Easter the foal, who was rescued at just one day old is one, is one example of the dozens of horse Hope Pastures has helped in its 40 year history. Juliette Bains reports.
JUST a couple of weeks ago this tiny foal was abandoned at the side of the motorway in Leeds at just one day old.
When the helpless horse, who was named Easter, was found near the White Rose Centre, he had no food, water or shelter and his eyes were swollen shut from an injury.
Despite tireless searches, sadly his mother was nowhere to be found.
But luckily, Hope Pastures in Leeds has been rescuing horses like Easter for decades, and have taken him on.
Easter, so-called because he was rescued on Easter Sunday, was later found to suffer from joint ill – a life-threatening illness that can lead to septic arthritis, synovitis and physitis if not treated.
Symptoms include acute heat, swelling and lameness around a joint or tendon.
But for now, Easter is making good progress at the centre in north Leeds.
Staff are constantly checking on his progress, as he needs two injections a day to help combat the symptoms, and his breathing and temperature has to be monitored.
The charity has already shelled out £800 to care for the foal, and will also cough up the costs for when he needs to be castrated.
The sanctuary solely relies on its supporters and donations to meet its £8,500-a-month running costs.
Despite the stress of raising funds, staff at the centre go above and beyond for the animals in its care, and yard manager Sophie Kendrick is no exception.
The dedicated employee is currently sleeping on the floor at the visitor centre so that she can feed Easter every couple of hours and can keep tabs on his illness.
Supporters of the charity donated an air bed for Sophie, where she kips every night under a sleeping bag.
“It’s actually quite critical what he has,” she said.
“We just have to try our best and he is looking really good at the moment.”
Speaking about why horses like Easter are abandoned, Sophie explained: “If a horse is born and it is a male, it’s just dumped because they are not worth anything.
“There is an equine crisis at the moment because there is so much over-breeding, and there’s no regulation or legislation in place to regulate that breeding.
“A lot of people are trying to push things through Parliament.”
It’s clear that Sophie, 33, from Yeadon, is passionate about her job.
She first started at the sanctuary 13 years ago, after seeing an advert for volunteers in the Yorkshire Evening Post.
After taking up shifts every Saturday, Sophie quickly moved up through the ranks, going from stable hand to yard manager – a role that she has now had for 10 years.
“This is the job I have always wanted to do since I was a little girl, so I’m really lucky,” she said.
“It’s really rewarding and interesting, and you never get bored.”
Despite essentially acting as a mother figure for many of the sanctuary’s animals, Sophie says she’s happiest when they find a happy home.
“The bit I enjoy most is the journey, from seeing them go from being really emaciated to seeing them get rehomed.
“If you find the perfect home for a horse, it is a great feeling.
“It is hard to let them go but it’s part of the job and the aim is to rescue and rehabilitate them where ever possible.”
As well as horses, Hope Pastures, which was set up in 1974, also caters for donkeys and ponies.
The charity’s motto is to ‘rescue, rehabilitate and re-home’ animals that might have been abused or mistreated.
Lynn Gawthorpe, one of the original founding trustees, remembers just how much Hope Pastures has changed over the years.
She said: “When we took it over we had just 16 animals and two week’s money.
“There were rickety old goat sheds, decrepit buildings and rotten stables.
“Now we have about 30 animals at Hope Pastures itself and are responsible for over 80 which have been re-homed in loving forever homes.
“The sanctuary has been improved to provide quality accommodation for the rescued animals, with modern, safe stables, yards and fencing.”
Schoolchildren can also get stuck in and volunteer at the sanctuary.
It is hoped that by taking part in activities such as cleaning the stables, mucking out, sweeping the yard and grooming the horses, it could help develop the youngsters’ social skills, communication, team building, citizenship and employability skills.
Win Fenton is a specialist house parent at David Young Community Academy, and oversees a group of pupils who are visiting the centre once a week.
Win said: “It has been brilliant. The lads have met what we expect of them and more.
“We are hoping to develop skills that will make them more employable in the future.”
Danny Kennedy, 21, from Horsforth, oversees the pupils and has been working at Hope Pastures for a year.
He started volunteering at the site a year ago and has now become an apprentice.
Danny said: “You get to do a bit of everything. And a lot of mucking out!
“Before, I was working in an off licence and didn’t really enjoy it.
“I enjoy being outside and it’s really rewarding when you rehabilitate ponies and the rescue horses.”
It’s a tight-knit team at Hope Pastures, with just 10 paid members of staff and 15 volunteers.
But it’s thanks to passionate staff, volunteers and supporters that Hope Pastures is celebrating 40 years since the Phyllis Harvey Horse and Donkey Trust was originally established in north Leeds, and 10 years since the current trustees took over the running of the sanctuary following a funding and welfare crisis.
Sue Sarucan became a trustee in 2010 and said that since the economy took a turn, the charity has seen an influx of horses.
“The economic climate means that people can’t afford to keep horses any more,” she explains.
“Horses are a luxury animal now.”
She explained that horse prices have gone down, and that even one of the donkeys – Banjo – was rescued from a market where he was being sold for meat – for just £63.
Banjo is now settled at the sanctuary and even goes out on visits to schools and nursing homes with the charity.
l Hope Pastures will host a Spring Fayre and Open Day on Sunday, May 18.
The family-friendly event, which will take place from 10.30am to 3pm, will include bric-a-brac, tarot reading, books, toys, games, raffle, tombolas and refreshments.
Entrance to the Spring Fayre costs 50p for adults.
Children can attend the event for free.
Hope Pastures was registered as a charity in 1974.
The aim was to rescue horses, ponies and donkeys that were being abused.
In April 2004 the Trust was taken over by new trustees whose aims are to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home wherever possible.
Now it is celebrating 40 years since the Phyllis Harvey Horse and Donkey Trust was originally established in north Leeds and exactly 10 years to the day since the current trustees took over the running of the sanctuary.
To mark the milestone, Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West, tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament paying tribute to the work the sanctuary does to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home horses, ponies and donkeys; commending that it opens every day free of charge and wishing it further success in the future.
Greg presented a printed copy of the Motion to Hope Pastures’s trustees at the anniversary party earlier this year.
Lynn Gawthorpe, one of the original founding trustees, said: “It was a brilliant surprise.
“This recognition means a great deal to us – the copy will definitely have pride of place on the wall in our visitor centre.
“It’s the best ‘birthday present’ we could have!”
As part of the sanctuary’s anniversary celebrations, visitors were treated to special tours of the site to meet the animals, refreshments and home-made cakes and had the opportunity to meet the trustees and the team at the yard, find out more about their work and see how far the sanctuary has come in the last 10 years.
The sanctuary on Weetwood Lane is open everyday, free of charge.
For more information about Hope Pastures, visit: www.hopepastures.org