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Albert and Nora - May Rescue

This is Nora, lifted yesterday from Garry Forest. The photo was taken on Wednesday by one of our volunteers who went out to check On the two ponies running the forest.

We’d first become aware of them on Tuesday morning when a supporter sent us a screenshot of a photo and post on Facebook. It was the same photo we shared on Tuesday morning looking for information.

The post stated that they may have been lost, but comments said they’d been there a while.

As a rescue we want to help them all - and although at a glance they looked well cared for. There were signs of neglect. They were both overweight, Albert the stallion more so than Nora. And although their feet have been chipped down on the stony lanes they were still starting to curl.

But we cannot just rush in and lift every animal we see needing help. We were told that they had been reported to welfare so we made contact there to get more information. In the meantime, we asked for the locals who had been caring for them to provide as much information as they could.

There was some varying information but the main knowledge was that they were dumped in farmland approximately 2 years ago. They roamed the farmland and then made their way into the forest where they’ve disappeared on and off for chunks of time. They’ve been seen on the roads numerous times too and locals were told to contact PSNI if that was to happen again.

For the most part, these two were doing okay, but they needed care, more than the walkers and locals could provide on the odd sightings.

We could have left them, waited to hear from animal welfare but more people were reporting to us about their condition was poor - something we suspected. Baring in mind this was all over the Tuesday afternoon period. We had to find out who owned the land because if we go in and lift animals from that land without permission we could face criminal charges.

We had locals send us photos and videos and on seeing the condition up close that evening the volunteer messaged the manager to say we needed to lift. There was no doubt.

Our main problem, as it always seems to be, is space. Through those sending information we’d found out it was a stallion and mare we were dealing with. Which meant we didn’t need to find one place but two. The yard team, as always, came through, saying they’d make it work and find the space if we could get a rescue organised.

Wednesday morning one of our volunteer team went out to check them. It didn’t take long to spot them; they were exactly where the locals said they’d be and the stallion came out of his spot in the tree line to investigate the new person. The mare was curious but nervous.

The volunteer was able to get a brief look at the stallion's teeth and estimated him to be fairly young - older than 5, younger than 10. She had a quick feel and lift of his feet and felt the heat and could see him shifting and moving. Very lame.

Immediately the volunteer called the manager to say we needed to lift asap, but access was limited. We’d made contact with the forest service and they said they could get access for us but there were two large trees down about a hundred yards from the access gate. So we wouldn’t gain much that way.

We would have to get the ponies out to the roadside. People had told us the black one was friendly and both were food orientated.

So a couple of volunteers returned on Wednesday afternoon with a few headcollars, ropes, buckets, etc. To see how the pair would react. Immediately they were on alert. The stallion going on the defensive at the sight of the headcollar. The volunteers took their time, getting him comfortable with coming to a bucket and letting the ropes touch him. He obviously had an experience of headcollars and ropes in the past and his reaction suggested that it wasn’t a positive experience. The mare was completely bewildered by the whole thing and although by the end she was at the bucket she still wasn’t sure.

With an increase of dog walkers at that time and the ponies tired of the games our volunteers decided to leave and return the next day to continue working with them.

Heading back down the Lane they got a text to say that the rescue was happening on Thursday, the next day if the volunteers could help. We were extremely concerned that they would have a full-blown laminitis attack before we could get to them. We have personally seen ponies die from laminitis when we’ve been too late.

For those of you unfamiliar you can read about laminitis by googling but here’s a brief description “Laminitis is a crippling disorder of the feet, resulting from damage to the sensitive soft tissues known as 'laminae', which connect the skeletal pedal bone to the inside of the hoof wall.

Laminitis can be caused by many factors, including overeating (obesity), working on a hard surface (commonly referred to as road founder), running high fevers, exposure to black walnut shavings, and stress. Ponies are extremely susceptible to laminitis, especially when fed rich, lush forage. Laminitic attacks are usually sudden and, unfortunately, often severe.”

Early on Thursday morning, the team set off from the yard. They were met by another volunteer in the forest. The four of them walked into the forest, up the lane they’d been on Wednesday. But there were no ponies, given the high winds and rain it made sense they would probably be sheltering. But there were no signs. The four split up, some going deeper into the forest, others following the paths, and one moving through the boggier land (obviously the job everyone wanted!). No sign. Given that Garry Forest is listed to have just over 566 hectares of coverage (although not all wooded) it was a terrifying prospect for the team - although one we have experienced before. Many a rescue has been carefully planned and scoped out only to arrive and find that the horses have dispersed.

Not to be deterred one of the team headed down the road to check the third lane where they were sighted before too while the others followed a trail of fresh droppings. (You know the luxurious things!)

By this point, they were all quite soaked but the phone rang with the news that the ponies were standing happily on the other lane. Note for future rescues, split up at the start lol.

They were on the third lane, one side boggy land the other trees. Both with a ditch that all had a look at hoping they weren’t going to end up in it at some point (again not the first time).

Again the stallion came forward curious but he quickly spotted the ropes again and froze up.

For a long time, the team just stood and waited for him to relax again, letting him make the moves while they encouraged but never pushed. We needed to get them to the roadside and the horsebox. But we were concerned about them running out onto the road. Although it was fairly quiet there were still vehicles passing and we had heard from some of the locals who contacted us that it can be busy. So while two stayed to try and gain trust another two set up the box and a pen to help block the road.

By the time the box was ready to go one of the staff had a head collar on the Stallion, and like a headcollar was part a naming right he was dubbed Albert.

He was not so sure once it was on though, and his companion was very curious. Helpfully pulling at it until she got it off of him and then proceeding to shake it and hit herself with it. Obviously, she didn’t have any negative experiences with headcollars; for her, it was just something new to explore. People, on the other hand, she wasn’t so sure of. Given her suspected young age, it was possible all she’d known from people was on the paths or when they wandered onto the roads. The latter probably involved chasing to get them back off the road; a necessary scare back to safety.

So the staff member had to get the head collar on again and Albert was wise to it, but the staff member was also wise and knew that his little nose and ears needed a tighter fit. Even with the head collar at its smallest, he was still loose. For such a big pony he has a very fine head.

With a little encouragement, he led to the roadside where we had the pen and box set up. He had a few moments of panic but with breaks and time, he came around until one point he was happily trotting along at the staff members side with the mare at his keeping pace.

The mare, who we’ve called Nora, wanted to stick close to her pal at all costs but everything was scary for her so she would dart away, obviously expecting him to follow her but when he didn’t she came quickly back.

The loading went well, Albert showing the way and Nora quickly following behind. Staff got a brief look at her teeth then and estimated she’s around 1-2 years old; which does raise questions but we will have to wait for a better look when she’s settled to age her properly.

Off to the sanctuary and get them settled in. Albert has moved into Harvey’s Stable, among the rest of the stallions, and the recently gelded. Harveys not exactly sure what to make of that development when he was shifted to another.

First, we had to get Nora to the barn and the easiest way of doing that was getting Albert to lead her there before he went to his stable across the yard. Both were naturally distressed at being separated but settled after a while with Charles welcoming Albert and Lucas offering comfort from the stable next door and Tilly and Robyn chatting to her from the passageway.

Nora is very nervous, to the point of wall climbing when the stable door was opened. It’s all so new to her, this is possibly the first time she’s ever been in a stable. But she quickly has found that hay tastes nice. They will both be going on supplements for their laminitis and diets.

The farrier will see them next time he’s up hopefully, once we get Nora headcollared and used to leading. They will also see the dentist which will also give us a better idea of age.

It was nice to see them settling in last night, obviously, the forest was more idyllic than our barn and stables but unfortunately, it wasn’t working for them.

We are glad we have been able to get the room for them, it was a bit of juggling but they are here and safe and hopefully on the mend.

So often people send us queries about underweight horses and overgrown feet. These are serious welfare concerns but so are “fat” ponies. So are too short feet. Abandoned stallions and mares are also a concern.

Welfare concerns range from all ends of the spectrum. A lot of the time we aren’t able to act, our hands are literally tied with laws and legislation, and restrictions. So we have to chase and ask and keep poking until we can get somewhere.

These ponies have been in this forest for approximately 2 years and yet we only found out about them on Tuesday morning and it was just by chance one of our volunteers checked the request messages on Instagram that morning.

Each day we receive many emails and calls; for all sorts of things. Of the welfare and requests for taking in animals, we often have to prioritize. It’s not because we don’t want to help, but because we physically can’t help them all, it’s something those in the team have to learn; often the hard way. We cannot save them all, we cannot do it all. Alone we can do nothing, we are completely reliant on donations from the public and through fundraising. We get no statutory funding, no governmental support.

For many cases, all we can do is refer to the relevant council's animal welfare team. With enough information, we make reports too, and we do our best to follow up on those reports and to check out the investigation. Often all we able to know is that it’s under investigation.

In order for us to lift animals, we need permission from either landowners, PSNI, or welfare. If we act without permission we could face criminal charges, those involved in the rescue could be arrested.

So we do our best to record everything, collect as much information as we can. On Tuesday when we put out a call for information about these two ponies other people were sharing other photos of the same ponies asking if anyone knew owners etc. We have only seen a couple but it seems locally these “little” ponies have become a little infamous.

Honestly, we’ve been involved in cases with similar conditions where we were not allowed to act, we’re we had to sit and wait. In the end, one of the ponies died from laminitis.

Our own Gabriel was dumped last May/June time. Animal welfare put up a notice to find owners. When owners never showed they contacted us to ask if we could take him. At that point, he’d been living in approximately 12 acres of lush grass for two months. This is because animal welfare cannot act until a period of time is up. By the time we have space and the information of where he was, and what he needed, it was nearly too late. Some of you may recall that we rushed him to the vets on lifting him and that they considered blood transfusions because of his founder.

In the past 6 months, we have taken in 10 horses, ponies, and donkeys and assisted others to find homes. Of those we’ve only shared a few with you, for some of them we will never be able to share their stories.

When we appeal for one we are appealing for them all, every year we rescue at least one equine who never gets a chance. One who often never lives long enough for a name. Often we cannot even share these with you, and if anything that is the times we need you all the most. But this year we’ve been so grateful to have been able to save those we have. Even now though, their journeys are still ongoing.

Albert and Nora’s story is just beginning with us, but they will be a part of us for their whole lives.

Every time you donate, share, post, volunteer, you are helping us save lives and make those lives the best we can.

We cannot save them all, but together we will try!

Please make sure to follow Facebook and Instagram for the progress of Albert and Nora as well as the many other beasties that call Crosskennan home!


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Did you know you can send grocery deliveries to us too? Just let us know in advance, and you can do a ASDA, Tesco's, Sainsbury's Online delivery and get it dropped off at the sanctuary. We can make use of so much from your local supermarket, from fresh fruit and veg, to frozen peas and sweetcorn, fresh chicken, ham, liver, washing up powder/tablets, dish soap, bleach, disinfectant, toilet rolls, dog food, cat food, birdseed... The list could go on forever!

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