Newsletter Spring 2018



One weekend late in December we were asked if the donkeys would eat lettuce. I said that in my experience they wouldn't. The fellow who telephoned reckoned he had two donkeys that loved them, so on the premise that with 70+ donkeys here, maybe some of them did, I agreed to take a few of a load he had to dispose of. At 6pm he arrived with a lorry lit up for Christmas with five and half pallets on board!!!!!

The local raptor centre had already taken 14 pallets and I'm sure the lettuce man was disappointed that we wouldn't take the remainder. We did agree to take the half pallet and thankfully was not persuaded to take more as sure enough the donkeys wouldn’t touch them.

The half pallet was dutifully dropped on the parking area but tipped over and about half the boxes, of which there were a great many, tipped over flipping the lettuce out of the boxes so they rolled into the field, complete with plastic wrapping. Had the donkeys eaten them we could have had some very dead animals with all that plastic wrapping - so the next hour was spent by torchlight in the dark tossing these lettuce balls back out of the field (where they stubbornly rolled back—the power of inanimate objects to frustrate!) and stacking them, covering them and securing them so donkeys were unlikely to eat them until there was time to unwrap them. . . a Sunday morning job for the stalwart volunteers who were frozen fingered and wonderful.

Donkeys eating lettuce



Between us we unwrapped the lot expecting we would have to throw them on the manure heap to rot down. We tried the cattle. . . No! 

We tried the ponies. . . maybe just a few but not overjoyed. Until we did throw them on the manure heap when suddenly they became today’s delicacy and were devoured with zest. No accounting for taste.


But what a waste. . . in total there were over 20 pallets of perfectly fresh, wrapped iceberg lettuce that were selling in the supermarkets at 99 cents each. Rabbit heaven. At least the fellow tried his best to find a use for them rather than just tipping them in the bog somewhere, plastic and all. Never a dull day.


Two days before Christmas we received a bumper parcel – six severely emaciated donkeys. Our local Animal Welfare Officer for Co. Leitrim had been called to a farm where the owner had become overwhelmed by having too many animals and she had persuaded him to relinquish two donkeys which were in very poor condition. However, when our own welfare people went to collect them, they came home with guilty faces and six donkeys; a mature stallion, three mares (two possibly in foal) and two yearling colts, all painfully thin and extremely weak, depressed and exhausted. Absolutely right that they should bring them all!

Denver, the stallion, is obviously Daddy to the two yearlings and possibly to the younger of the three mares as well. We believe he may also have sired another colt we took in a year ago, whom we called Gulliver as he had been ‘travelling’ for some weeks, apparently abandoned on the roads. With such a prolific record behind him 18 year old Denver was firmly separated from the mares until he could be gelded, an operation which The Donkey Sanctuary at Cork kindly undertook for us in their specialised hospital, covering all expenses including checking bloods, trimming hooves, dental work. . . the lot. I doubt Denver had ever had so much attention in his life! He is back with us now, a beautiful and very handsome piebald donkey, gentle in every way except when eating, when anyone within reach can expect a well-rounded hoof or two directed at them at twice the speed of light.


Left: Denver





Right: Domino, Dalton and Dannica



DaktariThe two older mares, Dannica, a skewbald and Daegan, almost black in colour, were extremely poor in both condition and spirits; Daegan in particular took some weeks before she really showed much interest in her surroundings.

Left: Dalton
Right: Daktari

She is the oldest at c.18 years and was extremely emaciated. The third mare, Daktari, another skewbald, was the only one who was really timid and it took a while before she settled into trusting us. Of the two little colts, Dalton, piebald like his Dad, picked up the more quickly and is now a feisty, happy youngster challenging everyone to play. Domino, largely white with a few round dark spots, is a more reserved little character by nature and was pitifully skinny and cold. We thought we might lose him but thankfully he improved visibly when rugged up in a smart, cosy weatherproof coat in which he now happily tackles all of the elements except the rain, which he detests.




Left: Domino headed home for tea, warm and cosy in his rug. Not all pony rugs fit donkeys’ narrower chests but we have found this Horseware Amigo range to be a snug fit





DariusOnly a couple of weeks after the arrival of this Christmas Six, we accepted little Darius, a tiny dark brown colt who’s mother had died at birth. Although at the time 18 months old, Darius had the appearance of a frail six month old foal so there was no question of putting him in the sheds with the main herd where he would have disappeared underfoot.

Instead he joined the Six …and the group became the Magnificent Seven. It took a while for this sad little boy to integrate but they all get along together very well now and Darius is beginning to develop a personality of his own. He adores big Denver—his muscle man body guard!


Once again we are indebted to The Donkey Sanctuary who undertook to geld the boys in March when Dalton was becoming too frisky for his own good and it was still too early in the year for our vets to risk the operations ‘on the ground’ rather than in a proper hospital environment, the main criteria being No Frost, No Flies. This leaves a very small window of opportunity in this country especially this year as the weather has fluctuated from snow and ice to very mild…..and back again like a yo-yo, all winter long. Just when we think Spring is around the corner, Winter bangs back with a vengeance. Please can we have a summer!


Three other donkey mares joined the family via the Horse Pound at HHO, Co. Longford. All dark brown, the three girls are called Twiggy, Tawny and Teale, Twiggy, as her name suggests, arrived desperately emaciated, extremely weak and barely able to stand and it quickly became apparent that a dentist was needed urgently. As always Lisa Molloy responded immediately but was unable to help this time as she was in Chicago, USA, teaching. So she recommended veterinarian and dentist Rodney Gate from Ballyhaunis who mercifully came very quickly and spent several hours with great patience sorting out poor Twiggy’s much neglected and extremely sore mouth, extracting two huge teeth which were growing across each other and preventing the rest of her teeth from meeting or functioning.

Twiggy and the dentist
Although more comfortable Twiggy still wasn’t eating properly a week later so Rodney returned to widen the gap between a few of her teeth so hay and haylage would no longer get stuck between them.

Today Twiggy eats slowly but enjoys her food immensely especially the second ‘secret’ bucket we sneak to her when the others are not looking (although it has been hard to fool Anastasia who can smell a tit-bit from a mile away!) and she no longer suits her name, though I guess she will always be Twiggy to us!

Tawny and Teale


TEALE is a magnificent, big strong girl, now about two thirds of her way through pregnancy and definitely radiant.


Left: Tawny and Teale
Below: Twiggy






TAWNY is much smaller, timid and shy. Because of her reluctance to be handled we haven’t tested her for pregnancy but remain open to the possibility as we were told the three of them were running with a “very active” stallion when they were found and brought into the Pound.





ZARA joined us late in the Autumn of 2017, a delightfully feminine and very pretty little donkey mare who was terrified of her own shadow.

We don’t know her history but suspect her timidity is due to a lack of handling rather than abuse. Although only around 8 years old she decided for herself to join the ‘golden oldies’ group where she obviously feels less threatened and has stayed with them all winter, rarely venturing outside.

Thankfully she is losing her fear and gradually becoming more confident around people, dogs and sudden noises, all of which were Big Issues for her on arrival. Brave girl!




(who should be called Muddy!)

Dusty, a skewbald Shetland pony, was gathered up as an emergency on a Saturday morning in February, a bitter, icy day.

A call from a German friend, Dagmar, informed us that she had found Dusty and his donkey mare friend Jessie, trapped in a mud hole (their whole field was one big swamp) not far from where she lived.

Tragically poor Jessie had died overnight of exhaustion and hyperthermia but with the help of neighbours Dagmar had managed to dig Dusty out before it was too late and was desperate to have him removed from danger before he became stuck again. We have photos but they are too distressing to show.


It was very sad for Dusty to lose his friend in these horrific circumstances and he called for her continuously for over a week before finally settling. Now he has struck up a friendship with an elderly Shetland mare called Hugs, who has always been a loner to date. He is a dear little man, kind, well-mannered and extremely affectionate, an unlikely match for the suspicious and feisty Hugs who is anything but huggable! The two little mules, Hobbit and Josie are usually to be found hanging out with Dusty and Hugs, especially Hobbit who definitely thinks he is a pony. They make a delightful foursome.


Ruby a delightful 14hh chestnut pony mare, re-joined us in January when her best friend Torrin, our 16.2hh thoroughbred gelding died suddenly in his stable overnight aged 16 years. The pair of them were wintering with Jacintha at HHO, in the very best of ‘racehorse’ facilities far in excess of anything we could offer them here.

Torrin and friends








Left: Torrin and friends



As Torrin came to us diagnosed with a double heart murmur which was later confirmed by two separate vets here, we always knew he could leave us at any time and that it would be sudden. Nevertheless it was a big loss though we had to be happy for him that he left when comfortably asleep in a warm stable, not starving in a frozen ditch as so many do.

Windsucker Sally



Right: Torrin
Left: Windsucker Sally




Ruby accepted his passing more easily than we expected and immediately slotted back into the routine with her other friends Johnny Rainbow, Sally and Pharoah.


NEW FOREVER HOMESGilbert and Gulliver


Gulliver and Gilbert, a delightful and easily managed pair of yearling geldings, we rehomed together to a family who intend to give them all the love they crave and deserve.

Gilbert is the more reserved of the two but will claim his share of the attention when he sees Gulliver getting all the fuss.

Right: Gulliver and Gilbert
Below: Arabella and Jago


Arabella and her foal Jago found their forever home near Strokestown in Co. Roscommon with Becky Birch and her family where they have endeared themselves to all who meet them. It is always a good feeling when a mare and foal or small families of animals can be rehomed together, especially when, as in Arabella’s case, she is devoted to her offspring .

Anastasia and Luna (see their story in the Autumn 2017 newsletter) scored a hit with Lisa and Donal near Mohill in Co. Leitrim.

Donal has a particular liking for the ‘coloured’ donkeys (two colours – in Anastasia’s case, brown and white or skewbald) but couldn’t resist Luna’s striking dark looks and gentle ways either.

xrayAnastasia and Luna









Above: Anastasia and Luna at the feeder
ight: An Xray showing wire embedded in Luna’s fetlock on arrival here

As these two are a bonded pair the outcome could not have been better. There is also a home pending here for Dalton and friend, probably Domino, once the lads have had their little boys’ op and are safe to be with the mares.

Another donkey gelding, Leonard, who arrived with Anastasia and Luna but always remained a bit of a loner, found his niche as companion to a little donkey mare at the HHO holding station in Co. Galway where he seems much happier. As with people, it is not every donkey or pony who can cope with a big crowd: some prefer smaller groups or a one on one relationship and it is important that we take note of their individual personalities and cater for their needs as best we can.



Sadly we have had five losses since the last newsletter – our magnificent Torrin, as already mentioned, Shetland ponies Red and Foggy and dear old Bess, our almost blind, deaf and very aged donkey mare who came to us from Innis Biggle island with Jake, Jethro and Belinda and her foal Joey.

Foggy (shown here having her teeth checked when we first suspected trouble) had been unwell for some time but did not respond to treatment. Although there was evidence of pneumonia our vet felt there were underlying causes, most probably an internal tumour.


Red’s passing was and will remain a mystery as he was only 3 years old and gave us no indication of ill health at all but was found dead in the field with no indication of a struggle. . .

Bess, of course, was a different matter, as she had been showing increasing signs of age over the past two years, so when she went down and was unwilling even to try to get up, we knew it was her time and she slipped away peacefully amongst her friends.

Left: Red
Right: Bess






It is a fact that however many animals we lose over the years it is always a poignant and sad event: we never get used to it!

Sadly we also said goodbye to Crystal our beautiful collie girl who left us in November, aged 16, seen here enjoying a summer swim




As always we have a huge long list of people deserving of our special thanks:

Sean Keyes for a life saving donation of fourteen large round bales of the best barley straw, in a year when it was like golddust (Sean brought them to our door all the way from Tullaghmore and even stacked them in the shed for which there are no words of gratitude big enough!)

Tom and Mary Latchford for many van loads containing 8-11 small bales of the best hay delivered regularly over the winter months and donated with love.

Paddy Gaffney who volunteered help whenever we were stuck for a tractor driver or an extra pair of hands for mucking out, and who arrived on Christmas morning with his family, all able and willing to get the work done early so even yours truly could have some time off on this special day. . .

Regular volunteers Geraldine, Eileen, Marie and Greg, Sasha and her Mum, Deborah, and most importantly the stalwart Neil and Rebecca who’s support is paramount to the efficient running of the Sanctuary.

Aisling, who joined us on the Tus Scheme was moved to a more sedentary job when she became pregnant but hopes to rejoin the team in the future.

Stephan, Leni and Doris

Two very special people who deserve an enormous thank you are Doris and Stephan Klein who travelled from Bavaria with their beautiful collie, Leni, at their own expense to help out for 3 weeks in Stephan’s case and two months in Doris’s who also took a month off work without pay, just so she could be with her beloved donkeys and ponies. This is TRUE dedication!

There are also many casual helpers, also much appreciated.


 Right: Stephan, Leni and Doris on the late evening Christmas shift

Recent volunteer Samanta deserves a special mention too as she not only donates her time to help muck out on a Sunday but by signing us up to the Benevity Causes, a charitable project run by her employers Apple (of computer fame) she manages to get us money donated for that time! Through Benevity the opportunity exists for global funding through individuals who like and respect our work and wish to donate time, money or goods through the organisation. We are, of course, only one of many hundreds of charities listed worldwide but all support, when given with a good heart, is invaluable in the quest to make life better for as many animals as we can.

Scenic view

Neighbours Liam and Margaret Dennedy also came to our rescue with unbelievable generosity when they offered grazing over the winter for 12 of our ‘big boy’ donkeys along with their own three donkey pets.

This was, and is, of enormous help to us as with 72 donkeys in sheds designed for 50 we were very overcrowded, to say nothing of the financial benefit of not having to supply fodder for the ‘dirty dozen’.


The boys all look extremely fit and well. We see them daily even though we know Liam checks them regularly. They often have to be bribed to leave their grazing with the promise of a ginger biscuit (or three!).



It is rare we get involved with animals outside of the equine species but on this occasion we really felt we had to help. The call came in about an elderly dog tied on a very short chain inside a completely dark 6ft x 4ft shed (less than 2m x 1.5m).

The dog was reported as sounding distressed. When our welfare people went out to investigate the dog was not tied but was barely able to stand up as he was so weak and pitifully thin. When he tried to walk he repeatedly fell over. There did not appear to be anyone at the farm so as it was late in the evening he was brought to the Sanctuary where we made him as comfortable as possible in a large shed. Where he promptly fell asleep until the next morning when a visit to our vet was essential.

Over the next few days his story unfolded. His owner, a very elderly man himself, got ‘Darkie’ as a pup to use as a guard dog around the house. He was chained permanently on a long leash but (naturally) barked incessantly so was moved into a shed but consistently chewed his way out. . . so he was tied into the shed. As far as we know that has been his life ever since for the past 15 years!

Our vet treated him for severe ear mites and recommended a nutrient rich diet to be fed four times a day. He had a much needed bath, which he enjoyed enormously (thank you Blathnaid) and has changed into a characterful, if somewhat needy, old fellow. He was initially quite aggressive, especially over food, but is now affectionate and easily managed. This is a sad story, not of deliberate abuse but of neglect due to a total lack of empathy for and understanding of the dog’s needs, unfortunately typical of a generation who knew no better. Due to his age ‘Darkie’s future will not be as long as his past but we will do our utmost to ensure it is a happier time full of love and caring.
Finally a HUGE thank-you to ALL of you who have continued to fund the Sanctuary throughout yet another very busy year with donations, bequests, fundraisers and donkey treats. Be proud – without you we could not achieve a fraction of the work currently in progress as we can only do what we do when the funds are provided. It is no exaggeration to say that without your dedicated support there probably wouldn’t be a Sanctuary.
THANK YOU from all the animals!

Castlebaldwin, Co. Sligo, Ireland F52 H046
Website : tel: 00353 (0) 861031932
Email: Charity No. CHY10840
Registration No. 20028350. Equine No. U1324043

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