Redwings Horse Sanctuary is marking a year since the rescue of Barney, a young pony who was found lying upside down, partially covered by an old mattress, on a pile of rubble. Despite his shocking start, he has recently befriended another young pony and helped him on his own road to recovery.

Underneath his thick coat Barney, thought to be just five months old when he was rescued, was emaciated and covered in painful pressure sores.

Barney spent the beginning of 2023 at the charity’s specialist quarantine facility, receiving treatment for his wounds, and careful feeding and care to restore his weight. He then moved to Redwings’ Hapton headquarters in Norfolk, where he has recently become a crucial companion to another youngster, named Mason, also rescued this year.

Mason, a Welsh cross pony, was one of three ponies who came to Redwings in February, after a joint rescue operation on Gelligaer common in South Wales with RSPCA Cymru, Caerphilly County Borough Council and World Horse Welfare. He was an orphan foal, thought to be around three months old, and without his mother he was struggling for survival and was severely emaciated. 

On arrival at the sanctuary, Mason was so weak he had to be helped off the horsebox by the Redwings team and placed on round-the-clock care. He was subdued and although he was eating, he took very little interest in his surroundings. Test results showed the level of protein in Mason’s blood was extremely low.

Redwings Veterinary Surgeon Dawn Trayhorn, who cared for Mason, remembered: “Mason was effectively a feral pony, but he did not show any fear when I examined him or even when we took those first blood samples. He’d never been handled but he was too weak to show that he was frightened of us.”

Tests confirmed Mason had a heavy parasitic worm burden, and his intestinal wall was damaged. Mason required lifesaving plasma transfusions as well as antibiotics to treat a concurrent bacterial infection of his intestine, dewormers, anti-inflammatories and steroids.

Dawn added: “There were so many things going against Mason from the day he was found and rescued but having barely survived, we were desperate to make sure he wasn’t going to just fade away."

Gradually his intestines began to heal and the level of protein in his blood increased to a healthy level. After months of concern that he might never recover from such a difficult start in life, the Redwings staff caring for Mason could feel positive about his future and set about finding him a suitable friend and playmate, so he could have the chance to live like a normal young pony.

Fellow youngster Barney was a clear fit, and after a careful integration Barney and Mason are now happily living together, playing and interacting as young ponies should.

Redwings Welfare Vet Nicola Berryman, who cared for Barney when he first arrived, said: “Twelve months after we were all so shocked by the discovery of Barney, who was found discarded like rubbish on a pile of rubble, it is heartwarming to see him flourishing so much that he is even lending a helping hoof to a fellow rescued youngster.

“Mason’s future on the common was very uncertain, and it is likely that without being rescued he would have died. Instead, this Christmas both ponies have a safe and secure future at Redwings, and each other for company! None of this would be possible with the kindness of our supporters, whose donations truly save lives -all year round.”

Mason’s story is the subject of Redwings’ Christmas appeal – to read more about his lifesaving care, or to donate, visit