My lovely horse

Credit images Shane Ferguson 5.jpg

By Michelle Newman

When My Lovely Horse Rescue volunteer Maddie Doyle, isn’t at the farm helping the animals herself, there’s not a day that goes by without her contributing to the charity in some way. Here, Maddie describes what working for a not-for profit animal charity, that is 100 per cent volunteer run, is really like.

 My lovely, lovely, lovely, horse…

The rescue was set up in 2011 and the volunteers who set it up at the time would have been involved in rescuing dogs primarily in the Dublin and city areas. They saw first-hand the issues with horses in those areas and, given that some of them had a background in horses, they decided as a group of friends to do something about it.

One of the people involved at that stage would have been the singer Cathy Davey and her partner Neil Hannon, [who] did some of the music for Father Ted, so that’s how the name came about and My Lovely Horse rescue was born.

All animals are welcome

Primarily we rescue horses but over the years we’ve diversified into other animals as they’ve come up. When you’re rescuing one type you generally tend to get lots of calls about others as well, such as goats, sheep, dogs and even pigs. We started off with horses, ponies and donkeys and along the way we’ve accumulated a few other different sets of four-legged creatures. We’re based in Leinster so we work a lot in Dublin, but we deal with counties all over the country as well. We have horses from all over the country at our rescue and we recently set up My Lovely Horse Rescue Cork.

Horses are neglected for a variety of reasons

There isn’t a one size that fits all. Nationwide, there is generally a problem with overbreeding. A lot of people would be what they call overstocked, where too many horses are bred for the same market. So what tends to happen is that a lot of these horses that aren’t sold or can’t be sold, find their way into these city areas, and we know you can buy a horse for as little as €50 or €100.

The idea that they’re expensive to buy, only exists at a certain level in the elite industry if you’re looking at very specific sports or horses with recorded breeding, they’ll obviously be an amount of money being exchanged there but the horses we come across are being swapped and sold and passed on for very little money

“There’s not a day that I don’t have to do something for My Lovely Horse Rescue”

There’s a whole team of volunteers and all of them have full-time jobs outside of the rescue. I have two children aged 10 and under and I’m a care worker. I’m usually at the rescue twice a week physically, I mean I probably spend more hours doing that than my actual job.

We have about 50 volunteers in total but within the 50 you’d have the ones that are dropping in and out occasionally and then you’d have the core group who are actively involved every single day.

If an emergency call came in we could be up at night talking to someone until 12am and then we might actually jump in our car at 12.30am and go off somewhere, so it can be all consuming.

Credit images Shane Ferguson 1.jpg

Saying ‘no’ is extremely difficult

When you love horses and you’ve seen what goes on with them, what can happen to them and the sort of things that are going on in this country with horses overall, we wouldn’t be very good at saying, ‘No.’ We always be trying to find a way to say, ‘Yes’ even when we’re full, we don’t like to turn any animal away. 

Government grants help, but they don’t last very long

The Department of Agriculture give us a yearly grant. Last year at the end of December we got €12,000 but from the end of October until April our weekly spend on hay is between €600 and €700. So if you take that €12,000 and just look at the hay bill for winter, our hay actually exceeds that grant. On top of that, like a lot of rescues, our vet bills tend to be quite high.

Some of them are so neglected that it can be a long and slow road to bring them back from that neglect which means lots of different types of intervention that cost you money. It’s not cheap to bring them back from the edge.

I had a vet say to me once, ‘You know it’s going to cost you a lot of money and the horse isn’t actually worth that much.’ We’re a rescue, we don’t make decisions based on, ‘Oh well the horse is worth €50 but it’ll cost us €300 to make him better,’ those are not the types of decisions that are made.

Our adoption process if very thorough

At the rescue we go through an application process. Our adoption team work specifically on this; looking at the applications that come in, looking at the horses and seeing if they match the people, do the people match the horses. We would always do a home check to see where the horses are going and to make sure that the people comply with what is necessary for the adoption.  

The ultimate goal is to rehome the animals

We’re not a sanctuary, we’re not looking to hold onto these animals, aa rescue is really only a temporary placement. The idea really is to get them out of the situation they were in, they come to us and we rehabilitate them. The rehabilitation process depends on the animal, some are ready sooner than others, it can be quite a long road depending on the level of neglect, but the aim is to rehome them.

 For more information on My Lovely Horse Rescue see

 Credit images: Shane Ferguson

Catherine Devane