Newsletter Spring 2016




Our winter began on a low note when we were asked by our County Vet to collect a very sick pony from North Sligo. The pony, whom we called Loxi, had been wandering the roads for some days before entering the garden of a woman who cared enough to call into the Gardai for help. Loxi was emaciated and suffered severe respiratory problems. Our vet diagnosed a possible equine herpes infection but sadly, despite our best efforts, Loxi was too depleted on arrival and a couple of weeks later he collapsed and was euthanased on humane grounds.

Right and below: Loxi and Loxi's condition

Loxi's condition

That seemed to set the scene for a difficult winter ex-acerbated by continual storms and extraordinary rainfall. In fact it seemed as though it started raining in November and never stopped until March!

Even then it was spasmodic between mild, sometimes sunny days and wild, bitterly cold days punctuated with gales and snow and hail showers. Only the flowering of the im-perturbable snowdrop and gallant miniature daffodils gave any indication that Spring was on the way.

Amongst our newcomers we welcome donkeys Tommy Tucker, Letitica Loppy Lugs and Barnaby Brown, Susie and little Jilly Two- shoes. Our losses started in December with our beloved thoroughbred mare Taus, followed by donkey mare Morestina, and then pony mare Clara with our little cat Mittens also deciding to leave. Happily they were all old animals who had spent many happy years with us and in foster homes.



Tommy Tucker
Tommy Tucker was relinquished at the end of September 2015 from a heartbroken family who had enjoyed his company for a very long time but now found themselves in difficult circumstances which precluded keeping Tommy. Fortunately they are only a 40 minute drive away so have been able to visit on several occasions to keep in touch with their little pal.

Tommy is a tiny, very aged donkey, possibly in his late 30’s or early 40’s. His back is well sunken and underneath a luxuriously thick and shaggy coat he is a skinny little man. His teeth are appalling to non-existent so it was no surprise that despite loads of extra feeding and pampering he lost even more weight during the winter months. A visit to the dentist was unavoidable!!

Tommy Tucker teeth

Equine dentist Lisa Molly spared us a few hours in her extremely busy schedule to come over and take a look at Tommy’s mouth (along with a few others).


The picture shows what she found –it's hard to decipher but there was a 5cm ‘peg’ tooth descending from the upper jaw, right in the middle of his mouth. Every time Tommy tried to eat this tooth prevented his other remaining teeth from meeting properly and lacerated his tongue, and all the surrounding tissue, with the result that he was in permanent pain.

Even with the proper power tools it took some time to reduce this tooth to a normal length and shape to be comfortable. It took Tommy about 10 minutes to realise he could eat properly – and he has never stopped since! We look forward to seeing him round out once the grass begins to grow for the summer.

It is difficult to decipher the photograph: the ridged area to the top is the roof of the mouth, the tongue is on the left and the dentist’s finger holds back the cheek on the right. Right in the middle you may be able to see the huge peg tooth with the damage to mouth tissue clearly shown below it.



Cordelia and her foalCORDELIA

Another dental candidate was Cordelia, a big, bony, grey donkey mare who arrived from Co. Wicklow with her jack foal (see Autumn newsletter 2015).

Cordelia was in very poor condition with insufficient milk to feed her foal and although we fed her well she continued to lose weight. Lisa discovered huge hooks on both jaws, right at the back under the eyes, which were preventing the teeth from macerating the food properly, and together with razor sharp edges to most other teeth, were cutting up her cheeks leaving her mouth permanently sore.

It was hard on both Lisa and Cordelia to correct the back hooks as they were almost inaccessible but after much patience and persistence Lisa did manage to reduce them to match up with the other teeth.

As with Tommy it took a short time before Cordelia was eating normally so although she has a long way to go we are confident she will now thrive.


We cannot stress enough the importance of dental care in animals domesticated outside of their natural environment. Donkeys and horses were not designed to live on only grass supplemented with grains. They require a high fibre diet, including the branches and bark of trees and shrubs, which wears their teeth naturally to keep them in proper shape. As an older horseman once said “If they’re lame think hoof. If they’re thin think teeth!”



RosieWe were privileged to be asked to look after a little donkey filly called Rosie from just before Christmas through to the end of January. Rosie has suffered neurological damage from the equine herpes virus which left her with a semi paralysed lower jaw. Her ability to eat was further hindered by nerve damage which caused her to hold her head round to one side, almost touching her back.

Her owners had already put in an enormous effort to ensure Rosie’s survival encouraged by their vet’s prognosis that although it would take a long time, there was no reason why Rosie could not make a complete recovery. They had a prebooked commitment to be away for Christmas until the end of January but as Rosie had to be hand fed several times a day they obviously could not leave her with the neighbours who were kindly looking after their other three donkeys.

Needless to say we all fell in love! There were times late on freezing nights when it wasn’t the most comfortable exercise trying to persuade her to eat just a little more, yet Rosie somehow charmed us all to the point where nothing was too much trouble.

She is plucky little character and delightfully affectionate with a great sense of humour. She received four acupuncture sessions from one of our vets which we are convinced helped her enormously. Happily she returned to her caring human family, her own mother and friends at the end of January where we’ve little doubt she will get even more attention than she did here. We all look forward to hearing of her return to full health.



Barnaby Brown

These were two of five small donkeys who came in through the HHO Pound from devastating conditions. Both were painfully thin and suffering from rainscald and mud fever and although destined for The Donkey Sanctuary in Co Cork they were in no fit state to travel at the time.



Leticia Loppy Lugs (left) and Barnaby Brown (right)


Leticia has very little coat left along her back and both are wearing ‘ankle socks’ where the new coat is growing through a different colour from their normal winter coats. We thought Leticia was in foal but happily she came on heat in late March so for now she continues her recuperation uninterrupted. Barnaby, being younger and stronger, recovered quickly and was able to rejoin his younger pals to travel to Cork mid-March. We wish him a happy, fulfilled life.





Jilly Two Shoes

As Barnaby left, Jilly Two-shoes joined us from the HHO Pound, also for recuperation from a desperate situation.

Jilly is a tiny donkey, dark brown, friendly but terrified of men . She was heavily in foal though none of us expected her to deliver just a couple of days later, sadly a stillborn jack foal.

Jilly in a rug

Jilly herself coped well. She was sad and sore but continued to eat and did not appear to pine for her lost foal.

At the time of writing she is making a friend of Leticia and is usually to be found tucking into the haylage bale (If not almost buried inside it) eating for Ireland!

She arrived at the Pound with hooves so overgrown and twisted she could only walk by swinging her front legs out in an arc: these had already been corrected before she travelled here though it took time for her to learn how to walk in a normal gait. She is a delightful little character.




Susie bad stance

Susie is an aged ‘golden oldie’ donkey mare, soft brown in colour, quiet, friendly but frail. She was another one who appeared to have trouble eating and came under Lisa’s care to have razor sharp edges and points filed off her teeth. This has helped but is not the full story.

Blood tests revealed some liver damage which may contribute to her overall weakness though she is now eating better and LOVES her ginger biscuits even though she will not touch any form of grain, nuts or pulp. Hopefully once Spring is really here ‘Dr Grass’ will help her to regain her strength. At present she seems content to spend her days quietly munching hay in the ‘private’ area of the hay barn venturing out for the briefest of constitutionals on quiet, dry days.

Susie more relaxed


She has received several chiropractic treatments from one of our vets which has helped to loosen off the enormous rigidity she had in her back and hind quarters though she is still very tight in the shoulder area. The 'above left' photo shows Susie’s stance when she first arrived. It is clear that she is far more comfortable now and is more able to get up and lie down without being in obvious discomfort. Her hooves also needed attention - not that they were over-long but badly balanced and shaped. Overall a great improvement.







Early in the winter we agreed to take back Nellie (left) and Shy (right) from their foster home, partly due to the unreal weather which had rendered their paddock unusable but mostly because they were busy chewing their way through €4000 worth of brand new post and rail fencing their fosterers had erected around their business site!


Never underestimate the destructiveness of bored donkeys!!!!






Later we brought back Kaydee and Wilf (right), again largely because of weather related problems and recently Luke rejoined the herd when his life-long mate, Morestina, died at the grand old age of 47.

Luke is only 25, a babe by comparison, but just to show age has no bearing on true love he has been devoted to Morestina since his mother died when he was still a weanling.








Morestina (left) and Luke (right)


Under the circumstances we all thought it best to bring him ‘home’ to be with other donkeys, many of which he has known for several years before moving into his foster home three years ago.




Luke and Morestina


He is very overweight and his hooves need remedial attention so although his fosterers are keen to help by taking more donkeys at a later date, Luke will be staying here for the foreseeable future.


Left: Morestina and Luke in their younger days






Early in December, during some of the worst storms we have experienced, our beloved Taus became very unwell and after a three week struggle with devoted care from our vets and everyone here she decided to leave.


Her age is uncertain except that from history we have been able to piece together she was well into her 20’s and may have been older.

She had found the two previous winters difficult and lost weight despite extra feeding, dental work and rugging up and last summer, although she did gain weight she never quite got back to her former glory.

Her passing hit us hard but was not unexpected.





The same can be said of dear Clara who came to us as a lost cause laminitic at 18 years old and subsequently spent the last 12 years of her life being nurtured in every way by Petra and Lothar, her devoted fosterers, until she died on 9th March 2016.

At 30+ years, she had an unexpectedly long life given her laminitis complaint which seemed to derive from stress when around children.

No children, no laminitis! There are times when I know how she felt!!!

Her pony companion Mowgli coped but was subdued and sad until Petra and Lothar offered to take another pony to cheer him up . . . the obvious choice was Blue Jeans, a younger and very pretty Clara-look-alike.



On 14th March we took Blue Jeans along to meet Mowgli, to their mutual delight.




Obviously Mowgli is happy to have such attractive company (though he forgot, momentarily that he is twice her age!!) and Blue Jeans was happy to have a little less company. She didn’t thrive well in a herd as she is highly strung and became intimidated by some of the bully-boy characters.

We hope this is the perfect answer for them both!



Two happy ponies meeting, playing and showing off then, finally, off to explore the boundaries together





We very much regret the sudden death of Elke Hammes-Behrens who was taken with a massive stroke just before Christmas. Elke has been foster-Mum to one of our donkeys, Charlie Girl, companion to her own Freddy, for many, many years and will be missed by the donkeys as well as her family and friends. We offer our deepest condolences to her husband, Lutz, who is continuing to care for the donkeys as well as their own goats.




Nellie sitting

One day a man’s donkey fell down into a well.
The animal cried piteously for hours as the fellow tried to figure out what to do.
Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway.
It just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey.
He invited all his neighbours to come over and help him.
They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well.
At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly.
Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down.
A few shovel loads later, the man finally looked down the well.
He was astonished at what he saw.
With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing.
He would shake it off and take a step up.
As the farmer's neighbours continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.
Pretty soon, everyone was shocked as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well, turned and bit the man and happily trotted off!

So . . .

Benny's yawn

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt.
The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up.
Each of our troubles is a stepping stone.
We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up!
Shake it off and take a step up.


Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

Free your heart from hatred - Forgive.
Free your mind from worries - Most never happen.
Live simply and appreciate what you have
Give more.
Expect less.

And the moral of the story is . . .

When you do something wrong, and try to cover your ass, it always comes back to bite you.



Juniper sarcoid

One of our young donkey fillies suddenly produced an enormously aggressive sarcoid growth just above her hock which grew at a frightening pace. As it was on a ‘neck’ our vet tied it off and about ten days later it dropped off only to uncover another growth sprouting underneath, again at an alarming speed. This time we opted for surgery and were well pleased when it came away cleanly, leaving what appeared to be healthy tissue underneath.

Meanwhile our vet consulted a vet at Liverpool University, who specialises in sarcoid growths, and he is making up appropriate medication. The prognosis is not good but we live in hope. So far we have treated the surgical wound with the red light attachment of the Westville Biomag magnetic pulse machine (see and have been bandaging the wound with high value New Zealand Manuka honey and it is healing well. Nevertheless all good and positive thoughts and prayers are welcome.

Click the photo on the right to see a larger image of the sarcoid.

It's not for the faint hearted.



Sarcoids are thought to be caused by a fly-borne virus. There are many different types from benign pre-cancerous areas that just look like rough skin to these full blown aggressive tumours that appear out of nowhere and grow at a frightening pace.

Donkeys seem to be particularly prone to sarcoids and we wonder if that is because they are so often kept on dirty, wet land prone to fly infestation. There are various creams and other treatments but nothing guaranteed, though we understand work is being done to develop a vaccine which could, potentially , save the lives of countless equines, who are, in every other respect, healthy.

Left: The tumour almost 12 weeks later as healing takes place.
We are cautiously




Regular readers of our newsletters will remember the tragic story of 18 year old Scarlet who fell through an unseen skylight on the flat roof of a building in New Zealand, where she and her friends regularly gathered to play music in the cool of their summer evenings. She died soon afterwards from her injuries. As Scarlet spent many happy hours here with the donkeys as a young child her parents donated a fund to plant a shelter belt of trees and bushes in her name - hence Scarlet’s Belt.

Last winter the workload precluded the opportunity to plant more so this year we were determined to add to the bounty with 50 Silver Birch, 50 Rowans, 50 Red Alder and 50 Alder Buckthorn. There are already some Rowans, Silver Birch, Downy Birch, Fucshia, Roses, Liquid Amber and a miscellany of oddities, most of which reflect the red of Scarlet’s name at some time of the year, offset by the delicate foliage and attractive pale bark of the Birches.

Planting is tough as our ground is very stony and has an almost impenetrable layer 10-20cms deep of what is known in Ireland as ‘lack’ - we would probably call it nature’s concrete! This has to be broken through before the roots of the saplings have any chance of reaching the soil beneath . . . but with help from vet Annett, neighbours Nina and Rebecca and few other people we’re getting there!




For the forth winter running we welcomed back German volunteer Doris and her husband Stefan, who came to help with the heaviest work load during February and March.

The stalwart Doris is waiting for a hip replacement operation but was not to be deterred from helping her beloved donkeys!

For her collie companion, Leni, life at the Sanctuary is just what a little dog dreams of. Stefan’s work schedule took him to South Africa after a month but Doris stayed until April.


Recently we enjoyed a visit from two young German women who are involved in the rescue and rehoming of equines throughout their own country. Over the past three years they have liased closely with Caroline of HungryHorseOutside and have successfully placed over 100 horses and ponies on a scheme similar to our own Foster Scheme.

German visitors

With our Foster Scheme the recipients are asked for a donation towards the animal itself and a contribution towards transport, so there is no question of ‘something for nothing’ which we find often breeds contempt. All the animals placed have been carefully selected and vetted as suitable for their chosen home and the new owners are required to keep in touch with social media, photographs etc. In the event the match between human and animal breaks down, the animal is return to HHO or ourselves.

German visitors


So far we have only placed two ponies with them, largely because most of our horses and ponies are unsuitable due to age, size and difficulties in management but it seems the donkeys stole hearts once again so there is a real possibility of finding five-star homes for a few of our young, healthy long-eared people in Germany.

Certainly we have a large number of German supporters and sponsors so we know the donkeys are popular there—and it seems there are not many of them! (Good start!)



At the time of writing we are in the process of selecting a few suitable candidates. German welfare laws are considerably stricter than ours here in Ireland and as no equine is allowed, by law, to be kept alone, we do not have to split up bonded pairs in order to rehome them. (Not that we would of course!)

German visitors

Without exception the facilities offered to the equines placed in German homes so far have been enormously superior to anything we can offer here, especially in the West of Ireland, so we are optimistic about the outcome of this liason into the future.

Some of the horses, ponies and donkeys are suitable for riding, driving or therapy related services though many are just kept as companions and pets. With an ever increasing number of unwanted animals coming into care here, and no sign of a respite, we will be happy to see at least some settled into good loving ‘forever’ homes where they can get the attention and stimulation they deserve.

Anyone in Germany interested in homing a donkey or horse/pony should contact us here or email Caroline direct at A similar scheme has just been launched in Sweden.



A NEW BLANK GREETINGS CARD for your special messages Card

Once the winter is over, so there is time to breathe and catch up on other things, we are planning a new blank greetings card featuring a beautiful painting by Simant Bostock, artist and pho-tographer, now living in the Shetland Isles. Simant and his other half, Diz, have a huge interest in sacred archaeology and have visited the Sanctuary on many occasions since discovering us on a hike to the Carrowkeel Megalithic site just beside us.

Simant painted the picture incorporating the Carrowkeel Cairns, the spiral and the donkeys as a Christmas card to the Sanctuary and then generously donated its use for us to develop as we wish . . . we are starting with more cards so we can share with many. Hope you like it.




As ever we have a huge list of thank you’s: to Laura and her small but dedicated team at the Carrowmore Riding School, Westport who held a family fun day and raised a staggering €600; to Diarmuid and family from Boyle for the donation of 6 round bales of hay; to Sean and Jennifer for delivering a donation of 16 round bales of beautiful barley straw; to Dermot Smee for 6 bales of haylage, the last two when they were really needed at the beginning of March; to Deirdre and Rhys, Mel, Wilma and many others, some of whom prefer to remain anonymous, for their overwhelmingly generous support; to the individuals and businesses that have helped by discounting purchases wherever possible.

We also thank Cliona, Nessa and the staff of Ardcarne Garden Centre Cafe who ran a Sunday afternoon Christmas gig in aid of the Sanctuary raising over €500 in just a few hours. There was a mixture of traditional and Christmas music which included the singing of many popular carols, which, together with festive decorations created a great atmosphere. They also displayed and sold our Christmas cards and calendars which was a great help.

Obviously there are many, many others deserving of our thanks. Please know we are deeply appreciative of your support – we can do little without your loyalty and generosity. You are the cogs of the wheel.

We are not one of those charities that habitually asks for money so we are always taken by surprise by the level of support we receive from all over the world—amazing really as we are not active on social media. This is largely through a lack of dedicated time and poor internet connections. However, as we are repeatedly asked for our Bank details we will break the rule this once and add them here! (with thanks to those of you who wish to donate towards our ‘donkey work’).

(Note from Sue's webby person - Bank details in paper version of newsletter only. It didn't seem like a good idea to publish them all over the internet.)

You can also donate through PayPal by clicking the ‘donate button on the homepage of our website .



We held our first free educational day in conjunction with The Donkey Sanctuary in October 2015 and it was a huge success. We were gratified at the turnout and felt that everyone not only enjoyed the day, but took some useful knowledge home . The Donkey Sanctuary’s welfare officers Marie Johnston and Ian Colton shared their experience and expertise through an informative presentation followed up by hands-on experience with some of our (very well behaved!!! – phew!) donkeys.

We now plan a LEVEL TWO presentation here at the Sai Sanctuary which incorporates more in depth (and interesting) information suitable for anyone with a fascination for donkeys, from current owners/fosterers to potential owners/fosterers to people who just love donkeys and want to know more about them. It promises to be a fun yet informative day for all.



Once again we are immensely grateful to our Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, for including the Sai Sanctuary in his disbursements of Animal Welfare Grants. All the Grants were more generous this year but we were none-the-less surprised and extremely grateful to receive €14,000 towards the costs of running the Sanctuary (c. €45 - €60,000 annually).

We plan to build a new donkey/pony field shelter to replace a very old one which is on the point of collapse. It was one of the first built here when the Sanctuary started and was cobbled together with old bits of timber and corrugated tin found around the derelict farmyard, so it owes us nothing! Our tractor also needs major repairs . . . and so it goes on. We have spent the Grant already in our heads! With over 90 ‘inmates’ spending is the easy part.

One of our prime objectives is to continue the Subsidised Gelding (castration) Scheme in which the Sanctuary gives individual financial help towards the cost of the necessary surgery as, particularly with donkeys, who invariably need a general anaesthetic, it can be an expensive operation. We firmly believe the ONLY long term solution to the ongoing equine crisis is to control indiscriminate breeding of more animals in a climate where Ireland is already swamped with unwanted animals. Killing un-wanted animals may solve the problem short term but is merely a temporary stopgap if over breeding continues.

This may cause us a problem however. As part of the new conditions of receiving the Grant, most of which concern appropriate use, management and transparency of the monies used, which is a good way forward, there is one clause with which we absolutely cannot comply. That is to agree to a finite term animals can be kept before either rehoming or euthanasia.

Rehoming in the West of Ireland is unpredictable and full of problems: we do not have suitable land, suitable weather or, in most cases, a suitable understanding and empathy with an animal that is indigenous to arid deserts areas and has no business in the saturated, soggy climes of Ireland. We do have some excellent homes: we also bring back many animals, especially the donkeys, from homes which basically lose interest once the novelty wears off and the hard work of winter sets in.

Most of the animals who come to us are in poor condition and many are traumatised. It can take weeks, months and sometimes even years to rehabilitate them but does not preclude them from being placed in a happy home down the line, where in the case of donkeys and small ponies they may live for a further 15-20 years due to their long life-span.

We do not know at this stage how we will be penalised (if at all) for holding to these principles but have to accept that should we lose the Grant through non-compliance we will just have to find other ways to make up the short-fall! We feel our followers support us because they like what we do and we are not about to betray that trust. Do let us know how you feel.

Food for thought!

Meanwhile have a great summer—let’s hope it is kinder and drier than 2015!!


Happiness is having a good friend!

Previous  |  Index  |   Next