*Caution this story might be distressing for some and contains disturbing images
*Caution this story might be distressing for some with disturbing images
Monday: On a cold and wet February afternoon, Sue received a phone call from a young man who was worried about a horse being sick. The young man had previously used Sue’s Taxis and he remembered talking to her about her love of horses, so when he saw this poorly horse he knew just who to tell.
Horses are not physically able to be sick but Sue could hear the worry in the young man’s voice and agreed to go and check on the horse he had told her about.
Nothing could have prepared Sue for what she saw when she arrived at the horse’s field on Sling Lane.
Eleven ponies in various stages of emaciation, no food in sight, mud everywhere and little access to water. The pony that had been reported as being sick, was collapsed on the ground, the retching motion was the poor pony trying but failing to stand up. He was just too weak and kept falling back down. Sue looked around and knew she had to do something but couldn’t do it alone.
The first phone call was to another animal welfare agency, removing and treating this number of neglected ponies would be too much for the tiny Penny Ha’Penny charity.
Initially the other agency refused to attend but after dozens of calls from Sue describing the animal’s condition and expressing the desperateness of the horses’ situation, they agreed to come to the field. In the meantime Sue also phoned Laura who rushed from work to help.
The collapsed horse (we later found out was named Patch) was priority but the others clearly needed help too.
(Three photos of Patch on the night we were made aware of the Sling Lane ponies, backbone clearly visible and collapsed, too weak to stand)
Immediately Sue and Laura started to clean the sores on Patch’s face and head, large abscesses had formed where the headcollar had been too tight, rubbed the skin raw and become infected.
Shortly after, the other agency arrived and were quickly followed by the police and a local Vet. The vet assessed the situation and requested that all of the horses be removed from this site as they were likely only days from death if care was not given promptly. The horse ambulance was ordered and Patch was rolled onto a sling and winched into the trailer with Laura lay over his head and neck, supporting him while preventing any further attempts by him to stand during this manoeuvre. Patch was removed from the field, hospitalised and put on a drip, every attempt was made to help him.
Back to that Monday night, during the treatment and removal of Patch, the ponies’ owner arrived on scene and explained to the other agency that she checked them everyday from the train as it passed the field, she said she always made sure to sit on the side of the train that overlooked them as she went past. Sue and Laura were busy with the ponies so were unable to speak to the owner at this point. The owner begged the other agency to let her keep the horses and against the vet’s and Penny Ha’Penny’s advice, the agency agreed that she could keep half of the horses. The vet was forced to choose which ponies were rescued and which were left there. The owner was allowed to keep the half that were the least starved but would be subject to monitoring visits by the other agency.
Sue set to work straight away to find transport for the five that Penny Ha’Penny were rescue (Patch had already gone to a veterinary hospital). The lorry Sue found wasn’t available until Wednesday.
Tuesday: A large bale of hay was delivered to the Sling Lane field, ordered by the owner but the bale wasn’t rolled out, that same morning Sue visited the ponies to check on them as we would soon be taking on half of them. Unfortunately on her arrival at the field Sue found another collapsed pony, a tiny grey pony. He had fallen into the deep mud, trampled by the others rushing for the hay and he was too weak to stand back up, Sue rushed to help the pony, holding his head out of the mud. She phoned the vet and Laura to come and help urgently but it was too late and that pony died in Sue’s arms. At least she was there to provide some comfort and love during his last minutes. More heart-breaking news was to follow, Patch the pony who had been winched away and placed on a drip had also died; starvation. Our intervention, despite being on the same day we were called was just too late.
(The drowned pony who was too weak to stank up after being knocked down by the others in the rush to eat)
Wednesday: Transport arrived and Sue along with the help from other taxi drivers and Malvern friends, set to work to load the five worst starvation cases, these ponies were terrified, they didn’t know they were being rescued. The saga wasn’t over, while Penny Ha’Penny worked hard to herd the ponies onto the lorry, the land owner arrived and intervened, deliberately scaring away one of the mares that was due to be rescued. The stress was beginning to get too much for these weak and damaged ponies, the incredibly hard decision was made to take the four that had loaded and leave the last one with the owner, after-all the other agency would be monitoring their care.
The four that Penny Ha’Penny were able to remove, travelled quietly to our barn in Leigh Sinton. The vet followed the lorry as he was worried that they would be too weak to survive the short journey.
February saw Taboo, Lady, Ceiriad and Freckles start their journey to recovery. Ceriad and Freckles were named by Malvern Gazette readers (see article)
(Late night check on the Sling Lane ponies in the barn during thier first week)
Please read on to discover more about the individual ponies and the next part of the Sling Lane rescue in June.