A foal at Ferne Animal Sanctuary

Horses, Ponies & Donkeys

We have a few permanent resident horses, ponies and donkeys on site who will stay here for the rest of their lives as they have medical issues which makes it very difficult to rehome them.  We still love them and aim to keep them as naturally and comfortably as possible.

Our horses live in herds and spend the majority of their days out in the fields.  If they need to be inside they remain in their social groups so that they do not become stressed.  The retired equines are pretty much free to do as they please which is probably what we all hope for at the end of our working days.

If you are visiting you may see our little ‘mini herd’ who cope better when we are busy with visitors.  The Sanctuary can get quite lively, particularly during school holidays, which some of the other horses do not enjoy, so much so they spend most of the Summer out in the further fields where it remains peaceful. This also enables us to rest their Winter pasture and rotate the other grazing stock around.

Sometimes the ponies will be inside if the vet or farrier is here or if we are doing some training work in a quieter area.

Horses can live into their 30’s and like all of us do develop age-related health problems that need looking after.  Sometimes they might be a bit creakier and need regular medication and some extra TLC.

Our Shetland Ponies

Arnie is a gorgeous Miniature Shetland, he has many health issues despite his young age so will stay with us permanently.  He has to be very carefully managed, he is medicated daily for metabolic issues which he does not enjoy.  He is usually very quiet and unassuming until he has a mare in his herd, he then thinks he is a big stallion and will look after his lady and protect her from everyone else!

Wotsit is Arnies buddy.  He is also a miniature Shetland, born in 2011.  He came to us on his way to be put to sleep as he was so naughty.  It turns out that Wotsit is partially sighted with congenital cataracts so now he has Arnie to hang around with, he is no problem at all.  Wotsit also has IBS so we have to be extremely careful what he eats (this is one of the reasons for all the ‘please do not feed the animals’ signs on site).  He would quite happily eat pretty much anything he was offered, unfortunately this makes him really ill.   Wotsit and Arnie have regular workouts either in the school or out and about on the Sanctuary to help keep those tummies under control.


Isabella was hand reared in a house which confused her somewhat.  She is a beautiful girl but can be tricky to handle.  She does not enjoy being touched, groomed or generally having anything done with her.  She does love kisses on her nose though and is really sweet about it.  She will come up to say hello but doesn’t really want to be touched.  Even if Isabella is objecting to being handled she always does her best to try not to hurt you.  If you’re visiting at tea time in the Winter you may well hear her braying for her food!  You can hear her across most of the Sanctuary!

Our older equine residents

Gordon is a Hanoverian x Thoroughbred gelding.  DOB 2009 so not an oldie! He was abandoned during the Winter which left him in rather a sorry state.  His owner left the country without telling anyone about Gordon, he was left in a field for months with no food or shelter.  Poor Gordon has some anxiety issues and many behaviours associated with that so he will stay with us for the rest of his life.  The way our horses are managed is ideal for a horse like Gordon, he runs with a herd in plenty of space, they have access to a big run-in barn which they are free to come and go from as they choose.  Constant access to forage, which is a  must for Gordon as he has suffered with stomach ulcers.  Despite all this, Gordon is always the first to come and greet us, he is lacking in awareness of personal space or body language so can get closer than we might like!  He also has difficulty reading the body language of other horses so he can get himself into trouble from time to time!

Esther is the matriarch of the horses.  She is a 23 year old Shire and does not tolerate any shenanigans from the others!  On arrival, Esther had feather mites, which is not uncommon for these heavily feathered breeds.  In trying to scratch at her back legs she demolished a stable wall within her first week here!  In doing this she chipped some bone in her hock so required x-rays and pain relief until it settled down.  She is quite happy out in the field managing the other horses.  She makes demands for scratches from her ‘slaves’ on the animal care team, once she has received sufficient scratches, they are free to go about their day.

Can you help our resident animals?

At Ferne we have over three-hundred resident animals which need life-long care.

Your sponsorship means we can feed, look after and provide further enrichment for our much-loved residents.

Sponsor an animal today