Spirit’s harrowing tale and courageous recovery will live on in the hearts and memories of the Sanctuary’s teams and supporters alike.
August 2016 marks 10 years since the rescue of 13hh chestnut Welsh pony Spirit. His rescue story was one of the most upsetting witnessed by Redwings Horse Sanctuary during its 30-plus-year history. Very sadly, 22-year-old Spirit passed away this summer and after ten happy years at the Norfolk-based Sanctuary, the charity wanted to pay tribute to this amazing pony.
This is Spirit’s story:
Spirit was originally rescued by a lady in Middlesbrough who found him running loose and suffering from serious injuries having been chased around a housing estate by young boys on motorbikes. He was also attacked with fireworks and set upon by dogs.
When his injuries were later examined by a local vet, it was clear that while being terrorised Spirit had also been electrocuted with a cable resulting in burns to his side, flank and face and he had been beaten with a chain of some kind.
Consequently, it was unsurprising that Spirit was terrified of people and could not tolerate any human contact. Indeed, in the five years he was with his new owner, she never managed to touch him and when he needed to be led, she could only do so by gently passing a rope round his neck.
Spirit’s owner realised this was not sustainable, especially if he needed veterinary intervention, and she therefore called Redwings for help. The charity’s external equine behaviourist Mark Hudson assessed Spirit to see if professional handling therapy would be of benefit. After two full days working with the then 13-year-old pony, Mark concluded that Spirit’s was the worst case of fear and trauma he had ever seen and it was agreed that Spirit would be offered a place at Redwings where he could undergo a long-term rehabilitation programme.
“It was astonishing how far Spirit was able to overcome his fears during his time with us,” reflected Redwings’ Behaviour Manager Sarah Hallsworth. “Horses have very long memories but although he would never forget his past experiences, with a lot of patience and understanding we managed to get him to trust us enough to tolerate basic handling, wear a headcollar and receive routine treatments without causing him stress or anxiety.
“I was so proud of him every time he took a step forward in his recovery, it took such bravery. I will never forget the day his handler first managed to touch him!”
Arriving in 2006, Spirit spent ten years living happily at one of Redwings’ Norfolk sanctuary farms. Very sadly, on the morning of Friday 17th June this year Spirit started to colic. His large intestine had twisted and he wasn’t responding to treatment; therefore the devastating decision was made to put him to sleep to ensure he did not suffer.
“The loss of Spirit has been greatly felt by everyone at that Sanctuary,” commented Redwings CEO Lynn Cutress. “His story touched so many people and his recovery embodied what is so special about Redwings and our work. It is important we remember him.
“We exist as a charity for horses like Spirit and we never give up on a horse, no matter their needs or how deep the scars of their past run. We were able to offer a place of safety to Spirit for ten years, and we extend our sympathies and thanks to his owner for her love and care for this very special chap. I’m so proud of our Behaviour and Care teams for enabling Spirit to live such a peaceful life with us after such a terrible ordeal.”