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With new guidance released almost daily on the rules that govern the lockdown in the UK, the teams at Redwings are continuously assessing what this means for the work we do. When will we be able to welcome supporters to our visitor centres again? Can our vet team expand upon their services? When can we restart our rehoming programme?
While we would love to provide clear answers to all these questions, we still await a lot of information from the Government over what is and isn’t safe to do. For example, there remains a big question mark over when visitor attractions and hospitality venues will be able to re-open which of course impacts any decisions about our own visitor centres.
Figuring out how to re-introduce services, taking into account the continued need for social distancing and the fact that many of our staff currently remain on furlough, also takes time.
However, in this week’s #CoronaChronicles, we want to give you some details of the tentative steps we’re already taking to restart our Guardianship Scheme.
Now is usually the busiest time of the year for rehoming applications, so while suspending the scheme was the right thing to do in light of the coronavirus outbreak, it was incredibly disappointing as we were looking forward to helping many of our rescued horses and ponies find loving new homes this spring.
We had even just launched a new campaign showcasing a wonderful collection of companion ponies at the Sanctuary who would be imminently available for rehoming.
However, as the lockdown hit, we sadly had to stop promoting our rehoming horses on our website and halt all the home checks and trials we had planned.
But, behind the scenes, the rehoming team remained hard at work making sure all these ponies continued to receive the training they needed to ensure they would be ready to find new homes as soon as the scheme was up and running again.
Now DEFRA have approved the restarting of charity rehoming schemes - albeit under careful restrictions - and the Redwings team has devised ways to make elements of the rehoming process ‘virtual’.
While we are not in the position to accept new applications at this moment, those who had already requested to rehome one of our horses prior to the lockdown are being invited to submit photos and videos of their facilities as part of their home checks.
In return, we’re providing potential Guardians with videos of the horses they’ve applied for via WhatsApp, showing off their features and characteristics, as well as their handling skills, so applicants have a chance to get a feel for the horses and ask any questions. This method was trialled for the first time last week and the pony involved was able to be moved to her loving new home this week!
For now, because we would prefer all applicants for ridden horses to have the chance to ride them before being rehomed, we will only be offering virtual trials for non-ridden companion ponies and unbacked projects for now.
We’re also very committed to making sure all horses going through our rehoming programme receive a thorough health assessment before leaving our care. This is obviously challenging at this time when our vets have been advised to cut back on unnecessary travel and are only able to undertake a limited number of essential or emergency treatments as per guidance from the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA). For this reason, checks on rehoming ponies are only taking place if they happen to be living at a site where one of our vets has been called to attend an emergency. While this lowers the number of horses we can offer for rehoming presently, it means anyone taking a horse home in the next few weeks can be confident that they have still received all the necessary checks.
We must warn that it is early days for these new practices, which may continue to be developed - or even halted - as new guidance from the Government becomes available. We’re delighted, however, at the prospect that we’re once again able to help rescued horses start new, happy chapters in their lives.
Having to suspend our Guardianship Scheme has meant we’ve been funding the care of horses in the Sanctuary who we had expected to be in loving new homes by now, impacting our costs at this difficult time. If you can, we would appreciate your support of our emergency coronavirus appeal, to help us ensure we have the funds in place to meet the challenges of the coming months. Please click here to find out more and to donate.
To read last week’s edition of the #CoronaChronicles, please click here.