci, the donkey, as companion and baggage carrier.

We met when Mucci went lame and needed a place to rest for a few days, then again later when he became sick with a stomach disorder.

Polish born Agnieszka had been the subject of much media coverage throughout her journey, both for the journey itself and for the tragic circumstances surrounding her partner's death, which had prompted the pilgrimage. So it was that when Mucci also died here at the Sanctuary, having irreparably damaged his internal organs when he attempted to jump a gate and got stuck, that the story captured hearts all over again.

Understandably Agnieszka was inconsolable. Somehow, through her grief, she was able to appear on RTE television's Late Late Show with host Ryan Tubridy, where her main aim was to thank the many people countrywide who had supported her throughout her journey and now added their condolences at her new loss. One friend paid for Mucci to be cremated at The Glenvine Pet Crematorium in Northern Ireland, a beautiful gift and a very special nationwide service for anyone able to meet the necessary expense. Agnieszka keeps in touch and we all wish her a much happier sequel to come.



Sadly one donkey gelding was beyond help when we were called to him, having fallen into a drain and been dragged out again by tractor-power. However it had been handled the damage was too extensive: he was unable to get back on his feet despite veterinary intervention and as he was lying in 30cms of liquid mud on a very exposed site, with a weather forecast of snow that night, we all agreed it was kinder to put him to sleep.

Had we been able to lift him out of the field into the horsebox he may have stood some chance but the current conditions disallowed this opportunity.

He was another victim of thoughtless starvation as this young donkey had been kept with cattle but was unable to feed as the cattle bullied him off any feedstuffs presented. His owner was too afraid of the cattle to enter the field to feed him separately and never thought to bring him into her securely fenced yard away from the cattle. Sadly we were not made aware of the situation until it was too late to help, a source of great sadness and frustration.


Left: Conditions all too familiar as a horse tries to feed in the mud


Occasionally, we have suffered considerable abuse from owners who see it as their ‘right' to be able to pass their unwanted and problem animals onto us, simply because we are a Sanctuary.


Unfortunately, even with the best will in the world, we too have our limits and it would be both emotional and financial suicide to take in more than we can reasonably and properly look after. We operate as a charity on a voluntary basis with all monies being used directly to help the animals and as a consequence we have fed donkeys and ponies abandoned in fields and forestry until such time as either we, or one of our contemporaries, have been able to take them into care. By working together we can achieve so much more! We apologise to those we have been unable to help but regrettably the volume of equine casualties at the moment is overwhelming.



Right: another happy rehoming-Jules, with his new friend, Ronnie, happy in a foster home in Co.Clare





Three lucky miniature ponies did come to us, however. Twinkle, her colt foal Leroy and her yearling colt foal Timmy Tiptoes were abandoned in rough condition and were extremely timid.

Twinkle and Leroy found a wonderful new “Mum” in Caroline from Co. Cork, who made the 5 hour journey with horsebox to meet them, fell in love and drove the five hours back with them the same day. Caroline herself faced tragic hardship very soon afterwards, when her partner died unexpectedly, yet somehow she has managed, despite financial difficulties, to keep the two little ponies, and keep them together.

At the time of homing Twinkle and Leroy, Caroline was upset at not having space for Timmy Tiptoes too, but all ended perfectly when Timmy was homed in Co. Mayo as companion to another timid and extremely lonely miniature gelding called Porridge.

Their new family idolise them and the two ponies adore each other, sharing every waking and sleeping moment as can be seen in the photo. Timmy will be gelded this Spring even though, so far, he has shown no stallion tendencies.........a situation which could change!


Timmy on the right






No doubt most readers will have been touched by the welfare issues surrounding the horsemeat scandal which took Europe by storm during January and which has implicated Ireland in criminal gangs illegally exporting unsuitable horses into the human food chain. None of this comes as a surprise to most equine welfare people who have been campaigning for some time for tighter traceability on horses, better welfare laws and much stricter controls on transportation and exportation, all of which the Department of Agriculture assures us is in process.

What is shocking is the scale of equine slaughter with 24,000 horses reported as slaughtered in Ireland during 2012 and 154,088 exported from Ireland to UK and possibly other European states, and that makes no mention of the hundreds of donkeys we suspect have followed the same route. This is unquestionably a situation born out of senseless overbreeding, bad herd management and greed.

In the good times everybody wanted a horse. Now these same horses are unwanted, abandoned or, if they are big enough to have a meat value, sold to dealers or through marts for slaughter. Sadly we have not seen the end of this story and it does not bode well for the future of these noble creatures. Ireland - Land of the Horse suddenly sounds sickenly hollow.


THANKS FROM 'the coal face'

During what has been a disheartening winter in some respects we have been immeasurably reassured and supported by the many of you who have continued to donate and fundraise, sometimes small hard-won sums and sometimes considerable amounts, all of which is put to good use on an ongoing basis and without which we couldn't achieve even the small differences.

We are blessed to be the ones ‘at the coal face' but it is you, our supporters, that make any of this work possible. THANKS! We thank you all on behalf of the animals who's lives have been saved and/or improved by your efforts and generosity.

Special thanks go to Diane and Steve who continue to fundraise on a regular basis and accrued their record figure of €3189.50 during 2012. Well done to them and all who helped them!


We are also truly thankful to the Minister for the Department of Agriculture and Food who has supported our work again for the year 2013 with a generous ex gratia payment of €9,000, with which, amongst other things, we hope to expand and improve our facilities for the animals. Some of it has already been appropriated for extra hay bales in order to feed abandoned animals which we have been unable to bring to the Sanctuary and have fed in situ but we still have great plans for the remainder!


Recommended viewing for all horse lovers, go to Youtube and click on

‘Path of the Horse, or enter the following link -

The Path of the Horse - 1 hour


Remember we are open to visitors from 1stApril - 31st October (see our website for more details). Be welcome and enjoy!


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