Tiny orphaned foal Ava is now thriving at The Mare and Foal Sanctuary - but it was touch and go whether she would make it when she arrived last summer.
Ava was spotted terrified, starving and alone on Dartmoor after her mother died and she made national headlines when she first arrived at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary in Newton Abbot, which has a specialised veterinary and welfare centre Beech Trees.
Weak and with respiratory problems, grooms braced themselves for the worst, while setting up 24-hour, round the clock care.
Ava was deteriorating rapidly and was immediately placed in quarantine, where she was given a giant teddy bear for comfort – as well as loads of love and affection from her grooms.
Blood tests revealed she was suffering from pneumonia and was struggling to breath. She was also coughing, on strong antibiotics and she was failing to gain weight.
But slowly, little by little, she got stronger, thanks to the hard work and dedication of her grooms and, after nine weeks, she was finally well enough to leave isolation.
There were fears her extended stay and being kept away from other horses and ponies would affect her personality, possibly leading to behavioural problems.
But Ava has proved stronger than the Sanctuary ever imagined… adopting her own mini herd of young fillies and spending the last few months learning how to be a horse again.
Her groom Charley Daines said: “She has such a great personality and is a real tough little cookie. She’s been putting on weight and is growing rapidly.
“Ava’s still very young so we’re just letting her find her way in the herd. It’s great to see her galloping round with ponies of a similar age.
“Every day she spends with her friends Bambola, Ilyssa, Ida and Moonflower. They share a crew barn together and spend their days playing in the fields and a lot of time sleeping. It’s exhausting having fun!”
The grooms have also begun gentle training. Ava is now halter broken and can be led to and from her field. She doesn’t even mind having her feet picked up or a quick groom.
Sanctuary Director of Equine, Syra Bowden, said: “The future is looking bright for Ava and eventually she’ll be ready to find a new and loving home.
“She definitely had us worried there for a while but she’s a little fighter. Watching a foal like Ava beat all the odds is why we do this job.”
Ava’s round the clock care when she was a foal - and her continuing care and training today - wouldn’t be possible without the donations of the charity’s supporters.
Fundraising Director, Dawn Vincent, said: “Ava is still very young and will need the safety and security of the Sanctuary for the rest of her life.
“It is thanks to our incredible supporters and donors, who send in donations, spend money in our charity shops and volunteer their time to help that we are able to care for and provide permanent sanctuary to horses and ponies like young Ava. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts
To find out more about the work of the Mare and Foal Sanctuary across the South West, which relies entirely on donations and legacy gifts, and to see the horses and ponies currently available for rehoming, visit the charity’s website at www.mareandfoal.org or call 01626 355969.
For further information, an interview or more photographs please call Sanctuary Communications Manager Jo Walmsley on 01626 247933 or mobile 07763 779737.
• The Mare and Foal Sanctuary was founded in 1988 by Rosemary Kind and registered as a charity in 1992. With headquarters in Newton Abbot, it is now one of the largest equine welfare charities that rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes horses and ponies operating in the South West. It currently has five sanctuaries in Devon including a fully equipped veterinary hospital, and a supportive welfare team offering the South West’s equestrian community advice, support and education. It cares for 680 equines at its sanctuaries and through its rehoming scheme and has a growing education and therapy programme that positively promotes the connection between horses, ponies and people. Its Sanctuary, Coombe Park, near Totnes is open to the public for programmed events and there are five charity shops located in: Babbacombe, Bovey Tracey, Kingsbridge, Newton Abbot and South Brent. To find out more about the work of the Mare and Foal Sanctuary, which relies entirely on donations and legacy gifts, and to see the horses and ponies currently available for rehoming, visit the charity’s website at www.mareandfoal.org or call 01626 355969.