In April, Icon was brought into the Sanctuary as a foal at foot with his mother Ice. But he will spend his first Christmas as an orphan foal here at the Sanctuary, surrounded by our grooms, and horses and ponies at Honeysuckle who love him.

We had to make the heart-breaking decision to end his mother’s suffering – but only after carefully managing her pain for a few weeks so she could enjoy at least one summer with her young son.

* Some viewers may find some of the images in this video distressing*

Icon arrived into our care with his mother, Ice, who had serious health issues. They were among 11 horses we had to take in as the result of a multi-agency rescue with the RSPCA. Ice’s neglect was extensive and she had a condition affecting her hind limb that was so severe, there was very little we could do except make her feel loved in her final days with us.

Despite our experience in dealing with complex health cases like Ice’s, her condition wasn’t going to improve and we had to do the kindest thing we could – put her to sleep. It is never an easy decision and lots of specialists are involved in making it, and we all knew that it was in Ice’s best welfare interests.


Our grooms and vet created a care plan for exactly what would need to happen to humanely put Ice to sleep and to help Icon adapt to the loss of his mother. Caring grooms brought a bucket of Ice and Icon’s favourite treats, and stroked their soft manes as they munched away – keeping everything calm and relaxed, whilst Ice gently slipped away. It was so important that Icon could be with his mum at this time as we have learnt over the years that this precious moment is vital for a horse’s grieving process. The team slowly stepped back, allowing Icon the space he needed to be with his mum. When he walked away and we knew he had accepted she was no longer with us.


In the next field we had deliberately put two other recently weaned colt foals, River and Tinkerman, hoping that he would take an interest in them. And he did. The moment Icon noticed them over the fence, he ran up to them and they started sniffing each other.

Our grooms decided to introduce them properly and led Icon into their paddock and almost immediately, they began galloping around the field, chasing each other round playfully. Our grooms observed Icon and the other foals for the rest of the day and that night the new colt herd slept together in the field and have been best friends ever since. We were all relieved that our plan had worked.

We closely monitored Icon for the next few days and we’re pleased to say he’s settled in extremely well. Whilst he might be an orphan, he is surrounded by love and companionship and now shares his paddock with River, Tinkerman and another orphan foal we took in – Ovie. He will get to spend this Christmas with them playing in the fields.

The best gift we could receive is knowing that foals like Icon are able to be happy and healthy here at the Sanctuary.

Christmas at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary is a difficult time, as we continue our daily routines in the harsher weather. We need to be ready for extreme weathers, including snow and sleet.
Over the winter, rugs need to be bought or mended, extra hay and feed need to be available, more veterinary visits are required, and special preparations undertaken for any emergency rescues we may get called out on.

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