Newsletter Spring 2019


12th February 2019 is one of those days we love to remember at the Sanctuary when, early in the morning Tosca, a beautiful black hairy cob mare and her almost identical young filly foal Tara, departed to start their long three day journey to a new home in Sweden where their new owners were waiting with irrepressible excitement. Rescued in the southern counties and brought to us through the Pound in very poor physical and emotional condition we hardly expected their fortunes to change for the better so quickly or emphatically.

Tosca and Tara

Tosca was depressed and uncommunicative when she arrived, lacking interest in her foal and life in general. Little Tara was just plain terrified.

Without the normal comfort and support from Mum she spent a great deal of time with another elderly and downtrodden pony mare, Daisy Mae, who arrived with them from the same venue. We wondered at one point if Tosca had actually rejected her baby but thankfully she tolerated her suckling and over a period of weeks her maternal instincts surfaced and she grew into a nurturing but not over protective mother, a perfect combination as she actively encouraged Tara to interact with us.





Gradually the natural curiosity of youth won the day and Tara became friendly, tactile and self assured so when the day of their departure arrived it was greeted by us all with full hearts but a complete confidence in their ability to cope with the journey and the big adventure that lay in front of them.

Watching the transformation of these beautiful beings from wretched and forgotten to glorious and vital is the most wonderful part of our work and a great privilege.

Good luck girls. Have happy lives!



A story of progress from the first taste of freedom and grass with their elderly friend Daisy Mae . . .

TaraDaisy Mae, Tosca and Tara










New home

. . . to gaining confidence around people and machinery. . .


Getting used to machinery
. . . to a final happy ending in Sweden with their delighted new owners who have beautiful facilities and wonderful plans for these two lovely ponies.




Daisy MaeDaisy Mae recovered more quickly than either Tosca or Tara gaining weight more easily and becoming sociable and easy to manage in a short time. She was devoted to little Tara to the extent that we feared her reaction if and when the day came (as it did) that Tosca and Tara would be offered a forever home away from her. Fortunately providence intervened in the shape and size of Shanti, a 15 year old, 16.3hh thoroughbred mare with severe back trouble, who appeared to have been abandoned on a derelict housing estate.

There were rumours that her owner had died but no one came forward to confirm this gossip, and even after days of following all the correct legal routes for seizure, no person either claimed her or could say definitively where she had lived before.

We were feeding her on site for over a week but as her legs began to buckle under her we decided just before Christmas that enough was enough and brought her to the Sanctuary where she was tended by our vets, rugged up warmly and started with a regime of regular small meals to try and build back her strength.

She turned out to be a gentle and grateful mare, always responsive to kindness and with such a loving nature she took Daisy Mae as her own special friend: now they are almost inseparable, an odd combination of this huge and stunning thoroughbred mare and little runty 12.2hh Daisy Mae!



Shanti scanned for a Weatherbys microchip but their records showed only that she was first registered in 2004 and sold at Tattershall Horse Sales in UK in 2007, but there was never any change of owner or country given.

Her most likely past is as a failed race horse.

Shanti displayed obvious signs of back pain which transferred into her legs, neck and shoulders, all of which have been greatly relieved with treatment from Annett Siggins, one of our vets who is trained in chiropractic.



ShantiShanti now moves more fluidly and can lie down and get up again without the wrenching pain she suffered on arrival, so we hope that the addition of ‘Dr Grass’ throughout the summer months, she will regain full health and live many more happy years.

She will need further maintenance treatments to release the tensions of many years but it is so worthwhile to see the pain and stiffness ease increasingly as the days go by.

Above: Shanti just before collection and left, a few weeks later, already more cheerful and happy




Colombo was tied to fence and abandoned behind the Sligo University College with an horrendous wound high on the inside of one back leg which was infected, very smelly and oozing copious amounts of pus and other necrotic material. Poor little man! He is only now around 18 months – 2 years old and a truly lovely, gentle pony with a curious but biddable nature.


He came to us measuring c. 12.2hh (125cms) but will grow much more.

On arrival he was thin, infected with lice and generally debilitated but with good feeding and constant veterinary care he has already grown, and ‘put on some timber’!

He is black with white feathery legs and a white blaze, so much like Tosca and Tara, apart from his one blue eye. It is difficult to believe they came from different parts of the country and are unlikely to be related.



We don’t know what caused the wound: it looked as though he had impaled himself on a deep spike then, by struggling, ripped the leg open from high up inside the stifle right round to the back of the leg creating a deep gash 5” (12cms) long. The deepest part would take a finger up to the second digit!

We know young horses have phenomenal powers of healing yet it always amazes us just how quickly they can recover and heal from wounds that hospitalise a human for weeks. As long as they get the attention, for which we thank our stalwart vet Sabine Conboy who attended on a few occasions to administer painkillers, anti inflammatories, anti-biotics and to debride the necrotic material back to healthy skin.

Once fully healed Colombo was gelded (a minor operation at his age) and finally came the day he had been waiting for when he could join the other horses up the field and run and play as a young horse should. He will make a wonderful family pony and we are hopeful that he will find his forever home in Germany.



Gracie and Danny

These three elderly donkeys joined us in October. They belong to a senior lady who was recovering from breast cancer and was not able to look after them for the winter.

Options are open for the summer: if she is well enough, Gracie and Danny may return for a few months then come back to us for the winter when the work load will be too heavy. Teddi will stay: he is an elderly brown gelding c. 30 years old who had recently lost his lifelong mate and was displaying his grief in difficult behaviour to the extent his owner and many others became afraid of him. He would not allow either the vet or the farrier to treat him and had become a problem.


Right: Gracie and Danny (Mother and son) enjoying the snow



Luckily his move to a different environment and loads of other new donkey friends set him back on the right road and Teddi quickly returned to his usual affectionate character, reminding us yet again never to underestimate the depth of an animal’s grief when they lose a long term companion. Just like us they cope in different ways, Danny’s being to hit out at the world with anger and frustration.

Gracie and Danny are both white donkeys in their late 30’s and 20’s respectively. As is common with the light colours they have soft white hooves prone to foot rot. Both needed extensive farrier care, not because they had been neglected but just because that is the nature of their hooves and because their owner had been so unwell for so long they had remained out at grass with less attention than usual. We kept them on a hard surface for many weeks following up the farrier’s meticulous trimming and cleaning with frequent spraying with Alamycin antibiotic spray which searched out and killed any remaining footrot. Gracie had both back hooves wrapped up in little Plaster of Paris bootees to protect them for a few weeks until they grew down, a procedure carried out by Master Farrier Brian Horohoe and which worked really well.



Left: Teddi having his hooves trimmed and balanced


The poor girl was not done there unfortunately as she also needed very extensive dental work.

We were alerted when she showed signs of pain on chewing, then within a few days she stopped eating altogether.




Equine dentist Lisa Molloy responded to our emergency call immediately, despite being extremely busy and working out of the area at the time. Gracie had to have 5 huge molar teeth removed as they were loose, rocking in the gums when she tried to eat and consequently packing food between them leading to infection. Lisa also burred down several ‘high’ teeth and smoothed off many sharp edges. It is possible poor Gracie will require further treatment in a few months but for this occasion enough was enough. It took three days before she began to eat again with relish but she is busy now making up for lost time.

Danny will need some correction on Lisa’s next visit but despite a very overshot ‘parrot’ mouth -which he shows to great advantage in the photo to the right! - he is not in immediate trouble.

Gracie's teeth

Gracie’s five offending teeth are shown left—a tough day for her but she is happy now.



Teddi had been dribbling for several days and sure enough he too needed treatment. A canine tooth dropped out as soon as Lisa placed the speculum in his mouth but the main problem turned out to be a 3” (7.5cms) spiked tooth right at the back of his mouth which had lost it’s opposing partner and was growing into the opposite gum right up behind the eye – not something that could have been seen without the proper equipment to hold the mouth open long enough for the dentist to see right to the back.


Half an hour of burring later and Teddi was infinitely more comfortable. Further ‘high’ teeth and sharp edges were corrected and a delighted Teddi went straight to the hay rack and started munching. It is quite possible that the pain from his mouth may have contributed to his display of bad temper when he lost his soulmate.

Our next routine dental check will be less eventful, we hope!



We have news of Seamus, the little bandit of a Fallabella pony featured in the last newsletter, who found his forever home in Germany where he companions a big and beautiful piebald horse. Seamus, now called Rocky, has become a star! His new owner, recognising his need to have something to do and things to learn has trained him in all manner of tricks from lying down on command, rolling over, sitting like a dog, rearing and walking on his hind legs, negotiating obstacle courses and possibly much more by now. A colleague found a video of his performances on Facebook and shared them with us and you can believe there were many damp eyes as we watched this previously impossible, bad tempered little rogue thoroughly enjoying himself and accepting cuddles like he was born to it.




Little Stormy (left) was delivered to his forever home in Sweden in February 2019 and is shown here looking over the door of his specially designed mini-Shetland sized stable.

It is a 3 day journey from here to Sweden but they travel in style with Neil and Rebecca at the helm so every care is taken to ensure their comfort and when the end result is a forever home in a loving family with other ponies, it is well worth while.







Bertie and Brian

Bertie and Brian, two donkey geldings, have settled into their new home at Lough Mardal in Co. Donegal ( They were visited by their previous owners over the Christmas holiday and happily all are well pleased with the arrangement.

Their owners, now in their senior years, had asked if we could take in these two beautiful boys, or better still find them a home where they would receive more attention than they had been able to give them of late.

We rarely find the perfect match to such requests but in Brian and Bertie’s case it worked out well when they were offered a home with Marcus at Lough Mardal where they could share with four other resident donkeys, c.90 acres of hill land and a creatively built semi underground ‘Hobbit’
house for shelter.

The whole enterprise is an exciting exercise in eco building centring around an absolutely massive straw bale round house which acts as headquarters for events and accommodation, supplemented with separate gurts – all with extensive and magnificent views over the lake and hills to a glimpse of the distant sea. So the donkeys have space, shelter, company, caring owners and an abundance of visitors to fuss them when they wish. Donkey heaven!

Dicky Rock also passed through quickly – even more quickly in fact - as a request for a single friendly donkey to keep another one company resulted in Dicky being collected from the Pound at HungryHorseOutside and delivered immediately before he had time to settle and make friends from whom he would have had to part again. The match worked really well (no guarantees as just like people donkeys can be particular about their friends) and all are happy, most especially the lonely donkeys.


Opening Times

We are open to visitors again from 1st April until 31st October weekends and Bank Holidays 10am – 4pm

and hope many will come and meet the donkeys and ponies and enjoy our beautiful surroundings. If you want to come along at other times please contact us first as we are small team who cannot be available at all times. With this in mind we apologise to anyone who wished to visit in the winter: sometimes we can accommodate winter visitors but mostly our workload is just too heavy and the days too short for us to cope with anything other than looking after our 100+ animals.

Schools, colleges and groups are also very welcome but by arrangement please




Sadly Ireland is currently overrun with unwanted and abandoned Shetland ponies, of all shapes, colours and sizes from miniature to the larger ‘standard’ size. Some of these ponies are of an age that would reflect back to ownership during the years of Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ when it was fashionable to keep a Shetland or two for the children, or even just for status, but many are youngsters of not much more than foals up to 2 years old.

We make a major plea here to anyone who is thinking of breeding any equine, but perhaps especially Shetlands in the current climate, to think long and hard about their future. Our local Pound has over 50 in care at the time of writing and we have 20 with many more waiting in the wings hopeful of rescue. PLEASE do not breed unless you can be certain they have a suitable permanent home for the next 20-30 years. Irish rescues are stretched to the limit, facing hard choices of which to save and what happens to those we cannot physically accommodate. It is heartbreaking to see all those innocents suffering directly because of human greed and carelessness.



Shetland ponies Trigger and Poco arrived mid-winter as casualties of personal problems which left one party unable to keep them and another unwilling. The ponies had been in this home for 13 years so it was a big wrench for them to be whisked away to unfamiliar surroundings and people and as little stallions they had to be separated from the main gang until they were gelded, an operation which should have been straight forward but proved to be anything else!

Trigger is a plump and quiet little skewbald who is easy to handle except for loading into a horse trailer when he turns into a demon snake! Poco is a tiny piebald with serious attitude and lots to say. People are tolerated over a fence or gate to provide tit-bits while Poco indulges his endearing habit of ‘chatting’. But try and touch him….no way!

It wasn’t long before the first vowel in Shetlands was changed and they became known by a less polite name. However, if they were to have any life beyond constriction to a small paddock, they would have to be gelded so it was a case of rallying the troops to insist and persist until they were in a situation where a light sedative applied to a ginger biscuit could quieten them sufficiently for the rest of the medication to be given and eventually the deed was done.

Below left, Neil holding Poco after the ‘event ‘ and right, Trigger trying to look nonchalant about it all!

Gracie's teethGracie's teeth









Mature castrations do not result in immediate infertility as some sperm may be left in the tubes for a while so the boys had to remain where they were for a further couple of weeks before they could join our small herd of Shetlands and other small ponies, a mix of geldings and mares, who all get along together and have great fun. The first few days were a nightmare as they tried to establish their superiority with Trigger surprisingly, being the main aggressor. All settled now!



Sasha and Eva

Two more little ones arrived with us from the Pound early in November. They looked like mother and foal for although the larger mare, Eva, is only a shetland - and we believe a pregnant one! - her 'foal' Sasha is much smaller - a tiny miniature shetland of no relation. Eva is around 20 years old, Sasha much younger but as they had come into the Pound together and were obviousy inter-dependent they were kept together to save them from further distress.

Left: Sasha and Eva

Below: Hugs


Both were in poor conditionbut quickly recovered. Little Sasha is like a mascot, always everywhere and into everything, friends with everyone!

After a while Eva began to spend more time with Hugs, another elderly Shetland marewho has been with us for many years, so now it is either these two we see together or a threesome. Hugs had always been a loner so it is wonderful to see her now with special friends of her own.




We have many volunteers to thank throughout the year, especially our regulars, Stewart, Sasha, Geraldine and Sam and this time we say a special thank you to a young lady from Germany, Eva, who spent the month of November 2018 living on site and helping out with every manner of work. Before returning to Germany Eva set up an Instagram page for the Sanctuary on which are featurured a few of our current residents. Eva and Sasha were given the job of naming two little ponies under threat that if they didn't come up with original names the ponies would be called Eva and Sasha. Guess what happened?!!





Late last year Neil and Rebecca took on the local and long distance transportation of horses, ponies and donkeys for both ourselves, and more importantly for the Pound and HungryHorseOutside, to their new forever homes both here and abroad, most notably to Germany and Sweden where Irish equines continue to be popular for a number of reasons. The standards of animal welfare in both countries leaves Ireland in the Stone Age and once settled in their new homes the animals continue to be checked by a team of welfare officers in the respective countries. Tractor driving

Many new owners send photographs and videos of their excitedly expectant new friend(s) which are always received with great joy when we see what came to us as depressed, undernourished and often abused cases, settling into a situation of love and companionship in facilities we can only dream about.

As Rebecca was employed here part time and Neil was an almost full time volunteer they left a huge gap that needed to be filled, very happily as it turned out, by Gail and her husband Stewart, who joined us last September and have since become part of the fabric of the Sanctuary.


In the shed at breaktime





They have their own two horses so came with a wealth of experience which enabled them to settle into the Sanctuary's needs and routines as if born to it. We are fortunate indeed!



Above: Gail with volunteers Eva, Geraldine and Stewart trying to enjoy a teabreak
with interference from Mr McNulty, Danny and Gracie, all enthusiastic biscuit snatchers


Jed en route


One young lady, Jed O'Flynn, deserves enormous thanks and recognition for walking the Camino Santiago del Compostela, coast to coast in Spain, on behalf of the donkeys and ponies, raising in excess of €600. The walk took her 6 weeks bringing with her the gift of music which she shared with other travelling musicians along the way and thus made many friends.

She travelled alone, organising the whole trip herself and we are overflowing with admiration! We met Jed a couple of yers ago when she and her boyfriend rescued a tiny donkey stallion who was suffering from severe sweetitch but as they had nowhere to keep him they asked if we could help. Duncan the donkey is with us still, now gelded and very affectionate. As long a we keep him away from the midges he is fine.

Right: Jed en route with her enormously heavy back pack and faithfull guitar





HENNEKE DE JONGH came up with a novel and very popular fundraiser for us at Christmastime which resulted in a great deal of crocheting, one of many handicraft skills this gifted lady teaches from her home in Co. Roscommon.


Donkey toys

Henneke devised a pattern for a small donkey 'hanger' toy, which can be used in a number of ways: Christmas tree decorations; pram toys; children's mobiles; even keyrings and sold them at the Beltra Christmas Country Fair as well as online and through friends.

The most amazing part is that she personally crocheted 110 little donkey toys which sold for €5 each . . . and they sold out! Friends came to the rescue to crochet more - particular thanks to Petra who made a further 8 well after the event so as not to disappoint a latecomer. The donkeys were in every colour imaginable and found themselves travelling to many parts of the globe as gifts. Altogether they raised almost €500!




Another unique fundraiser came through Anne Marie Fitzgibbon and her team who ran a vegan restaurant in Merseyside UK. This also involved crocheting but in a most unusual way as they launched an 'Adopt a Sprout @ campaign by placing a crocheted sprout on each table in the restaurant with an invitation to the diners to contribute a small amount to the Sai Sanctuary if they wished. Unbelievably they raised over €600, a mindblowing achievement from a crazy idea. Well done and a million thanks to Anne Marie and all the wonderful, generous people who crocheted the sprouts, made the idea work and contributed financially.
PS . . . they have just sent another €100!!Sprouts


Help comes in less dramatic ways too. In our last newsletter we mentioned the close of our local post office (still 8kms away) and thanked post mistress Eileen Carty for her many years of sticking the stamps and airmail stickers on our bi-annual newsletters. Bless her heart, Eileen has volunteered to continue this service if we bring her the boxes of newsletters as usual along with the necessary stamps and stickers. This is one of those time-consuming tedious jobs we really appreciate being able to offload - thank you Eileen!




Snow sceneDonkey in the barn


The North Wind doth blow and we shall have snow


And what will our charges do then, poor things?




All in the barnAll in the barn


They'll hide in the barns and keep themselves warm


And wait for the Spring to come, poor things



(With apologies to a time honoured English nursery rhyme )



GOODBYE TO SAMSam in the snow

One sad note was losing Sam, the 14hh bright bay cob who had been Charlie’s constant companion for 29 years. The pair were totally bonded so it was an exceptionally hard loss for Charlie, who at 30 years old himself, was devastated.

They had been grazing for the summer with the Frawley family near Sligo when Sam first started to show an awkwardness in the gait of his back legs. The vet was called immediately but despite treatment Sammie’s condition deteriorated until one evening he went down and was unable to get back on his feet. He was in severe pain and after much heartache and discussion it was decided the kind way was to let him go so the vet gently put him to sleep on the spot.

Right: Sam in the snow

Charlie stayed with his pal overnight but the shock really set in when Sammie’s body had to be removed and poor Charlie was beside himself with a mixture of grief, fear and bewilderment at this sudden change in his old pal.


After discussions with our distraught friends, we decided to bring Charlie back to the Sanctuary (thank you Neil and Rebecca for a difficult loading and journey) where we felt he would be happier with other horses and ponies he had known for some years.

He had always had a soft spot for Fairy Snow, our 14hh albino Connemara pony, so we tried putting them together. At first Charlie was so upset he wouldn’t let anyone near him, let alone Fairy and behaved in an unpredictable manner bordering on dangerous but we visited him in the field every hour or so for a couple of days and gradually he relaxed, allowed petting and eventually followed us back up the field where he began to acknowledge Fairy.

Three or four days later the pair were together, Charlie had found a new recipient for his big heart and Fairy, though maybe not quite as enthusiastic, has remained remarkably tolerant of his insistent attention. Even now, months later, Charlie will panic if Fairy is out of sight and although she rarely answers his frantic calls of ‘Where are you?’ she is always pleased to see him and settles his insecurities with a good grooming!

Left: Charlie

 Charlie and Fairy


When a few weeks later a woman expressed her belief that animals don’t feel emotions we wished we had been able to capture the whole episode in a bottle to prove otherwise! Certainly it was a distressing and traumatic experience for Charlie.

We are extremely grateful and respectful of the kindness and generosity shown by the Frawley family both throughout this episode and since. They loved the ponies dearly and continue to visit Charlie here at frequent intervals, always bringing gifts of horsefeed, carrots, ginger biscuits and warm hearts.


Right: Fairy the rescuer


AND ON A HAPPIER NOTE…Sam in the snow


Readers of earlier newsletters may remember Amber and Topaz, a mini Shetland mare and foal duo who were happily rehomed with a young family in north Co. Sligo. Here they are settled and happy with their new goat friends in the background. It is always gratifying to receive voluntary feedback about our foster homers as there are no guarantees that every one will work out as well.

Right: Amber and Topaz





Our latest arrval, Shambo came in the first week of March and was gelded the next day just before the unseasonal weather of later February turned back to winter.

It was not a great welcome for him but now at least he is free to join the rest of the donkeys without risk of producing more unwanted foals. He is only 2 years old, a bit shy as yet of his new surroundings but a delightful little character who we hope will make friends with one or two of the younger geldings throughout the summer.







Shanbo looking a bit bewildered on arrival but, left, soon making friends. Within a few days it was as if he had always lived here.





Heaven for a Donkey - anonymous

A lorry came and took my Mum away many years ago,
Ever since that time I feel dead inside and my head hangs low.
I cried for so long, my heart was broken; her love was all I knew,
The work and the beatings got harder each day the more I grew.

I do not understand, what did I do wrong in my life?
The load was unbearable and straps across my back cut like a knife
Toiled day and night till my bones ached with pain,
I worked as hard as they wanted and did not complain.

The sores and the cuts on my legs sting and burn every day,
Please, be kind with a cool soft bed and little bit of hay.
My mouth is dry from dust and my back burns in the heat,
I am so hungry, so tired and feel dead on my feet.

I stand in nowhere, surrounded by bottles and bags on a tip,
Dear God let me lie down forever and feel no more the whip.
Thrown out with the rubbish, no good and too old,
My tears are silent, inside I am crying, are all people so cold?

I think the time has come when God will take me home,
Do not weep for me, for I will be in fields of daisies free to roam.
I can hear my darling Mum calling, somewhere out of sight,
I’ll be happy with her, no more pain; I close my eyes as day becomes night.



Sathya Sai Sanctuary Trust,

Castlebaldwin, Co. Sligo, Ireland F52 H046

Email: Tel: 00353 (0)861031932

Charity No CHY 10840 Registration 20028350

IBAN IE48 BOFI 9052 8032 983806 BIC Code BOFIIE2D


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