Horses and ponies, as prey animals, are by nature creatures of flight. For some, the flight instinct is heightened because of bad treatment, eventually causing them to distrust humans. While many may be won round with kind, consistent and experienced handling, others will remain anxious and troubled, lacking the confidence ever to become safe riding horses.
Tommy is one such horse. In his early years he suffered horrific physical and psychological abuse. Confined to a small, squalid barn, he and four other stallions fought over a solitary mare, kept with them.
“Anyone knowing horses would really understand how dangerous and terrible it is to confine stallions together with a mare,” said Vicki Alford, Horse Unit Manager at Blue Cross Rehoming Centre in Burford. “Stallions will fight until the death over mares, so to be shut in with no form of escape is torture for horses. I would liken it to dog fighting. It is unforgivable.”
As if this wasn’t distressing enough for the animals, periodically the horses were forced, one-by-one, into a cattle crush and beaten with piping. For some this resulted in permanent facial scarring and irreparable nerve damage.
Last year the horses were seized by the RSPCA and taken in to the Blue Cross horse welfare centre at Burford in Oxfordshire. The mare, Tallulah, was so badly traumatised that she was beyond help and had to be euthanased. Tommy on the other hand showed an inherently trusting nature. “He was very worried and anxious but underneath there was a real spark,” said Vicki. “You could see he wanted to trust us but just had no idea that humans were nice.”
It was a long slow process but now, seven months later, Tommy has an admirable bond with his groom Serena Jenkins, who painstakingly has earned his trust. He leads well to and from the field, can be groomed all over and have his feet picked up and is now ready to find a home for life. “He gives so much love and affection that someone out there will fall for him in a big way and give him the home he deserves,” said Vicki.
Sally Dunford took on Blue Cross Natasha a year ago and highly recommends taking on a troubled companion. Natasha was heavily in-foal and in a weak and nervous state when she was admitted to Blue Cross as part of large rescue case. Sadly she lost her foal, which added to her distress. She desperately needed an experienced, considerate and caring home to help re-build her life and Sally was on hand to help.
"Natasha’s role as companion is essential in our little herd,” said Sally. “We are on a continuous learning curve but when I think of much she has progressed in the past year I feel I am going to burst with admiration for her. I had no idea that what I could offer to a sensitive, head shy, coloured cob would be far outweighed by what she would offer to me. I highly recommend it.”
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