As the RSPCA struggles to cope with the numbers of horses needing its help, two plucky equines are today (8 August) setting out with their owners on a 100 mile trek just to raise money for the charity’s Felledge Equine Centre.
Scotch, a miniature Shetland pony, and Barley, a donkey will take their owners, Tiggy Bays-Griffiths and Chelsey Bailey, on the first sponsored trek of its kind around East Anglia.
The seven day challenge begins today in Needham Market and ends at the huge Equifest show at the Peterborough Showground on Thursday 14 August, when the weary foursome will parade around the show arena before having a well-earned rest.
Tiggy was inspired to undertake the challenge after she rehomed Scotch from RSPCA Felledge in County Durham in 2012. Scotch was one of 15 ponies found dumped by a railway line between Scunthorpe and Doncaster. One of the ponies was killed by a train and another two had to be put to sleep because their injuries were so debilitating.
Tiggy heard about Scotch from an RSPCA inspector who knew that she had been looking for a very special miniature Shetland to join her carriage driving team. Scotch met all the criteria, including being a skewbald gelding measuring 28” to 30” high, and Tiggy decided he was the pony for her.
Like many people, Tiggy didn’t realise the amount of work done by the RSPCA in rehoming rescued ponies and horses. She said: “I had to give up riding in 2005 after a riding accident and then got involved with driving miniature Shetlands.
“I looked high and low for the right pony and Scotch was just right. I was so impressed with how Scotch had been cared for and how helpful the Felledge Equine Centre staff were that I just wanted to do something to help the RSPCA rehome more horses and to raise awareness of the scale of the horse crisis being faced by the country.”
Chelsey joined the trek with her donkey Barley and both owners sought veterinary advice before embarking on their trekking training. Full vet checks will be carried out during the challenge and the route, which takes in various towns in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, has been designed to pass near to veterinary surgeries.
Tiggy added: “We have spoken to the Endurance Society for advice on a training plan and the Donkey Sanctuary agree that this promotes the message of exercise being important for donkey health. We also have two back up animals, just in case Barley or Scotch aren’t quite up to the trek.”
It is hoped that Barley and Scotch will be accompanied into the Equifest arena by other rescue ponies.
The RSPCA and other equine welfare charities estimate that about 6,500 horses are at risk across England and Wales due to rising feed prices and a market in which horses can be sold for as little as £5. Most of these are fly grazed or even abandoned and left to breed indiscriminately by irresponsible owners.
The RSPCA has more than 700 horses in its care and desperately needs new homes for them.
We are also urging the government to introduce new fly grazing legislation to allow landowners to take more action. In addition, we need greater enforcement of passporting and identification legislation so that we can trace animals back to their owners and make those owners take responsibility for them.
To find out how to support the Funamble, please visit http://choices.rspca.org.uk/felledge-funamble or text ‘RSPCA1’ followed by £3 to 70111 to support the Funamble (texts cost £3 + one standard network rate message).