Wild Ponies in Need
Many people have hiked the Mourne’s over the years, visited it’s tourist spots and enjoyed it’s marvelous views. Some will have been lucky to spot the Mourne’s very own wild ponies running about. Unlike the dartmoor ponies or other wild ponies in the UK though the Mourne’s ponies are not protected, they don’t have an owner or someone who cares for them when needed. For many of them they were dumped there when owners couldn’t continue their care, they were left there to survive on their own, forgotten by their homes.
Those ponies have bred over the years while others were abandoned among them. They have multiplied and continued to explore those mountains. For some it’s an idyllic paradise and they get what they need. For many though the land is too harsh to support them.
The Equine Halfway House has been monitoring the situation for some time, making the contacts needed. With help from another rescue, Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary, in Antrim, for contacts, they were able to put a plan in place to start making headway into saving those forgotten souls on the mountains.
For those who have seen these ponies they do look pretty, they look happy, they look free. But they are not healthy and for many their lives are short. With limited grazing, harsh climate and inbreeding there are a lot of things to go wrong for these little herds.
For many of them they are just surviving and no more. When the Halfway house went to pick up the first small herd the ponies were ready to be rescued. But tracking and lifting the ponies is the easy bit; with the ponies safely at the rescue it’s now when the work begins and costs begin to really mount.
Costs are already racking up with another rescue in the process while we share, even the simple fuel for the vehicles and boxes to transport. At present they have lifted 5 off the mountain with another 15+ to go, all in their own herds and groups and dotted over the hills. These are just the ones that concerns have been raised about.
Once they are at the rescue they need vetting, for some this will be a simple check up to make sure they are okay; for others this will involve x rays, blood tests, etc. to determine health state. With many living up there for years and just getting by many will be lacking. On top of that rescues can be stressful, for the people and most importantly for the animals. Even though these five were happy to leave the Mournes it’s still very new to them.
These particular ponies are all carrying a very heavy worm burden. Worms can kill when untreated but for those already weak, treating worms or other parasites can be equally as deadly. Care has to be taken and balance met, a balance of keeping stress down, food intake normal, adding any supplements to help build them up or mend.
The first five have been separated into two groups, the mothers and foals and then the stallion. The stallion will be gelded to stop any more unwanted pregnancies. As pretty as foals are, they grow up to be adult ponies and those adult ponies will breed; giving us the very problem we are trying to solve at the moment. These ponies have been unwanted, so so are their offspring. Any males will need to be gelded and kept separate from the females. Whilst the foals are too young to geld at present they too will need gelded in only a few months. In the wild, horses will keep their foals with their herd for at least one year, usually two. By encouraging offspring to leave the herd, wild horses avoid inbreeding. That isn’t happening on the Mournes with a couple of different herds being covered with one main stallion who is running between.
Whilst living on the rough terrain many of them will have worn their feet down but some aren’t able to do this naturally. In the wild natural selection would mean those with feet unsuited to the terrain would die out. But that is wild horses, and these are domestic, we bred them for human pursuits but then abandoned them on the mountains. For this reason some will have foot issues, but all will need trimming and shaping by an experienced farrier. They don’t need shoes but that doesn’t mean their feet don’t need care.
These ponies are also going to need to see the dentist. With the Equine Halfway House’s contact with Crosskennan Lane in Antrim they know that another pony, born in 2020 to one of the herds and then separated, had severe dental issues, with severe overgrowth for a foal and malformations. With this in mind there is concern for what dental issues even the foals will have, while normally young horses don’t need as much dental work as the adults. Adult horses can have problems just like humans. Ponies although small have the same size teeth as horses. Most horses maintain their teeth by grinding their food. In particular, wild horses' diet is such that it allows for even teeth wear. But even wild horses can develop dental problems and problems can involve bacteria which lead to infections, can cause pain, slow food processing, and even death.
At present each pony is costing the rescue approximately £1.50 a day in feed, supplements and hay. They are on shavings at £7.20 a bale, of which they have 1-2 each week. One Haylage bale lasts the rescue a day and costs £30 each. Each farrier treatment is £20 per pony, with corrective work meaning more frequent visits. Gelding costs £120 per pony on average between charges, sedatives and medications.
The Equine Halfway House is solely run and managed by Katryna Gamble who has already over 30 horses, ponies and donkeys to care for daily before she took on the job of saving those on the Mournes. She is self funded and supported by a generous group of people who donate to help with vet bills, feed bills, etc.
This is one of those times when they need to reach out and ask for help and support, the bills are only going to keep coming and with more to save it’s not a time for sitting around and hoping for a miracle. If you can help with any of the costs associated with the Mournes ponies please do donate. And please share
A little about Equine Halfway House.
They have been rescuing for nearly 10 years. Here is their mission statement.
We take in predominantly equines, but no animal is refused.
This help can be in their own home, with advice, physical help or financial aid.
RESCUE our horses and other animals come from a wide range of situations, from death row in the pound to owner surrenders, abandonments and even other rescues.
RECUPERATION once here they are quarantined for 3 weeks. This gives them time to adjust to the start of a new chapter and us a chance to assess them, get the vet, farrier and dentist if required. This can take longer than 3 weeks depending on each individual animal.
REHABILITATION we start to teach at the beginning to heal from any physical or emotional trauma. No force is used here. Ponies are sent away at the moment to be backed and schooled as we don't have the facilities to do it here. This is done if and when the pony is ready.
REHOMING All here are available for rehoming, but only to the perfect home.
REFUGE any animal who can't be rehomed for any reason will find refuge here at the halfway house.