Baby boom puts a smile on everyone’s face

Just Regional
May 7, 2020 4 mins read

We’ve all heard the jokes about an impending lockdown baby boom – but Redwings Horse Sanctuary is already in the middle of one.

Seven foals have been born at the charity’s Norfolk sites since the outbreak began, helping to raise the spirits of staff as they work hard to ensure the charity’s 1,500 rescued horses and donkeys remain well cared for.

Six of the new arrivals were born to one group of rescued horses, who were brought to the safety of the sanctuary – with a centre near Aylsham – last year while pregnant.

In Redwings tradition, the horses were named after distinct themes – in this case, money or currency and famous artists – and so the names of their foals have also followed suit.

Now, little Lira, Rupee, Peseta, Ruble, Wonga and Warhol are taking their first tentative steps into the world together – but their arrivals have not been without drama.

The foals which have been born in the Redwings lockdown baby boom. Top row: Lira, Peseta and Ruble. Middle row: Rupee; Warhol and his mum, Kahlo; and Whirl. Bottom: the cheeky Wonga. Pictures: Redwings.

Nicola Berryman, Redwings’ welfare veterinary surgeon, said: “We always keep a close eye on any foals born at the sanctuary, especially as their mums have often lived through some tough ordeals and their offspring sometimes need extra support.

“This group of horses posed the additional challenge of being completely unhandled, so we had to keep our interventions to a minimum to avoid causing any unnecessary distress but, luckily, most of them have been absolutely fine.

“We had a little drama with Wonga who, having been born in the middle of the night, decided to use her first steps to squeeze herself under the fence and explore the next-door paddock, where she was discovered in the morning. We knew straightaway we had a cheeky one on our hands!

“Unfortunately, Warhol needed attention as in his first couple of days we observed he was intermittently struggling to empty his bowels, despite appearing otherwise healthy. We decided to intervene and as quickly as possible administered medication to relieve his discomfort. He’s now doing really well and is bounding around his paddock with his mum.”

Because their mums were semi-feral when they arrived, the Redwings’ behaviour team is already working with the foals to ensure they grow up feeling comfortable with human contact. This will help them cope with future routine veterinary checks and, in time, health permitting, pave a way for them to be rehomed through Redwings’ Guardianship Scheme.

Meanwhile, little Whirl was born to mum Viennese – from a group named after biscuits. The pair were rushed into Redwings’ hospital shortly after his birth when it became clear that Whirl was disorientated and struggling to suckle, and so was not receiving his all-important first milk.

Over the next few hours, the vet team hand-fed Whirl with his mum’s milk to ensure he did not miss out on this vital goodness which will help protect him from any infections in his early days.

Whirl is now suckling happily from his mum and the pair are enjoying some peaceful time at the hospital together.

Lynn Cutress, Redwings chief executive, said: “It’s not unusual with large groups of rescued mares to discover that some are in foal, but to welcome seven new arrivals in just a matter of weeks is quite the baby boom!

“It’s always a wonderful feeling to be able to give rescued ponies that tranquil space in which to bring their babies safely into the world, so our adorable new residents have certainly put a big smile on all our faces.”

“That’s especially welcome right now as our care teams are working very hard throughout the lockdown to ensure all our rescued residents remain well cared for. Of course, while we’re delighted to give every foal a loving home, taking on so many offspring places a greater demand on our resources at this challenging time, so we would be incredibly grateful for any donations to help make sure we can give these foals and their mums the happy and peaceful lives they deserve.”

Redwings is a registered charity 100pc funded by donations from the public. If you’d like to support the care of the sanctuary’s new foals, please visit www.redwings.org.uk/donating.

More of what's happening in Aylsham