About the Horse Rescue Fund
Like many families whose milk was delivered by horse and cart, the Walbancke family wondered what was to become of the horse when she was too old to work. They, like most of the dairy’s customers, imagined green fields and a happy retirement, but they were horrified to discover that Effie, who had served the milk company faithfully for many years would only be rewarded with a bullet! Very distressed, they contacted the chairman of the dairy, who gave them the old horse. Effie had many years of retirement, and died eventually at the ripe old age of thirty- five, much loved by all.
This Was How It All Began
During mechanisation in the nineteen sixties they saved many dairy & bakery horses. Effie was the only one given to them though – they had to earn hard cash to save the others – and never forgot the representative of a large dairy company charging them by the hundredweight for the horses as though they were already meat.
The Walbancke family joined forces with a horse protection society and worked with them for several years, until eventually they resigned to found their own group.
The Horse Rescue Fund
The fund was formed during the height of the shipment of irish horses, in appalling conditions, to the continent for meat. They campaigned tirelessly to stop this hell trip for horses until, during one winter, fifty-nine dead Irish horses were washed ashore on the coast of Pembroke – causing a public outcry that eventually helped put a virtual end to the trade. The fund decided to buy as many as they could, and bring them home to sanctuary in England. The first was ‘Robbie’ a coalman’s horse in Dublin who’s stable was to be demolished, and whose owner was desperately anxious about the fate of his beautiful horse. Our cheque arrived in Dublin just in time to save him from the one-way trip! The last of these horses was named ‘Theano’ after the last official ship that carried horses for slaughter. He was snatched from death with two others as they stood on the dock at Dublin.
Our First Sanctuary
At the beginning of the campaign to save horses the fund had no land or stables of it’s own, other than the average size garden. Therefore, horses arriving had to go direct to homes which had been chosen previously. This posed difficulties, for when an adopter decided he or she no longer wanted a horse, having previously pleaded for one, they would return the horse immediately, often with no warning. One horse was left tied to the gate. At this point it was decided that land and stables were a necessity.
The Walbanckes were able to rent a field adjacent to their home, and this formed the base of their operations. An army mess hut was bought at auction and erected on a chalk base, then divided into stables. A store was added later for hay and to house the carriage they used to collect items for fund raising. A few year later, a friend built two more stables, in his spare time, voluntarily, like log cabins, out of telegraph poles. It took him eight months! They now had stabling for seven horses and eight acres of paddocks with shelters.
The Walbanckes were always aware that the land was rented, and possibly their tenure could prove unsecure. So, with the responsibility of a growing number of horses, both at home and out in loan homes, and with his retirement looming, Mr. Walbancke decided to purchase, from his own personal income, a cottage and land in Suffolk, to be used as a sanctuary.
English cottage was a typical old Suffolk house, about three hundred years old, set back on a large common. There were no stables, just some pig styes, so builders were employed to build a range of stables and a harness room – all funded by money raised from the annual sale of christmas cards and bazaars. This time the stables were erected on a concrete base in a matter of days rather than the months of back breaking work that went into the previous stables! Later the pig styes were converted into three pony stables, and another part of the building into a feed store. Over the years, more fund raising purchased smart post and rail dividing fences and shelters for the paddocks.
Causes For Concern
Over the years the fund has rescued many, many horses, ponies and donkeys from ill treatment, slaughter and neglect. When they are fit and healthy, they are placed on loan in approved homes – they are never sold. The general public imagine great Britain to be an animal loving country, which is probably true as far as the man in the street is concerned, but the amount of cruelty and neglect many horses have to endure is almost beyond belief. The fact that this is sometimes due to ignorance rather than deliberate cruelty is of little consequence to the poor animals concerned, who are only able dumbly to accept their fate.