Horse rescue centre struggling to cope

The owner of an equine sanctuary which rescues horses from all over Shropshire today warned that she is “inundated” with animals needing help.

Pamela Bluck runs the Hack Horse Sanctuary, near Wrexham, which is currently at full capacity, looking after 15 horses.

And the problem has been growing for the past two years according to Mrs Bluck, who is a member of the National Equine Welfare Council.

She said: “The NEWC says there are currently 7,000 horses in the area which are welfare cases.

“It’s all due to overbreeding. There’s a lot of it going on at the moment.

“People then just look for an easy way to get rid of their horses when they don’t want them. There’s been horses wrapped up in a sack and dumped by the side of a road, and someone kicking a foal off the back of a lorry in an alleyway. We had a phone call to say there was a foal drowned in a lake last year.

“It’s ongoing and it’s all the time. We’re inundated with calls for help but we’re absolutely full.”

The RSPCA today revealed there had been a huge rise in the number of horses taken into care in Shropshire and Mid Wales. It said its equine centres are struggling to cope with the demand for space.

It is a trend that Mrs Bluck says is becoming a problem for sanctuaries across the country.

The recent wet weather has not helped either, as the outdoor areas of the sanctuary have become covered in mud.

“Not all of our horses can be stabled – we have one in particular who has to be outside, and with the bad weather we have had it makes such a mess on the land,” she said.

“I did worry with a lot of the country being underwater, especially in Somerset, how many horses got out alive.”

One of the ways Mrs Bluck and the staff at Hack Horse Sanctuary are trying to address the problem of unwanted horses is through education. The sanctuary runs a pony club on Saturday afternoons where young riders learn exactly how much work is needed to look after a horse.

“We try to say if you’re going to have a pony then there’s a lot of commitment. Even if it is Christmas Day and you just want to sit in front of the TV with your family, you can’t, because you’ve got to get out there and look after your pony,” she said.

But she said due to new legislation introduced in Wales last week she expects the number of calls she receives to increase.

She said: “A lot of calls are already coming from local authorities who have found abandoned animals on the highways or in fields and need somewhere to go.

“The legislation says local authorities can take horses that are found on other people’s land and on the highway and the owners have a week to come forward to reclaim the horses at a cost. If the owners don’t come forward then the local authorities are entitled to give them away to sanctuaries such as ours, bearing in mind that we only have limited spaces, or to destroy the animals if they are in a very bad condition.”

Mrs Bluck said her sanctuary is in regular contact with other NEWC-registered sanctuaries as they work together to try to look after as many animals as possible.

But the problem is not limited to privately-run sanctuaries – the RSPCA’s Gonsal Farm Animal Centre at Dorrington, near Shrewsbury, is currently looking for new homes for 20 horses. Many of those have been cared for by the charity for about a year.

Among the horses are some which arrived in early 2013 as part of a large group of 18 mares which had been left to run with three stallions. All were in a terrible state of neglect, having been used as breeding machines and left to fend for themselves for some time. When they were rescued they had been left in deep snow, with no food, water or shelter.

The horses Mrs Bluck is caring for range from foals to two thoroughbreds which are ready to go to new homes.

Mrs Bluck said: “We’re finding it difficult to find any homes because the owners have to be quite knowledgeable to own a horse in the first place, and some of the horses do need extra attention because of how they’ve been treated in the past.”