Two of Norfolk’s horse charities

PUBLISHED: 16:48 20 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:48 20 May 2019

Frenchie with daughter Dancer. Dancer was gravely-ill with strangles when the pair were rescued and was successfully treated at Redwings (photo: Redwings)

Frenchie with daughter Dancer. Dancer was gravely-ill with strangles when the pair were rescued and was successfully treated at Redwings (photo: Redwings)


Norfolk is home to two leading equine charities helping protect, save and care for horses not just in the UK but around the globe

Over the past 35 years, Redwings has saved thousands of horses from neglect, suffering and death; and it all started with the rescue of a pony called Sheba.

Inspired by Sheba's bravery, a small team of volunteers set about creating a sanctuary dedicated to protecting the lives of horses, ponies, donkeys and mules. Now it has five centres across the UK and cares for more than 2,000 equine animals every day, as well as having around 700 more living on permanent loan in its guardian homes.

Norfolk is home to the charity's headquarters and two visitor centres, in Aylsham and at Caldecott, near Fritton - Redwing's largest visitor centre which currently has more than 110 residents, from Shetland ponies to shire horses.

But it isn't just the horses in its care which benefit from the charity's equine expertise, it also runs several campaigns aimed at improving horse health, preventing cruelty and abuse and helping advise and support horse owners here in the UK and across the globe.

Its current campaign - Stamp out Strangles - aims to help fight a devastating equine respiratory disease which causes misery for horses, their owners and equestrian businesses.

Eight-year-old Spike, now enjoying a new life after being rehomed by World Horse Welfare, and excelling in dressage with his  jockey, Eloise (photo: World Horse Welfare)Eight-year-old Spike, now enjoying a new life after being rehomed by World Horse Welfare, and excelling in dressage with his jockey, Eloise (photo: World Horse Welfare)

It was launched just before Christmas and more than 270 horse owners and 104 yard managers across the UK have already pledged their support to champion better biosecurity practices to rid the country of strangles for good.

Andie Vilela, Redwings' education and campaigns manager, said: "So many people have shared stories of their experiences with strangles and the stigma they've faced - some particularly heartbreaking - demonstrating a clear desire for meaningful change to happen.

"A recent survey we conducted of livery yards showed that 68% have some form of screening process in place, which is really encouraging. However, just 13% of horse owners said they take measures to protect their horses so we know there's a lot more to be done," says Andie.

"Our campaign provides easily-accessible practical advice, information and resources to make it as simple as possible for yard managers and horse owners to work together to pro-actively improve hygiene practices - something we understand is important when fitting busy lives around caring for horses."

By signing up to the campaign, horse owners agree to champion good biosecurity practices, to communicate openly if their horse may have been in contact with strangles and to clear their horse of being a strangles carrier if they become infected. For yard managers, the emphasis is on reducing risk at their business, screening new arrivals, producing a yard protocol for clients and responding immediately if a strangles case is suspected.

Spike, now enjoying a new life after being rehomed by World Horse Welfare (photo: World Horse Welfare)Spike, now enjoying a new life after being rehomed by World Horse Welfare (photo: World Horse Welfare)

Redwings has set up a Stamp Out Strangles online hub, which is full of free information and advice, as well as a map of livery yards who have signed up and are committed protecting horses from strangles.

For more information and to take the pledge and to find out more about the 'Speak out on Strangles Day' on July 6, head to

World Horse Welfare

After witnessing a procession of British work horses being unloaded at the docks in Belgium, before being led four miles, whipped as they walked, to their slaughter, Ada Cole was determined to stop the cruelty suffered during those journeys.

In 1927, she founded World Horse Welfare, initially as a campaigning organisation to prevent the export of live British horses for slaughter - and within a decade, her passion and determination saw that protection written into legislation.

Today, some 90 years later, the work of the charity stretches around the globe, saving the lives of thousands of horses, donkeys and ponies.

As well as taking in mistreated horses at their rescue centres nationwide - the largest of which is Hall Farm at Snetterton - the charity provides support to owners and works with the veterinary profession, sport bodies, law enforcement and governments. It also runs many international campaigns, in particular in the third world, and provides emergency relief.

But a key part of its work is rehoming, with around 300 horses, ponies and donkeys matched with new owners yearly.

Sam Chubbock, head of UK support, says that while the charity retains ownership of its rehomed horses, they can stay in their loan homes for life.

"Retaining ownership means we are able to safeguard each horse's future, guaranteeing that their welfare will never be compromised. This policy protects the equine as well as providing our rehomers with peace of mind because they can return the horse or pony to us at any time should they experience a change in circumstances. Rehomers also benefit from regular visits by our field officers or rehoming officers who are available to provide support and advice.

"Despite what some people might think, you don't need to have state-of-the-art facilities in order to rehome a horse - they just need to be safe and suitable for the individual. Depending on the horse's needs, we will always require rehomers to have experience of horses and a support network to help if they are planning to take in a youngster, for example. Our team carries out home checks to ensure the potential home has facilities for the horse or pony, including appropriate turnout, grazing, secure fencing, clean water sources and shelter. We currently have over 1,800 equines out in homes across the UK, so have a lot of experience matching the right horse with the right person."

If you might consider rehoming a horse, see for more information about the process

Spike's happy ever after

Eight-year-old Spike was rehomed from World Horse Welfare as a youngster after being rehabilitated following a very sorry start to life.

Now living with Pat, he has continued going from strength to strength. He was found in 2011, kept in a shipping container, and was emaciated and suffering from a severe lice infestation, worm burden and overgrown feet.

Now Spike's transformation has been incredible. He has very successfully turned his hoof to dressage and is excelling with his rider, Eloise, with the pair recently competing at the British Dressage regional championships.

"Everywhere we go people just absolutely love him and always come and ask about him or talk to him," says Pat. "He is becoming quite famous due to his appearances on social media! He has amazing movement and presence and was soon showing a natural talent for dressage. He is second to none, quite literally taking everything in his very impressive stride."

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