A 3-year-old pony on the brink of death was nursed back to health thanks to the unflagging efforts of a local horse charity.
It started with a call to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) back in April 2018. The call was from a resident of East Durham, England, who requested that RSPCA check on an animal at a building site.
A volunteer from an equestrian charity—the British Horse Society (BHS)—went to investigate and, peering through a gap in the fence, was shocked to see a horse lying motionless amid the dirty straw and mud in the compound. It looked like it had been struggling to stand, judging from the deep marks left in the mud.
At first, the volunteer thought the horse was dead, but seconds later, she noticed it was still breathing. She immediately made an emergency call to the RSPCA for assistance, and a team was sent out.
"He wasn’t sent away immediately either, as no one was sure if they would be able to get her to her feet."
In the end, they decided to give her a chance. It took five people to lift her up, and once she was up, she was just barely able to stand by herself.
Wendy said, "Although she had to be virtually carried to the lorry she managed to stay upright all the way to us."
"We do save some that can’t stand but you have to be realistic—usually if they manage to stand up, we will try and do what we can for them."
Heidi, as she was later called, was one of the worst cases of neglect they had encountered.
"We deal principally with cobs and thankfully, we only see cases as bad as Heidi’s once or twice a year, although I would say more are found dead," Wendy said.
And for those that are still alive, "the future is often bleak," said the team in one of the videos they created that chronicled Heidi's recovery. "If they are beyond treatment, euthanasia is sadly the only option."
At the rescue center, Heidi underwent a full assessment of her injuries and condition. Once the hair was removed, it was shocking to see how emaciated she was and the injuries she had.
Her ribs showed, and she had large, painful pressure sores. Blood tests revealed that her blood protein was also dangerously low.
"She was exhausted," Wendy recalled. "Her blood albumen, the protein that gives you an indication of how ill they really are, was around 10 or 11 when it should be over 30."
It was a challenge to care for her many pressure sores. They were in awkward positions, and the team made inventive use of adhesive dressings and tape, and adapted leggings into shorts, in order to cover them.
As weak as she was, however, for the first week, Heidi was reluctant to lie down, and her carers "ended up having to put her on the floor" so that she could rest.
"Horses in this state become fearful of being unable to stand again," said the team.
Although Heidi was initially dazed and confused in her new environment, over time, she began to look brighter and welcome the attention of her carers.
She started to lie down to rest at least once every 24 hours and was able to sit up unattended. But she still needed four people to lift her to her feet each time.
"She was always keen to make it to her feet again, and would sulk if left down for too long," the team added.
It was five weeks before she could completely stand unaided, and many more before she regained full mobility.
Her appetite improved, but she had intermittent bouts of diarrhea. Many weeks into the rehabilitation process, a large abscess developed below one of her pressure sores. The team decided to lance it and allow it to drain.
"Once the abscess was cleared, she noticeably turned a corner and started to gain weight."
Through all these setbacks, the team observed that Heidi remained bright and feisty throughout the ordeal.
"She always showed a brave, fighting spirit," they posted on Facebook. "We believe this spirit was central to her remarkable recovery."
Now a fully grown 5-year old filly, Heidi has even become a rosette-winning show pony.
"Heidi is now in excellent condition, perhaps even a little too portly but still needs time and therapy as her skin is extremely sensitive, especially at the site of old wounds," said Here4Horse's website.
Heidi was now a "proper leg-at-each-corner cob," Wendy told Horse and Hound. "She likes to strut her stuff and is quite a show off."
Wendy herself did not expect Heidi's story to go viral on the internet and land Here4Horses in the spotlight. Here4Horses, registered as a charity this year, received donations from Australia and the United States as word spread.
"I think the images just caught people’s attention as they are truly shocking, and you don’t always get to see images of animals in the condition Heidi was in," she said.
Heidi is one of the 40 horses cared for by Here4Horses, which operates as a rescue and often works with organizations like BHS and RSPCA. It is also involved with education programs for owners.
"We are a registered charity and without the generosity of donors and sponsors, ponies like Heidi could not be saved," said Shaun when contacted by The Epoch Times for this story.