A Star Is Born! (First published in the “Phonebox Magazine” in September 2009)

Gizmo, a tiny piebald Miniature Shetland foal, started life at Redwings Horse Sanctuary in Norfolk just weeks after her mother was signed over to the charity by her owner. Gizmo’s mother, Nooky, was in poor health when Redwings found her. Not only was she heavily pregnant with Gizmo, Nooky also had conjunctivitis and sweet itch. In addition she had deformed and overgrown hooves and was suffering from hypothermia. Redwings were very concerned for Nooky’s welfare, particularly as she was in foal. Working in partnership with the RSPCA the mare was seized. Her owners were located, but admitted that they had not been managing to provide the care and attention required to get Nooky back into good health.

In circumstances such as these, the Animal Welfare Act allows organisations like Redwings to work with owners and intervene to prevent suffering before it really takes hold. The owners eventually agreed to sign over the mare to the RSPCA, with Redwings offering her a permanent home. Nooky has made excellent progress following her arrival at Redwings HQ in Norfolk and has become a very firm favourite with the staff as she has a very sweet nature and a rather endearing overbite. She now has a healthy, happy baby foal as well, following Gizmo’s arrival into the world in early August. This year has actually been quite an unusual one for Redwings Horse Sanctuary. Gizmo is the 23rd foal to be born at Redwings since January 1st 2009! So far this year, the charity has taken in more than 180 horses, ponies and donkeys and has now had 18 foals born from rescued mothers.

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A Press Release about Gizmo attracted a lot of media interest, including a visit from Anglia TV on Wednesday 12th August. Broadcast Journalist Serena Sandhu arrived to carry out her first location assignment for Anglia TV. Imagine the scenario – your first job involves filming a 10 day old foal in a glorious location in the Norfolk countryside! Can it really get much better than that? Serena was filming a piece for transmission on Anglia TV that evening. After a few indoor shots from Redwings’ veterinary unit, mother and foal were led outside as preparations were made for an interview with Redwings’ Chief Executive, Lynn Cutress. At this point we noted that Gizmo was distinctly less than impressed with a large puddle which had formed following heavy rain earlier that morning!

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The majority of the 1100 equine residents under Redwings’ direct care tend to be mainly older or infirm animals, so this year’ influx of foals has provided some interesting experiences for the staff. Despite the fact that many of the rescued mares have often come from situations of neglect or cruelty, the foals born at the sanctuary have tended to be generally fit and healthy. They will therefore eventually be found new homes, as they are not in need of specialist sanctuary care. Gizmo has become a very firm favourite with all the staff at Hapton and no doubt there will be some sad faces when she is eventually found a new home.

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(Redwings Horse Sanctuary was established in 1984 and today has grown to become the largest horse sanctuary in the UK, working to save horses, ponies, donkeys and mules whose future would otherwise be bleak. Its work has three themes: rescue & rehabilitation, specialist sanctuary care and prevention through education. Its horse care & welfare hotline receives typically 3,000 calls per year. In 2009, Redwings celebrates its Silver Jubilee. The sanctuary currently provides more than 1100 horses, ponies, donkeys and mules with specialist sanctuary care and has 500 horses out on loan in Guardian homes.)

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