When a trio of mules came into our care earlier this year, they were terrified of human contact. To help them settle into life at the sanctuary, we've been providing them with specialist behavioural support.

You may recall the story of Maisie, Indie and Oscar, three mules who were rescued with painfully twisted feet in Scotland. They were brought to our main sanctuary in Sidmouth with their pony friend, Fizz, to continue their journey to a full recovery. But their ordeal was far from over.

Sara Blair-Salter, who runs our New Arrivals unit, described them ‘climbing the walls’ when the team first tried to get near them. Knowing how much ongoing care Maisie, Indie and Oscar still needed, Sarah was sure their frightened behaviour was a serious issue.

That’s why we have a comprehensive behaviour programme for situations like this, because addressing behaviour is just as important as physical care when ensuring an animal’s wellbeing.

Ben Hart with a mule
Maisie, Indie, Oscar and Fizz
Ben Hart training the mules
Behaviour expert Ben Hart has been working closely with the mules.

Ben Hart, our expert behaviourist, created individual shaping plans, detailing small steps that the team needed to work on every day until the mules felt safe when being handled. Slowly but surely, the animals became less stressed and more able to stand still while a head collar was applied, or while the farrier worked on their feet.

The mules are at different stages and Maisie has the longest way to go, as his behaviour was so extreme. To ensure the continuation of their shaping plans when they leave new arrivals to live at one of our sanctuaries, the grooms have already been over to meet them and we’re confident they will settle well and love their new lives — no longer frightened by the people who want to care for them.

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