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Rehoming the Bransby way

21st July 2022

As one of the UK’s largest equine welfare charities, with around a thousand unwanted, mistreated and abandoned horses in our care, Bransby Horses is more than a sanctuary.

Our welfare work involves reacting to public reports of equines in need, working with the local community to improve equine health and wellbeing, and responding to large-scale rescues, involving multiple animals, often in collaboration with other charities.

Having enough space and resources to be able to respond when needed is key to our success and continued work.

This is achieved in part through a unique rehoming scheme that places a percentage of rehabilitated animals in homes.

Rehoming Manager Rosanna said: “If we didn’t rehome some of the horses we have, we wouldn’t be able to help those most in need. However, some will need to spend the rest of their lives in our care due to long-term issues, such as health conditions.

“But, for the ones that can be rehomed, we do everything we can to match them with the right person or family.”

Currently Rosanna and her team oversee around 583 horses in foster care and have placed more than 24 horses in their forever homes already this year. All of them remain under the ownership of Bransby Horses.

This means the foster carer looks after the horse as if it were their own but, the Bransby Horses Team continue to oversee them with regular visits and updates, and should a situation change, the horse could be returned.

Rosanna added: “Its piece of mind for us and the owner to know that if they really needed to, we can take the horse back. Fortunately this doesn’t happen too often, as we spend so much time beforehand making sure we have a good match and then providing the fosterer with ongoing support and advice.

“We pride ourselves on our rigorous matching process, ensuring every potential foster home is vetted thoroughly.”

In most cases, the animals being put up for rehoming are under 15hh and can’t be ridden. This can make finding them homes challenging, as most people want a horse to do a job, such as riding club activities, hacking or competition.

Rosanna said: “People are starting to see the value of companion ponies. We’ve had a growing interest in applications for non-ridden horses that can be taken on walks, which is great because the horse gets daily exercise and shouldn’t get bored. And for the foster carer it’s a lovely way to bond with their horse and build confidence with them.”

“Seeing Bransby Horses’ residents happy and settled in their foster homes gives us a great deal of joy and pride and we love receiving pictures and updates from them all.”

Years of rehabilitation

Of course the rehoming process is only part of the story.

The rehoming scheme’s success starts many years in advance of any horse finding a home.

Bransby Horses have a team of brilliant trainers who work extremely hard to see their residents reach their full potential.

Unlike many horses from loving homes, who receive the essential training foundations from the start, many of those arriving at Bransby Horses can be in need of time-consuming rehabilitation, both mentally and physically.

It’s quite common for these animals to associate humans with trauma and distress rather than love and kindness, which is why each animal is put on an individually tailored training programme, often lasting years.

Farm Manager, Stef said: “Once a horse has had all the medical treatment it needs, if appropriate they will be transferred to our Peter Hunt Yard to start their handling programme.

“Then there will be a meeting to discuss where there they go next. If we agree they are suitable, they will move into the Riding Barn where a tailored training programme will begin to prepare them for life as a ridden horse. If not suitable for riding but could be considered for a companion home, they will go to another of our yards for preparation training.”

How long the training takes is down to each individual horse. Some may take years where others could just be a few months.

Stef added: “We sometimes have to think outside the box with training. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. We use a few different techniques including clicker training – all based on positive reinforcement.”

All the horses that are then rehomed are classed as ready for life with a new foster family.

Training can be ongoing

Occasionally however, there may be a need to find a fosterer with an understanding of a particular training method that has worked well for the animal.

Bay pony, Rey, for example, developed a severe needle phobia while she was at Bransby Horses. One of the handlers who worked closely with Rey was Heather: “Rey came to our yard about five years ago. She was part of a group of cobs that were abandoned. She developed an ulcer in one of her eyes that unfortunately didn’t respond to treatment and in the end, because it was causing her pain, the eye had to be removed.

“In a short time she had a lot of veterinary treatment and injections and I believe this is where her needle phobia began.

“I started working with her to try to improve her behaviour when having simple medical treatment like vaccinations.

“I started using clicker training, which she responded to really well and thrived on using her brain, as she was such a smart little pony.

“There were a few setbacks, as it had become an ingrained phobia she had developed but, with a lot of patience and also socialising time from our wonderful vet, she can now safely have her vaccinations.

“Although she will probably always be wary of needles and will need to always continue training to maintain her behaviour, I am so pleased she has found her perfect fosterer. She is so happy in her new home.”

A pony being ridden
Bransby Pumba in training before being fostered

Consider rehoming before buying

Bransby Horses’ Perfect Partner scheme is unique in the way that it takes into account the needs each equine and its potential new owner.

Even after the horse has found its home and settled in well, there is a whole host of support and guidance provided to the fosterer should they need it.

Taking on a horse is a big commitment and something that should be considered very carefully.

Bransby Horses hope that anyone seriously thinking about becoming an owner thinks about the advantages of rehoming a rescued one first.

For more information or advice have a look at our rehoming pages here