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Archive for March, 2010

Spring is in the air, newborn lambs and calves can be seen dotting our countryside and we are also heading into prime breeding season for many equine Stud farms. Breeding equines is not something to enter into lightly though. Sadly often retired, lame or old mares are looked upon as ideal candidates for becoming broodmares. Their owners thinking along the lines that breeding a foal from them would give them a ‘purpose in life’ or ‘help pay for their keep’.

In past years a lapse in EU laws means that people are breeding from stallions that are not graded or haven’t reached the minimum standard for that breed. Other major concerns are that the age of mares are not being monitored resulting in very young or very old mares being put at risk. We have also seen first hand the results of irresponsible breeding, whereby mares have been bred with stallions totally unsuitable size wise resulting in permanent damage for the poor mares and sometimes loss of both the mare and foal.

At ERF we receive many calls each month regarding ‘at risk’ equines. One of the ways to reduce the amount of unwanted, neglected and abandoned equines would be the introduction of programmes to educate and inform on ways of producing equines of a higher quality and worth.

As a welfare Association, we are well aware that there are far more horses, ponies and donkeys than there are experienced and knowledgeable homes available to care for them. A problem that will only continue to escalate if we continue to add to those numbers. In the past few years the prices of horses and ponies, especially in the UK and Ireland, have dramatically fallen and there is a huge concern for the fate of such cheap animals. Equines are complex animals with specific needs and are likely to suffer if bought by inexperienced or unknowing people, especially when some are going for the same price as a pet rabbit! Purchase prices may be low but the costs of keeping a horse are still high meaning that anyone lured into horse-ownership because they now find the initial outlay affordable is likely to run into financial difficulties caring for their animal. The result being that yet more horses will suffer if we don’t start to tackle the root cause of the problem.

ERF has always adopted a no breeding policy for all equines that are rehomed by us under contract. We castrate, where safe to do so, all entire equines that come into our care. This is our committment to reducing indiscriminate breeding in the horse world, something we should all be thinking long and hard about.

A sad result of indiscriminate breeding

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Why oh why??

I am about to do something that we don’t normally do …….. rant! Why? Because once again, we’ve invested our precious time and money in trying to help out a family who called us in desperation, only to be told they’ve changed their mind after all – here’s the story:

Living in France hadn’t turned out to be the dream life the family expected and they needed to return to the UK but couldn’t take their two horses with them. They had tried to sell them but had had no success so asked ERF to rehome them instead. With the horses best interest at heart we:

  1. went to visit to assess the horses (3 hours + 126km round trip),
  2. organised all the paperwork, update web site etc. (2 hours)
  3. contacted everyone who had expressed an interest in this type of horse (2 hours)
  4. homechecked a possible Guardian (2 hours, 50kms)
  5. arranged for the family to sign the handover form (1 hour)
  6. and finally, we arranged the visit of the potential Guardian.

The potential Guardian drove 2 1/2 hours in each direction to visit on Sunday.

Then at 11pm on the same day, the e-mail arrived:

Thank you for your efforts in rehoming my two horses but fortunatly my husband has been able to secure a loan and will be returning to France to arrange  for the transportation of our horses to our home in the UK, once again thanks for all your help

These horses were signed over to us and we had a potential new home! We had invested 10+ hours and costs, and now were left to tell the person who they had allowed to visit the same day that the visit had been in vain. Did the family not think it would be courteous to have postponed the visit or to be honest that despite having signed over the horses, they were still pursuing other options? Our follow up e-mails have been ignored and no donation has been offered or received to cover our expenses.

Here are the types of things that we can do with 10 hours:

  • continue the training & rehab of the animals in our care already
  • follow up welfare cases
  • visit new welfare cases
  • FUNDRAISE to fill our dwindling coffers
  • continue our campaign to improve welfare at horse fairs in France

and the list goes on……and I haven’t even mentioned spending time with our own families and animals.

The petrol money could have gone towards farriers, medication, vets bills….

Finally, as we are all volunteers, I really would like to ask this family whether they would ever contemplate spending 10 hours and their own cash helping a complete stranger with a problem?

So, what will we do differently next time? This isn’t the first time this has happened and unfortunately we now feel the need to protect ERF from individuals squandering our resources in this way in the future. We have to toughen our rules and from this point forward, if anyone wishes us to to rehome their animal then we will either need to have the owners card in our possession (i.e. have full legal ownership of the animal) or take a non-refundable deposit that will cover the above.

We are saddened that the actions of a few have forced us into this situation. It’s seems these days that a person’s word or signature on a handover form is not enough…..

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Last Saturday Helen Barnes, from the Dordogne, organised a 20 km fundraising walk in aid of ERF. Helen was joined by a band  of walkers, some with their dogs, all keen to kindly help raise funds for ERF.

The walk was initially organised as a sponsored ride on horseback, but the EIA outbreak  in the vicinty that week meant that plans quickly had to be changed as it was decided to be too great a risk taking horses out.

Helen has informed us that around 150€ has been raised, which is fantastic and we would like to take this opportunity to thank Helen and all of the participants for their efforts.

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One horse has tested positive, and 28 horses were Coggins tested on the 8th March for EIA in MONTCARET, DORDOGNE. The horses have been under surveillance since the 25th of February 2010.

This is a very serious notifiable disease with any positive horses facing compulsory slaughter. The symptoms are listed HERE, the second disease on the list.

There is no current indication where the disease may have originated from, or the nature of the premises involved.

Click the link for the WAHID Report

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Sometimes we are asked to take on and rehome equines, that often for health reasons or their age, are too vunerable to be advertised for sale by the owners. Belle is one of those ponies who had some physical difficulties, probably as the result of being used as a broodmare in the past, and could therefore only be used as a companion in the future.

We are fortunate to have some excellent people approach us to be future adopters, people that are prepared to take on equines that most others would turn their backs on. We are now extremly pleased to say that Belle has settled in well as companion to new adopter Vicki’s horse Whiz and we wish them all the very best for a happy future together.

Belle (left) with her new friend

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Vigiferme

Our friends at PMAF (Protection mondiale des animaux de ferme) have produced an excellent set of materials aimed at helping both individuals and organisations understand if animals are being maltreated here in France. The materials clearly show what is acceptable alongside the laws that are in place to protect animals in farming.  Their website contains a vast amount of information on all farm animals with a large section on equines here.

Please take a look at the site if you have any conerns about animals near you – it’s a great starting point.

Vigiferme

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