Arnie and Marmite
February 10, 2021
A sanctuary for life for 15 young horses from the Whispering Willows sanctuary
February 17, 2021

The first six months of life for a foal are crucial to their development. Good nutrition, socialisation with other equines, exercise and their mother’s milk are just some of the requirements that help a foal grow into a healthy and happy youngster. Sadly, life didn’t begin in this way for little Ovie.

Orphaned foal Ovie came into our care in 2019 after he was found abandoned and alone on private land. Sadly, Ovie had been separated from his mother and left to fend for himself at just four months old.

Ovie was in poor condition and in need of immediate veterinary care. Poor Ovie was malnourished, covered in ticks and bites and had a severe locking stifle, causing great discomfort.

Our grooms and veterinary teams provided the specialist care Ovie needed and after a few weeks Ovie’s health improved dramatically.

There was no way of knowing how long he’d been separated from his mother and our grooms noticed that Ovie was unusually disinterested in other horses, paying them no interest whatsoever. In fact, he was far more interested in his grooms and began to behave with them in the playful manner you’d expect when two foals interact.

Despite never showing any aggression, Ovie’s playful behaviour became challenging to manage and it was critical that we taught him to behave respectfully around people to give him his best chance in life. Our Sanctuary behaviourist, Anna Haines, worked closely with Ovie and his grooms by providing essential enrichment and positive reinforcement for good behaviour. Anna said: “Ovie arrived at the Sanctuary at such an influential age for a young foal, so it was really important to assess his needs and the most effective way to meet them. He began showing signs of investigative behaviour towards people when they were in his stable, which involved lots of oral behaviours and nibbling at people and clothing and he could sometimes be quite over-zealous in his actions. These types of behaviours are not uncommon in orphan foals and can easily escalate and get out of hand if not dealt with appropriately.

“We provided even more varied items of environmental enrichment to increase mental stimulation and rewarded Ovie with scratches (which he loved!) for any calm behaviour around people. We also made it an important priority to carefully integrate him into a herd with other ponies to help him to develop his social skills and provide an outlet for his playful behaviour. Ovie was quick to learn and has flourished into a calm and respectful pony.”

Ovie has come so far and continues to make significant progress in his training with his groom Lucy, at our Yelverton Sanctuary. After a gentle introduction, Ovie is now living happily within a natural herd environment. The kindness and generosity of our loyal supporters meant that we were there for Ovie when he needed us most. Thanks to you, Ovie now has the chance to live a safe and fulfilling life here at the Sanctuary and we hope that one day he will find a loving home with a knowledgeable carer.