The Rescuers

The SSPCA contacted my neighbour, Bjørn, a few days ago, to ask if he could rescue some Shetland ponies that were in desperate need of help.  Along with two other folk from other Shetland studs, we took our trailer, some head collars and food to go to the rescue.  The ponies were situated in three fields in the north-end of the mainland (main island).

The first were four colts who were in a shocking state of neglect and starvation.  They had eaten everything in the field and were down to mud.  We could see there were at least a few bales of hay but the ponies needed to be moved quickly or they would be dead soon.

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One of the ponies was immediately rehomed and we decided to return to the remainder after looking at and moving the mares, fillies and some more colts first.  So off we went in a convoy to Hillswick.

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With the help of a bucket of rattly pony nuts, we successfully caught the ponies and loaded them into various trailers.  It was remarkably easy and we collectively breathed a huge sigh of relief.


These were not fields to go chasing errant Shetland ponies round that didn’t want to be caught. We would’ve been head first in the mud. The colts had nothing in their field to eat but the mares were not too bad.  They didn’t look as bad as the previous ponies.

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Everyone loaded mostly cooperatively.


So the mares and fillies went one way and the colts (plus a gelding) went another.  We dropped them off to live in a 37 acre field that looked perfect for Shetland ponies.


(the view opposite).


We had to rush as daylight was at a premium and so we returned for the three remaining starved colts.  They looked awful.  We were all visibly shaken.

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They were caught and loaded like little troopers.  Sadly very wobbly on their legs and not in a good way at all.  We took some of the hay to cushion their journey.  It broke my  heart to see just how subdued they were.

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Jo drove slowly home hoping they had enough strength for the trip.  We decided to take them back to my croft.  My goat shed is empty and just the right size.  It has a small paddock attached and then a bigger one leading off it.  Before we unloaded the ponies, we set up the shed with rubber mats, hay, water and a bowl of foal mix.

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You can’t really see the ponies’ condition from the pictures but their hip bones, ribs and spine were protruding prominently.  I would give them a condition score of 0 and that is being generous.  To bring them back from the brink is a big job.  I am not sure whether we will be successful.  They are all foals from last year and in a terrible state.


They need to firstly warm up, dry off and fluff up.  Hard food will be given to them little and often with as much as hay as they want.  That will keep their guts going and stop things shutting down.  We mustn’t shock load their system.  They are absolutely enchanting, though.  I will keep you all posted but don’t hold your breath.

I must find out their names next.

34 thoughts on “The Rescuers

  1. Karen

    How dreadful…well done to all of you rescuers. Healing vibes for those poor colts are being willed their way 🙁

  2. Cate

    I have no words. How were these poor things allowed to get into such a state? Thank you so much for intervening. With your good care and good luck they will soon be on the mend, I hope and pray.

  3. Krista

    More healing vibes from here for the little ones. Thanks for taking them in – they will receive the very best of care from you.

  4. Ruth

    Well done for rescuing them and taking them under your wing. I wonder who let them get into such a state, awful people. Good luck with them, here’s hoping they all make a good recovery.

  5. Michelle in Michigan

    I’m so glad you were able to help the poor little guys. Healing vibes to them and hopefully better weather to you soon.

  6. Lynn Robertson

    I know all their names and have known 4 of the ponies as foals. Feel free to message me, or add me on Facebook. Bjorn knows me, or look me up using my email.
    I’d like to follow the progress of all these ponies if at all possible.

    Look forward to hearing from you.


  7. Chris

    looking forward to progress updates. Glad you were able to help them out and have room for them. I’m sure they will be well looked after now.

  8. Liz Reid

    Well done. Hope the ponies improve. Not an easy task, but it can be done. Hope you got them in time. A long journey to recovery, so will keep all fingers crossed and say prayers for them and for you.

  9. Nicky Callam

    Well done for your rescue efforts. Can I make some contribution towards their keep? We look at our own youngsters – in my case pampered dressage divas and in yours such cared for babies as my favourite Bozz-Bozz – and find it incredible that people allow things to get so bad.

  10. betty2dogs

    Good luck to these little boys. Getting a decent diet and out of the cold wet weather should help them come along. Please keep us posted.

  11. Jen Breese

    Well done. Poor little guys. I hope they will flourish in your care. I know it is very hard to bring back starved horses. All the best!

  12. Debbie Twomey

    Do these babies have an owner? Wish I was closer to take a few in. Perhaps you can load them in a trunk and put them on a flight to North Carolina?

  13. Mandy

    Well done to all involved, you all deserve medals the size of a frying pan (which you could also use to beat the culprits who did this).
    Good luck, if anyone can bring them back from the brink, you can!


  14. Linda

    Bless all these wee ponies and the whole group of helpers. Hope they will grow stronger day by day under your care. If you would like to accept contributions for them let us all know how best to send.
    Xoxoxo ponies – sending prayers your way.

  15. theresa

    can you set up a web page for contributions? it’s not cheap looking after these poor things, but i know you would have a great response if you ask. i am very happy to contribute to their upkeep.
    brilliant rescue.
    thanks for your kindness.

  16. Sam

    Sending warm, feed well thoughts your way. Simply dreadful how some humans treat other critters.
    Do keep us posted, good or bad news.

  17. Ace

    Bless you and the others that helped these ponies. Prayers that your generous hearts, loving touches, and all of the necessities of food and shelter will bring them around into shape. It is a long road, but one worth going on.

  18. Laura Jayne Friedlander

    I know who owns these ponies and can give you more information and details if you care to message me on Facebook. It broke my heart to see the state of those poor little creatures. I would like to make a contribution to help in their recovery if possible. Can’t afford much but every penny helps. I am a life long horse lover, rider, owner and I would take one in a heartbeat if I could. I really hope they start to put on condition and recover. God bless you for rescuing them.

  19. Charlene Fordyce

    You should name and shame! Horrible ppl letting these poor animals get into this state….poor things :'( brings a tear to my eye xxx

  20. Voe

    This was reported many months ago to the SSPCA. Glad the poor fellows have been rescued but this could have been done earlier. I am not criticizing, it’s just a shame it took so long for this action to take place. All the best to them! The people who had these animals clearly do not have the first clue about anything!!

  21. Andy

    We’ve been very concerned about these ponies for months now and reported their condition to the SSPCA in October.
    The field is only 1acre and there were 9 ponies and 6 sheep there originally, this improved as some of the sheep jumped the fence to a better life. To end up there were 4 ponies and 2 sheep but the field was in a shocking state around Christmas with the ground being so wet and trampled by the animals hooves that the water had nowhere to go.
    These animals had been fed the day before the rescue but had been without anything the week before this. They had no shelter at all from the southerly gales and rain that we’ve had for most of the winter and I’ve been disgusted to witness this neglect and frustrated that it had gotten so bad before they were allowed to be rescued. I know there must be certain protocols to follow for this sort of thing but it was never going to improve.
    I hope they have the strength left to recover.

  22. Hille Buckley Jones

    Hope they survive, may their owner get jail for this but that is not going to help the ponies or you. I hope he must pay for the recovery , food and care to you. Bless all of you for your courage and kindness. x

  23. Jo

    Hey! Hang on a moment. Yes, it is awful that these ponies are in this state but please remember that humans suffer hardship as well. The owner may well be finding things too much for them. They may not be able to afford food for them. They could well be struggling financially. Also when you see animals or indeed people on a regular basis you are slow to pick up the changes in them. It does sometimes need an outsider to see the problems. Let’s not be too quick to judge. Any one of us could find ourselves in a similar situation. There are some very wealthy people on the islands and some very hard-up people who could be too proud to ask for help. Let us just thank God that others were there to help and even more are willing to donate. And if we discover it is a case of animal cruelty then we can prosecute but until then let’s concentrate on the ponies and not speculate about the owners. I wish the ponies a speedy recovery and the rescuers the skills needed to return the ponies to health and strength – a very difficult task.

  24. Cate

    Jo, thank you for the reminder that animals are often caught up in hardships that afflict their humans and that neglect can be a symptom of greater human suffering. There but for fortune go you or I. The main thing is that thanks to the efforts of folk who bothered to notice and to care, these ponies are now safe. Kindness trumps everything. 😀

  25. Trish

    I can only concur with the comments already made. Thank you so much for taking these little guys in and helping them – God bless them and you . If there is any way I could make a financial contribution to their upkeep I would like to do so.

  26. Voe

    Jo and Lynn. I understand what you are saying. I am aware of who the owners are but if you cannot look after yourself why spend money on animals which a) you cannot afford to feed/look after and b) do not have the witt/common sense to look after and realise when they are suffering. Ponies are not cheap, so if you cannot afford to look after yourself or them, why buy them? These poor animals have been suffering for months and i truely hope that the owners get done for cruelty. At least this may deter other people who have no idea about animal welfare from joining the “old Mcdonalds farm” ideology! I do not believe this was intentional neglect by the owners. Hope the ponies get better soon!

    1. Lynn Robertson

      Some people cannot find comfort from their peers so look elsewhere. Animals are the most understanding creatures, ponies and dogs are some of the most comforting animals I know. Understandably you’d want to surround yourself with that comfort.
      I don’t believe it’s a question of wit in this situation, but denial and avoidance. Anyone with severe depression knows just how difficult it is to admit you need help, and trying to find that help in a society that looks on depression as being a sign of weakness is not easy.
      Trying to look seriously to the future is hard when things are difficult in life so depression sufferers tend to focus on the here and now, planning great things for the future to give purpose, with flashbacks/thoughts of the past which more often than not cause slips into depression.
      We all know ponies are not cheap, but they were cheap to buy which was all that was needed for this to happen, as well as the supply of ponies to be there. If we stop accepting low prices for our ponies then it might help in finding them more suitable homes.
      I’m not excusing the behaviour, don’t get me wrong. I’m as upset for these little lads as the next person if not more so. 2 of them I know and love. I’m saddened that I couldn’t be closer to help before things got this bad. Maddened that people, like the SSPCA, knew the situation yet stood by and let it happen.

  27. Voe

    The sheep that were in the same field are being taken away just now. Hope they are okay too! Good to see them being rescued and going somewhere fine. Now it’s just a ruined piece of land with poor drainage characteristics which will probably not recover in my lifetime….great! Having a mini croft…..not for everyone apparently.

    1. Lynn Robertson

      Glad to read this. I was wondering what had happened to them. Hopefully they’ll perk up as well as the ponies seem to be doing. I was told they were being bought months ago, sale must have fallen through.

  28. Linda Addison

    A sad story, but what a happy outcome for the ponies a year and a half later! I hope there was some help for the owners too.


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