Ponies kept in 'horrifically upsetting conditions' trusting humans again four years on
PUBLISHED: 13:39 20 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:21 20 December 2019
Ponies who were in the worst condition a sanctuary has ever seen are starting to trust humans again, four years after they were rescued.
Redwings Horse Sanctuary, based in Hapton, rescued the ponies in August 2015 after a multi-agency operation to remove 60 feral horses and ponies from Ingst Manor Farm, near Bristol, having been kept in "horrifically squalid and upsetting conditions".
The charity took in 13 of the 60 and named them all after famous Charles Dickens characters including Tiny Tim and Marley from A Christmas Carol.
It has been able to rehome two ponies but due to complex care needs the remaing live at Redwings' Specialist Behaviour Centre, south of Norwich.
Sarah Hallsworth, Redwings' equine behaviour manager, said: "They are some of the most fearful ponies we have ever cared for.
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"When they arrived they were absolutely terrified of people; they would turn themselves inside out to get away from you. It was very important for their wellbeing, and our safety, that they became more comfortable around humans as this meant interventions, such as shoeing visits and routine veterinary checks, were not as daunting for them and they could enjoy a relaxed and happy new life at the Sanctuary."
Alongside the unhandled horses; cattle, pigs, sheep and goats were living in faeces with no food or water in a yard littered with old farm machinery and other dead animals.
The owner of the farm, Sue Smith, was jailed for 18 months in November 2019 for 36 offences relating to the animals' neglect.
As part of their handling training, the ponies have slowly been getting used to being approached, wearing headcollars and being led.
Ms Hallsworth added: "In a calm, predictable environment, with consistent training and a lot of patience, some of the ponies have progressed well with their handling training.
"This makes us incredibly proud, however, for some their traumatising past ordeal means that small steps, such as simply allowing us to approach them in their field or just introducing them to a headcollar, are real achievements."
Due to their previous treatment and timidness the remaining ponies cannot be rehomed.