A rescued hinny with severe and distressing behavioural problems is now enjoying a second chance at Redwings Horse Sanctuary this Christmas after the charity went the extra mile to save his life.
Riley’s extreme aggression and anxiety towards humans and other horses at the Sanctuary meant he was unsafe to be around – but his carers refused to give up on him.
Thanks to the commitment of the Redwings’ team and the special friendship of two new donkey companions, little Riley is now enjoying a happy life in his own specially built paddock where he can peacefully live for the rest of his days.
The handsome bay hinny – a cross between a female donkey and a male pony – arrived at Redwings in 2013 after his owner appealed for help when they were no longer able to cope with his nervous behaviour.
They had purchased Riley from a horse auction a year earlier after spotting him being dragged around the car park by a man threatening that he would be put to sleep if no-one offered to take him home. Riley had baling twine tied tightly under his muzzle cutting into his skin, and was covered in scars and bald patches.
His new owner took him straight to their vet who said poor Riley would only have survived another week if it had not been for their swift intervention.
At Redwings, despite numerous techniques tried by the charity’s specialist Behaviour team, Riley’s reactions to people and other horses continued to be troubling. After pursuing clinical tests, it was discovered that his problems were caused by a hormone imbalance and a prescription of hormone injections soon saw him begin to feel and behave much more calmly.
However, he remained agitated when near other horses, especially mares, pacing up and down his fence line, crying out and even losing weight. His carers knew that it was not kind to keep him in such a distressed state and would have to find a solution soon or risk making the heart-breaking decision to put him to sleep.
They set about building him his own paddock near Redwings’ dedicated Behaviour Centre in Norfolk, where there were fewer horses and no passers-by. The paddock was given extra high fence panels and its own service road so hay could be delivered to Riley even in the wettest, muddiest weather.
While he was now able to live peacefully, Riley was still without companionship. His carers decided to gamble on introducing two young donkeys, called Herbert and Stanley, who had moved to the Behaviour Centre to receive some extra handling training.
Sarah Hallsworth, Redwings’ Equine Behaviour Manager, said: “We all held our breath as we had tried so many times to integrate him with other companions without success, but not only had we finally found the right equines for the job, but it led to a total transformation in Riley’s behaviour.
“With his new paddock and friends, Riley stopped fence walking completely, there was little vocalisation and he at last began gaining weight. Now he was relaxed in his field, his aggressive behaviour subsided and his handling really progressed. He will never be free of all his anxiety, but with lots of specialist rehabilitation we hope he will learn to trust us and we could even reduce his hormone treatment in time.
“It’s an absolute joy to see him living happily with Herbert and Stanley, knowing that after all these years of trying we have finally been able to secure his future and give him the peaceful life he deserves.”
Lynn Cutress, Redwings’ Chief Executive, added: “The work put into creating Riley’s paddock was extensive. Our vets, maintenance team and horse care staff worked amazingly together to give Riley the best chance, but as a charity 100% funded by public donations, none of this would have been possible without our tremendous supporters.
“They’ve given Riley the most priceless Christmas present and I want to thank everyone who contributed and continues to give to ensure this special hinny receives the ongoing behaviour training he needs. Just think of the wonderful gift your generosity could give to another horse or donkey in desperate need by this time next year.”