Staff at The Donkey Sanctuary’s Brookfield Farm near Honiton have taken on the task of hand-rearing a newborn foal after it was rejected by its mother.

Vets at the charity took the decision to hand-rear the foal after it was clear he had no energy and did not demonstrate the ‘suck reflex’ which foals need to feed.

Leyla Anstee, farm manager at Brookfield said: “The mare and foal were not together or showing any signs of the bonding process that would normally take place. We carefully tried to encourage her to accept him, but this young and inexperienced mum simply did not want to let her foal suckle - it was clear that she had rejected him.”

The mare, called Millie, arrived into the care of The Donkey Sanctuary in poor condition. She was relinquished in June 2017 along with seven other donkeys after their owner passed away. At just two-years-old, the young nervous donkey was up to six months in foal and needed expert care to bring her back to good health if she was to be able to safely carry and deliver a healthy foal.

Despite his tricky start in life, the foal made it through his first day and night, and appears to be coping well with being hand reared. Millie is also in good health and has since returned to normal life within the herd at Brookfield. Both of their futures are looking positive, thanks to the expert care of farm and veterinary staff at The Donkey Sanctuary.

The foal has been named Ben, in memory of staff member Ben Kennett who sadly passed away in March 2018. Ben worked at The Donkey Sanctuary for 26 years and was a well-known character at the charity. Maxine Carter, farm manager at The Donkey Sanctuary’s Slade House Farm where Ben worked says: “Ben was a strong and wonderful man. This place was his life, Ben loved his donkeys as much as we loved him."

Ben and Jingles

Ben and Jingles.

Ben and Jingles

Our vets, along with senior lead in behaviour Ben Hart, decided that it was in the foal’s best interest to introduce him to another donkey sooner rather than later. Jingles was chosen as the ideal companion for Ben the foal.

10-year-old Jingles was rescued in 2009, so is well and truly settled into sanctuary life. She is a calm, gentle and friendly donkey. Jingles has also had a foal before, and was a very good mum, which made her the perfect choice.

With behaviour expert Ben watching the pair closely to see how they interacted, we were relieved to see that Jingles was happy to take little Ben under her wing. The pair are getting along fabulously, and we’re glad that Ben can learn from his new donkey friend Jingles (or Aunty Jingles, as staff now fondly refer to her as!).

Jingles, Marge and Moshi

Jingles, Marg and Moshi.

July 2018 update

Ben is doing very well, and Jingles too. Although quite an independent donkey now, he is never too far away from her side. He’s progressed to sipping milk from a bucket now instead of a bottle, and is being fed every 6 hours. He’s also started nibbling at the grass and taking small amounts of hard feed too.

A few weeks after he was born, a donkey named Marg (who came into our care along with Millie, Ben’s birth mother) gave birth. Marg’s foal is called Moshi, and the two foals play marvellously together. Jingles, Ben, Marg and Moshi are all kept together in their own yard and barn, with a quiet field to graze in at Brookfield Farm. Jingles is an excellent companion for Ben, but it’s also nice that he has another foal of a similar size and age to play the more energetic games with. Activities like racing around, rearing and bucking are particular favourites of the exuberant young pair.

July 2019 update: Ben K one year on

Ben celebrated his first birthday in May, and he is growing up to be a head-turning young donkey.

He has really started to mature and has become quite independent. So much so, that when two-year-old Toby was alone and needed a friend, Ben was chosen to keep him company.

The pair get along fantastically, and they both love people - the minute their grooms arrive they head straight over to them for some attention. Ben particularly loves a scratch along his mane.

With the recent hot weather, Ben was becoming increasingly bothered by his thick coat which hadn’t shed very well – despite a lot of effort from his grooms to brush it out. To ease his discomfort, staff used clippers to remove most of the hair on his body, which immediately helped to cool him down and stopped him scratching.

Ben K one year old
Ben K and Toby with groom
Ben K grazing
Ben K at one year old, with his new buddy Toby and their groom.

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