Last spring Goatacre Farm Sanctuary reached out to us about a pony called Rowan who was in trouble.
As a huge lover of our equine friends, his story touched my heart and I knew I had to help.
Rowan is an Exmoor pony who was facing euthanasia because he had a nervous disposition. He had been plucked from Exmoor National Park, was deemed “too wild to tame”, and kept secluded in a stable for over a year.
His ‘nervous disposition’ was simply his survival instinct. Rowan is a wild animal who’d had very little human interaction growing up.
In Need of Help
A local horse rider had learned about Rowan’s story and set out to find him a new home.
The first time I met Rowan he was in a circular 6ft tall area sand. His owners had tried to move him back to the stable, but he was so scared that he panicked, knocked over a fence and dragged his helpers around.
Fear can make even the smallest pony as strong as a horse!
I couldn’t get within 5ft of him, but his gentle eyes full of terror sealed the deal and we offered him a place at the Sanctuary.
Journey to the Sanctuary
A week later, and with a lot of coaxing, we loaded him onto a trailer and set off to Coppershell.
When he arrived at the Sanctuary he immediately bolted out of his trailer, nostrils flaring and tail swishing, yet within minutes he was tucked up eating hay angrily in his new yard.
It was a sobering moment and I thought I may be in over my head.
We spent the first few months trying to gain his trust. We sat in the corner of his stable each morning and night, on our phones or reading a book, trying to get him used to human interaction.
We taught him to take treats by slowly pulling them from our pockets and offering them on an open hand, knowing any sudden movements would cause him to cower. Each day he would show more and more interest, but not once did he let his guard down.
As the weeks progressed, Rowan still winced at any human touch no matter how soft. Weeks turned to months and it felt like we were not making any progress at all, he seemed just as nervous as the day he moved in.
Frustrating Lack of Progress
We spoke to a vet about castration, hoping it would allow him to integrate with the herd. Up until this point the only friends he had at the Sanctuary were the five goats who shared his yard.
After oral and IV sedation, which he was still fighting against, the vet decided it would not be safe to castrate him until he was able to walk to the barn on the adjacent yard to come around from the general anaesthetic.
I felt deflated. I didn’t know where to go and just wanted this sweet boy to be back on Exmoor living the life he was meant to have.
To my surprise, the vet agreed! It was such a relief to know that I wasn’t failing this poor pony, and he was just cut out for a different style of living.
That’s when we learned about Exmoor Pony Centre.
Situated in the heart of Exmoor National Park, the Exmoor Pony Centre is a small charity owned by the Moorland Mousie Trust. They promote and protect the endangered rare-breed Exmoor Pony.
They immediately accepted Rowan into their conservation programme and as they had other boys ready for castration, asked if he could join them ASAP!
I know first-hand the demand animal charities are under, so to say I was excited is an understatement!
A New Chapter
I set to finding his transportation immediately. Luckily for us our followers are remarkable and a wonderful person offered to give up her day and transport Rowan the 2.5hrs to his new home!
My stomach was in knots when it was ready for him to leave.
I was worried about how he would load, the stress he would be under and if I had given up too easily. Deep down I knew that this was the right thing to do.
After 45 minutes of unsuccessfully trying to coax him into a side loading box, something he had not seen before, we knew we had to get a little bit tougher. We gathered behind him and gave him a good push forward into the truck. Once he was in, he seemed to immediately relax – his world was so small when he was younger that it still provided comfort now.
And off he went to start his new chapter.
The journey was smooth and the offloading was fast and steady. He’s in quarantine until his castration next week. The Coppershell team have kindly been invited to the Exmoor Pony Centre to see his progress and learn more about what they do.
Setting A Wild Soul Free
His rescue was a huge learning curve for all of us involved, me especially.
I’ve learnt that it’s okay to say ‘I don’t know’ and reach out for advice when I am feeling hopeless.
Our supporters are so knowledgeable, kind and generous, it would be a disservice to the Residents not to ask for their help and guidance in trying times.
Rowan’s absence at the farm will not go unnoticed. He was cautious but curious. Watching us intently as we prepared meals for the Residents and even occasionally whinnying at the volunteers.
The hole his absence has left in the Sanctuary is nothing compared to the knowing that we have set a wild soul free.
We spent £300 in total on Rowan’s transporation costs.
If you could spare a couple of pounds towards the fees we would be very grateful.
Or you could donate to the Exmoor Pony Centre for all the amazing work they do.