A SHOCKING horse welfare case shows animal rescue charities are needed more than ever. 

In June 2022 Andalusian horses Hugo and Gabriel were found severely underweight and suffering with sores and lice.  It’s unusual to find such beautiful Andalusian horses in this state, but this situation is a familiar one for The Mare and Foal Sanctuary. 

Rosy Lewis, Sanctuary Care Lead at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary, explains: 'Our Welfare Outreach team worked hard to secure the best outcome for Hugo and Gabriel with assistance from the RSPCA to help us intervene as their welfare situation worsened. The pair were in urgent need of sanctuary. They were both malnourished. Hugo had scarring and sores across his body, particularly over his prominent pelvic bones, stifle, elbow and shoulder, but also over his ribs.

'All four of his hooves were overgrown and needed treatment. He was very nervous whenever we needed to handle him. Gabriel was even more nervous than Hugo. In particular, he was extremely reluctant to have his limbs handled. His hooves were overgrown and chipped in places.

'His mane was very matted. Gabriel was also riddled with lice. We often see complicated welfare situations, but this was a shocking case. Hugo and Gabriel’s situation shows that when an owner’s personal circumstances change unexpectedly caring for equines can become an overwhelming task. This is why we exist.'

The charity believes that the rise in the cost of living is having a profound effect on the welfare of horses and ponies across the country. Rosy continues: 'It’s a myth that all horse owners are financially well off. We know that many are struggling at the moment and are sacrificing their own wellbeing to continue to care for their horses.

'Owners who are in this precarious position are the most at risk of unintentionally neglecting the welfare of their animals and themselves. Costs are skyrocketing. We know that our own costs for feed and everyday welfare alone have gone up considerably.'

The sanctuary is currently at capacity and their Welfare Outreach team are dealing with a high number of ongoing cases to help support struggling owners. At the end of March, they were handling ongoing outreach cases involving 111 equines in the South West region. Last year, the charity was approached to find space for 89 equines but only had capacity for 30. 

Rosy adds: “This spring we need to re-home the horses that are ready to make space for new arrivals. Our Welfare Outreach and Sanctuary Care teams are working hard through a difficult time to achieve this, but we need help from our incredible supporters so we can continue to provide lifelong care for horses like Hugo and Gabriel.” 

To support the charitable work of The Mare and Foal Sanctuary, you can donate via the sanctuary’s website www.mareandfoal.org/hugo-and-gabriel calling their Supporter Services team on 01626 882 660 Monday to Friday between 9.00am- 4.00pm.