Horse-owners are invited to give something back this February and consider fostering a horse or pony.
If you have the skills to handle a youngster, provide essential care for a mare and foal, or have experience of bringing on underweight horses, you can put your knowledge to good use and give something back.
With over 500 horses in its care and more being rescued each week, the RSPCA remains stretched for places for horses. The charity relies on a number of foster carers to provide experienced temporary homes, and this February, RSPCA Felledge Equine Centre is appealing to horse owners in the area to join those already offering a stable.
RSPCA equine rehoming officer Jacqueline Wilson says: “We are desperately seeking foster homes for over thirty young horses here in the north of England, and would like to see as many of those into caring temporary homes as possible by the time March is here.
“We can only do that with the support of kind and caring people who are prepared to provide a stable to give a lucky rescue horse time to mature and rehabilitate.
“Many of the horses will move onto find their forever homes and be capable of achieving a great deal thanks to a great experience in a foster home early on in their lives.”
Pauline Bell has been fostering ponies from the RSPCA for four years, and describes the process as ‘an absolute joy.’
At her yard in Crook in County Durham, Pauline, a former-teacher, is currently taking care of Kamali and Hercules, her sixth and seventh youngsters from RSPCA Felledge Equine Centre.
Pauline said: “It truly is the most rewarding thing to see the ponies blossom. I have always taken them in pairs as youngsters, and they have always been so sweet and full of character.
“My husband and I had our own horses for over thirty years but when they passed away we found ourselves terribly missing having them around and doing all the things like grooming, changing rugs and mucking out. Then when I heard the RSPCA was looking for foster homes, I went along to Felledge Equine Centre to find out more. It’s been ideal for us, we’ve never looked back!”
Pauline added: “It is very hard to see them go when they are a little older and ready to be rehomed, but I really enjoy hearing updates on how they are getting on – being ridden by children, going to riding camps or happily hacking out. It’s the life they really deserve and I’m happy that I can provide them with a loving home to start them off on their journey.
“I would say to any horse person who has thought of fostering before; do it! At least go along to RSPCA Felledge and find out more. You’ll always have the back-up of the centre and take it from me, the only difficult bit is giving them back.”
Fostering can improve the welfare of sensitive horses and ponies who struggle to cope in a sometimes busy animal centre environment. One-to-one care in a foster home can offer opportunities for certain horses with specific needs, such as recovery from a veterinary procedure or behavioural issues such as lack of trust or confidence. As horses thrive on routine, a quiet, well-run yard is often the perfect tonic for a horse or pony that has suffered an ordeal such as neglect, cruelty or abandonment, and all of these factors stand them in far better stead for finding an adopter and settling well into a loving home in the future.
Christine Brown from Haydon Bridge in Northumberland also knows first-hand the rewards that fostering a horse or pony can bring.
She said: “I would encourage horsey-people to go for it – it’s the best thing I ever did. I don’t own my own horses but during the last three years I have fostered four ponies. I currently have Nualla and Mickey who are both youngsters, but they are uncomplicated to care for and I enjoy it so much.
“It is difficult to say goodbye when they go on to be rehomed but I am so glad I can give them the time to just relax for a year or two and settle into a normal horse life.”
If you would like to find out more about fostering a horse or pony from the RSPCA, the team at Felledge Equine Centre will be happy to offer advice and an insight into what is involved. Please contact Lisa Paulin on 0300 123 0724 or Jacqui Wilson on 07825158255 or visit www.rspca.org.uk/stablefuture