Could you help vulnerable, neglected and hurt horses and ponies this Christmas?

Stuck with Christmas gift ideas? Sponsor a stable at Belwade Farm near Aboyne and help vulnerable, neglected and abused horses. Gale pays a visit.

It’s minus 9 degrees Celsius when I light it up at Belwade Farm near Aboyne in Deeside.

The weak winter sun shines with all its might, and the pony rushes towards me with a crunch through the freshly fallen snow, ears pricked, eyes shining.

He’s a sweet as a button, black Shetlander named Scotty, and he neighs when he gets close.

I can’t help stroking his thick, fluffy fur as he nestles like a bug in a rug, despite the frostbite-inducing temperature.

His warm breath hazes the air as I comb through his mane with a brush, a satisfied look on his face.

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Hugging Scotty.

You guessed it – I’m in heaven for horses (and ponies)!

Rescue and resettlement

I came to the Rescue and Relocation Center at Belwade Farm, run by the World Horse Welfare charity, and this place is guaranteed to be a favorite for dog lovers.

Troubled horses, ponies and donkeys have a happy time while the team members who work here treat them before returning them to their new owners.

Set on 170 acres of hilly farmland, the center can cater for 65 horses and ponies – about 40 when I visit.

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Meeting with another Shetland pony.

Residents include three Shetlanders whose owners were too ill to care for them, Scotty (mentioned above, who has complex foot problems and arrived here a year ago after his elderly owners were taken into care), Percy the two-year-old piebald cob , three-year-old piebald cob Morven and 20-year-old former racer Thoroughbred William.

Some are ready to become riding horses or ponies, while others are suitable only as companions. Others, like Scotty, are in rehab.

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Horses are cozy in the yard.

tower center

I had the pleasure of taking a tour with Center Manager Eileen Gillen and her assistant, Caroline Hurd, who introduce me to some of the residents and share their stories.

After I made friends with Scotty, I cuddle with Jelly Tot, a Shetland cross. It is hoped that one day she will become an excellent child pony.

She was born here after her pregnant mother was found in a muddy, swampy field without food in 2014.

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Gale meets Jelly Toth.

welfare concern

As I make my way across the snow to another field, I bump my nose into Spider, whom Caroline describes as a “local pony.”

“The spider was a welfare issue,” she explains. “She was overweight when she came here and her legs weren’t touched.

“She is being treated for glaucoma and is in rehab, but there is hope, like all of our ponies, that she can eventually be brought home.”

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Gale with Otter, Spider and Cariade.

Also keen to take part in the action piebald cob Otter, another “trouble.”

“She probably won’t work because she’s prone to injury,” says Caroline. “But before we can move her, she needs to lose weight!”

I fall in love with Cariad, a 15.1hh 8 year old Welsh pony from section D, and wonder… can I give her a loving home…?

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Cariada and Spider should be ready for relocation soon.

She came here after her owners, who were struggling with serious health problems, struggled to care for her.

“She seems to be fit and healthy, aside from being overweight,” Caroline says.

“She has had a little support so we are going to retrain her and hopefully she will become a riding horse.” Very tempting!

Strict procedures

While I dream to myself about the resettlement of Cariads, the process is not so simple.

Quite rightly, there are strict procedures in place to ensure that animals are placed in safe and suitable homes. Basically, you can’t just come in and say, “I want one!”

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Center Manager Eileen Gillen.

Eileen, who has worked in Belwada since it opened in 1990, says: “Anyone can apply for our relocation program, but our staff will run a home inspection to see if the person is a good fit for a horse or pony.

“We must marry the regomer with a horse. You have personality conflicts just like people do, so we need to make sure this is a good home.

“The main thing is that every animal should have a future. We retain ownership of any horse or pony under our care for the rest of their lives.

“This means that if there are any problems, they can be returned; There is always a fallback.”

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Eileen has been with Belvada since 1990.

Fully MOT

When a horse arrives in Belwade, it is fully serviced, Eileen says, and gets the care it needs before it is relocated.

“Some may have issues with the vet or the farrier or the dentist and if you take them you have to consider that.

“Belvade’s goal is to rescue and rehabilitate. We’re not taking refuge in the fact that we want to relocate 65 horses each year; invariably most of the years we find homes for something more.”

Rescue and rehabilitation

While some horses are endowed by will or given over to Scottish Animal Welfare as a snub, others come from people who can no longer afford to keep them.

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Cute little creatures for a new home.

“If owners are having difficulty, we would rather they seek advice rather than wait for the horse to get out of shape,” Eileen says. “We are always here to help.”

How can you help

Do you feel charity? People can help in several ways: by donating money or by signing up for the Sponsor a Stable program.

“We don’t have government funding; it’s all charitable donations,” Eileen says.

“We would like people to support us in every possible way.

“Our stable sponsor regularly provides you with news, photos and stories about the horses in the yard and you will be invited to special events.

“We would like you to feel connected by supporting us. And this scheme will be a great gift for Christmas!

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Four-legged friend in Belvada.
  • Help Belwad’s horses and ponies by donating £5 a month or by signing up for the Sponsor a Stables program.
  • Interested in relocation? Check or see facebook page.
  • In addition to horse encounters, you can grab a bite to eat at Belwade’s Bistro, enjoy a farm walk, visit the gift shop, visitor center and second hand shop.

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