Seven foals found safety at The Donkey Sanctuary Ireland after being rescued from hunger and the cold of a harsh Irish winter. Seven months on, we catch up with the resilient young group.
Irish winters are renowned for their unpredictable and unrelenting nature. When we received a phone call from a member of the public concerned about the safety of a large herd of equines without shelter in the appalling weather, we knew we had to act fast.
Donkey Welfare Adviser Ciara O’Kelly made it through hazardous conditions - a yellow weather warning of snow and ice - to the farm in Kerry, where she found the group.
Ciara was met with the sight of 27 mares, yearlings and foals - all of which appeared weak, cold and hungry. In spite of their harsh environment, the herd had no access to fresh food or shelter.
Seven shivering foals
On closer inspection, Ciara grew gravely concerned about the health of the seven foals in the group. Aged between just two and six months old, she feared that they wouldn't make it through another night of the cruel weather conditions.
With the foals being the most vulnerable of the group, their owner agreed to relinquish them to The Donkey Sanctuary Ireland in order for them to receive the care they so urgently needed. The owner admitted that the herd had grown to an unmanageable size, and our Donkey Welfare Improvement Scheme is offering help with their care in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
While a supply of food was arranged for the older, stronger donkeys, Ciara kept her attention on the seven foals in urgent need of care. When driver Eugene arrived to collect them, they were both shocked at the weight of the youngsters.
"The foals were so light, we simply picked them up to load them." says Ciara. "It was critical to get them to the sanctuary as quickly as possible."
Fragile foals in safe hands
Our vets greeted Ciara and Eugene at the New Arrivals Unit and assessed the little donkeys. All seven were very timid, and several were suffering from rain scald. Their coats were in varying states of disarray and matting, with one donkey needing her whole body clipped to ease her discomfort.
The group were severely underweight, with one weighing just 51kg. Our grooms put them in warm blankets to soothe the foals from the damp and cold, and showed them to their freshly bedded stable.
Under heat lamps, and with an ample supply of fresh food and water, the youngsters looked right at home.
A new start with a new friend
The group settled into their new life at the sanctuary, and our staff watched with joy as they started to put on weight and become more social.
After several months in our care, the group were able to help a foal in need themselves. They were joined by another foal called Dante, who came into our care in March this year after being found abandoned in a field. The group took to Dante at once, and he is a core member of the young family.
In May, the eight youngsters were ready to leave New Arrivals together and start their new chapter. The foals found home at Hannigans Farm, where they joined a herd of other young donkeys.
Seven months of care later
Seeing seven lovely foals playing happily in the fields of The Donkey Sanctuary Ireland, it’s hard to believe how much they’ve been through in just a few short months.
Asher, Crowe, Faye, Karma, Killian, Luther and Vivette, along with their new friend Dante, are now at Knockardbane Farm in County Cork, where they have been enjoying their time since June. Their field is at the highest point on the farm, giving them plenty of space to run around and graze.
The foals are much happier and healthier – all have put on weight and are becoming less timid thanks to the patience and understanding of their grooms. Although they can still be a little nervous at times, they have even started approaching the fence to greet visitors.
Ciara is thrilled to see the once sickly foals thriving. "I often walk past the seven young donkeys here at the Open Farm and I enjoy seeing them so content and well cared for." she says. "I am delighted their future is bright - and I wonder what their future may have been if they had not come to The Donkey Sanctuary."
To see the youngsters playing and galloping at pasture, it would be difficult to guess the trauma they've overcome to get there. Grazing closely and side-by-side, as they so often do, it's clear that the group have found comfort in each other through both the good times and the bad.