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Loving New Home For Horse Who Was Cruelly Set Alight During Fight

7 months ago

9th February, 2023 16h21

The Blue Cross

A horse who suffered horrific injuries after he was cruelly set alight has been found a loving new home thanks to two charities.

Grainy CCTV footage documents the moment Pilgrim’s life changed forever, and it makes for very distressing viewing. Two figures, their identities obscured by hoods, pour flammable liquid over an innocent horse tied to the railings of a garden, and set him alight during a fight.

In a matter of moments, the undeserving and wholly innocent Pilgrim - aged just two years at the time - becomes a victim of truly horrendous suffering. His face, ear, neck, flank and hind quarters all suffer horrific burns.

But now, two years on, Pilgrim is not only safe from harm, but he is loved, thanks to Dublin Society for the Protection of Animals (DSPCA) and Blue Cross.

Claire Owens, Equine Welfare and Rehoming Manager at the DSPCA, contacted Blue Cross to find a home for Pilgrim, who they had taken in and rehabilitated.

Claire was one of the first to meet Pilgrim when the charity’s inspectors - who operate similarly to RSPCA inspectors in England and Wales - brought the injured horse to the DSPCA shelter. She remembers: “His head was very, very swollen and he was just completely shut down.”

The DSPCA veterinary team worked closely with equine vet specialists from the University College Dublin veterinary hospital to help manage his wounds due to their complexity.

Treating his wounds with medicated cream was stressful for Pilgrim - he must have found it so painful - but Claire discovered he loved to be groomed on his unaffected side and used this to gain his confidence. Slowly but surely, and with Claire’s tenderness and care, Pilgrim began to trust humans.

Claire says: “He’s a horse that taught me an awful lot of patience, and his saving grace was his love of people and despite the burns, he loved being groomed, where it wasn’t sore. That’s how I taught him to stand, and was able to get a headcollar on; I just did that basic handling.”

Pilgrim travelled over to Blue Cross’s rehoming centre in Burford, Oxfordshire, where the charity’s dedicated rehoming team continued his rehabilitation and began the search for his new home.

Now Pilgrim has found sanctuary with new owner, Carol.

His burns, no longer painful, have turned to scars that only hint at his sad beginning, and he is happy. Part of a five-strong herd of rescue ponies, Pilgrim is free to enjoy a carefree life.

Carol says: "A four-year-old with his kind of medical history, which means that he might never be able to do anything else in his life, needs a secure home, I think. I thought it would suit him to come here where there was never going to be any pressure for him to do anything other than be a horse and be happy, which hopefully is what we’ve achieved.”

Thinking back to his arrival from Blue Cross, Carol remembers thinking he was more confident than she had anticipated, but having been in his home for six months, she has noticed a change in his behaviour. He is more relaxed, less fidgety, and seems truly at home. Carol had been wondering if he would show signs of having gone through trauma in the past, but none have emerged. Pilgrim is remarkable.

Carol says: “How could you not fall in love with him? I mean, he’s just gorgeous, isn’t he? He’s got such a lovely, open, forgiving nature despite what’s happened to him. Also, his story made me think it’d be right to take him on because ponies can come here, and I just want them to live as naturally as possible. I don’t necessarily want them to do anything else.

“They already do a job for me by coming here and being themselves, and getting me outside, exercising, and spending time getting to know them. They heal us really!”

And now, Carol is encouraging others to take on a rescue animal. She recommends keeping an open mind, being patient, and speaking to others with experience of behaviour management; particularly if the animal has had a traumatic past.

Carol says: “Most of all, definitely do it! What it brings is incredible.”

Jennifer Hubbard, Horse Welfare Coordinator at Blue Cross, said: “We were horrified when we heard Pilgrim’s story and we didn’t quite know what to expect when he arrived in our care but he was such a gentle horse. We were able to help him recover and find him a home where we knew he would be loved and safe.

“We were so happy to find Carol and it’s wonderful to see how much Pilgrim has grown in his new home and to see him getting on with the other horses, he clearly knows he is in his forever home.”

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