37 years ago, foals were being sold at markets for a couple of
pounds and exported to Spain or Greece for slaughter. Many died on
the way. The Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies started
when Sheila Richards, our founder, bought some of these foals. Any
which showed potential were reared but the majority, which were
thought unlikely to make anything useful, were put down. That may
seem harsh but it was a kinder fate than the alternative.
The MacGregors had helped Mrs Richards from the start and, in the mid-80s, Jenny MacGregor took over as Chairman. As the practice of exporting foals for slaughter dwindled, the Society's work gradually changed. It now serves as an equine rehabilitation centre, taking in sick, injured or abused animals, rehabilitating them and finding them new homes where they can lead useful and safe lives.
The Charity now owns more than 330 such horses and ponies and all are visited regularly. Our field officers are all volunteers and we have been assisted greatly over the years by Redwings who carry out many of our annual home checks.
Thirty five years ago, when the MacGregors took over full responsibility for its management, SWHP had an income from donations of £808 and expenditure of £1,220. With cost inflation and the remorseless increase in demand for the services provided by SWHP, costs rose to more than £250,000 last year.
Jenny MacGregor, MBE, accepting a British Horse Society Welfare Award for Outstanding Dedication to Equine Welfare, on behalf of herself and her late husband, Alasdair. Presented to her by Martin Clunes
SWHP is run from the MacGregors' farm at St Maughans, where the buildings have been adapted to stable up to 35 horses and ponies in easily managed conditions and 30 acres of grass provide grazing. Working alongside Jenny MacGregor, there are 3 full time staff and a number of paid helpers, while all fund raising tasks are undertaken by volunteers.
Every week we receive ten to fifteen calls, either reporting animals in poor condition or asking for help or advice. We follow up every call, which often requires more than one visit.
We take three or four new horses or ponies into care every month. In many cases these poor animals are in dreadful condition through neglect or outright cruelty. Ignorance among some horse owners as to their animals' needs can result in starvation and severe worm infestation, whilst lack of attention to feet and teeth causes untold suffering. In the worst cases, rehabilitation can take many months and cost hundreds of pounds in veterinary attention, special feed and treatment. For others, recovery can be spectacularly quick once their problem has been diagnosed.
Mrs Tiggywinkle March 2010 Mrs Tiggywinkle August 2010
The increasing popularity of riding has led to many people buying a horse or pony without first considering the costs involved in keeping one.
SWHP receives several reports of horses in distress each week,
from caring members of the public, from the Police, or from owners
themselves who, for one reason or another are unable to continue
looking after a horse or pony.
SWHP is not a rest home for old horses. The animals we take in are nursed back to health and then we find them a good home. Most can return to an active life; others go into retirement as companions to other horses but, wherever they are re-homed, all remain the property of SWHP.
SWHP Management is highly cost effective and all money donated is spent on the horses and ponies in our care. Mrs MacGregor MBE, Chairman, does not take a salary from the charity. Supporters raise funds in many different ways but, as costs rise, it is increasingly difficult to make ends meet. The work is hard, and sometimes disappointing. In the vast majority of cases though, helping a desperate animal return to full health makes it all worth while.
The principles under which SWHP operates are that whatever the circumstances, the animal's welfare is paramount. This strategy obliged us to oppose, through the courts, demands that SWHP rescue case Target should be returned to the owner who abused him. This stand was ultimately rewarded with success.
However, we have never taken out a prosecution against anyone for abusing an animal, first of all because it is beyond our financial means and, secondly, because in many cases a prosecution brings little or no relief to the animals concerned. More often than not magistrates will impose a fine. More often than not, the owner will have other animals. A fine, if in fact it is ever paid, will make it more difficult for the owner to care for the other animals properly.
We always try to act before the situation becomes desperate, frequently providing emergency feed and advice. In the majority of cases, although the people concerned may initially take offence, with tact and a practical approach we have been able to avert the need for animals to be taken into our care.
For this strategy to succeed we rely on receiving reports of animals requiring help before their condition has deteriorated to the stage where our specialist care is needed. If you are concerned about the welfare of a particular horse or pony, please go to our Report a Welfare Case, where details are given of what you can do.