Our story begins, as it does for so many charities, with a small but committed group of people desperate to make a difference.
For Redwings, the story began with the rescue of a single pony called Sheba. Her recovery inspired the formation of a sanctuary in 1984 dedicated to saving horses from a life of fear and neglect.
From that one life saved, we have grown to become the largest horse welfare charity in the UK, caring for more than 1,500 horses, ponies, donkeys and mules every day at our sanctuary sites in England and Scotland.
We have 500 horses living in Guardian homes through our rehoming programme and a specialist behaviour team to work with those who may have not had the best training or start in life. Our incredible rescue teams work tirelessly to save horses and ponies in need of our help; in fact the vast majority of our residents have been directly rescued from a situation of abuse or neglect.
We have become known particularly for our expertise in carrying out large welfare round-up operations.
In 2008 we were part of a ground-breaking rescue in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. More than 100 horses, ponies, and donkeys were rescued from terrible conditions in just 24 hours, in an operation that involved 32 of our staff as well as the RSPCA and a number of other welfare charities, police and local authorities.
It was the first case of its kind since the launch of the new Animal Welfare Act in 2006 and prompted more calls for partnership working between the charities and a two-year-long court case to bring those responsible to justice. We initially took 21 of the most ill and vulnerable equines back to our Norfolk Horse Hospital for immediate treatment.
Over the next few years, we offered a safe forever home to 60 horses and donkeys from Spindle Farm, as well as six foals born to rescued mares.
Horses and donkeys were found in appalling conditions at Spindle Farm
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Our largest ever rescue case was in November 2013 from a site in South Wales involving more than 400 horses in desperate need. You can read about this and find details of more of our large-scale cases in the news section.
Once the horses and ponies arrive with us, they are assessed and found a place within the Sanctuary that best suits their needs. For those who are very nervous or traumatised by their experiences, we have a specialist behaviour team who work with these horses gently and ethically, giving them plenty of space and time and all based on the principles of how horses learn.
Those who can be rehomed then progress to one of our rehoming centres for further training and development before they are matched with the perfect loving home. They always belong to Redwings and can come back to us at any time, but we find they thrive in their wonderful Guardian homes.
We’ve heard so many cute stories shared of how they are getting on – it’s the best feeling in the world when we find that perfect match!
Many of the horses we care for simply cannot be rehomed. They may have a physical condition or emotional scars that mean they require continued specialist care at one of our sanctuary sites.
Our care teams ensure that every resident – no matter how complex their needs – has the opportunity to live out their days in a loving and safe environment. The horses live out all year round in natural herds, encouraging them to exhibit their natural behaviour and make friends.
To meet the needs of such a large population of horses and donkeys requires a dedicated care team. It also requires a very high level of veterinary care and we are lucky enough to have our own in-house veterinary facility with an x-ray room and operating theatre, as well as intensive care stables and dispensary.
We are also very privileged to have a highly skilled veterinary team who provide round-the-clock support, as well as enabling us to advise the wider horse community in caring for their own horses; with 1,500 residents there really isn’t an ailment or injury that we haven’t seen!
Here’s the story of just one very special Redwings resident – Blind Boo - who we took care of for more than 12 years at our Hapton headquarters.