How it all began!

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Holly’s Story – How Holly’s Horse Haven Began! By Elaine Duffy

Knocking on Heaven’s Door
My spirit cries for help! Those who listen answer

Holly was born in Kentucky USA out of:

Sire green dancer / grand sire Nijinsky / great grand sire northern dancer

As a yearling she was transported from the USA as a brood mare to Newmarket England and from here she was sold to Waterford Ireland to continue her breeding programme. Holly served her 18 yrs as a brood mare but fate was to deal her a very negative blow as it was at this point due to the economic downturn in the market and the cessation of her owner/partnership the threat to put Holly to the factory was suggested and at this point Holly arrived in Co. Louth to save her from an atrocious end to her life, Holly had served her owners all her life,
Surely she disserved more than this!

Holly arrived in Omeath Co Louth on a wet miserable freezing day in December 2008 a depressed dejected creature that made my heart sink and my mind scream who could do this to any animal, what kind of treatment was this after she had given her all to the human race, just to dump her without a second thought her breeding days were over, she was finished, just scrap her! What were we going to do with one horse? Never mind two! God knows we thought as we all stood staring at these emaciated shivering creatures! Our first thought was food…and warm food in this freezing weather! With food safely in check our second thought was shelter. Joe suggested building a shelter in old cow byre’s up at the orchard. The Byre’s had been there many generations (over a hundred years) and all that remained was crumbled foundations – foundations that were not even visible with the bracken, bushes and trees in the orchard. Nonetheless, the area was perfect and Joe and Peter set to work fixing up a home for Holly and Rosie. The stables took on a life of their own and soon they were finished and ready to take Holly & Rosie her yearling, and maybe a few more.

As a child I lived in the middle of a large town in a three story Victorian house. I remember begging my mother to let me have a horse; there was nothing I wanted more in life. For the life of me I could not understand the logic of my mother thinking it was ‘impossible’ to get a horse up and down the four flights of stairs that lead to the playing room located in the attic of the house. How could there possibly be a problem I thought? Why did parents always have to make an issue out of everything? Couldn’t they just walk it up and down the stairs? Many years later, standing in front of me, was the one thing I wanted most as a child…a horse! Not a shinning, amazing stunning figure of Equine beauty but a terrified, starving wreck of a creature that made my heart sink and my mind scream who or what could do this to any animal? What kind of treatment was this?

Holly’s baby, Rosie just stood there with her head hung not caring what was going on around her. She seemed in another world far detached from where we stood in the now raging rain that tore at our skin and ate into our clothes. As we watched her stand with her warm bran we thought at least she was not as bad as her mum just some feeding up and TLC and she will be fine!

The following day Joe set out for the field with more feed putting Holly’s down first (we called her that as it was around Christmas) and as soon as he bent to put feed in Rosie’s bowl she came at him like a wild mustang!! Up on her hind legs roaring, howling with hoofs biting the air trying to make contact like a wild dog!! What was this Joe roared as he used the bowl in his hand to push her back while watching his back as she circled around him like a vindictive predator out for blood or better still a kill! After the initial shock (near death experience) Joe decided not to give up the challenge and re entered the field with feeding bowl still in hand! Standing his ground he faced Rosie waiting for her to realise he was not going anywhere (he had watched his uncle Tommy as a child do just this with his stallion) so he stood and waited! lets see how she responds to me out waiting her! Round and round and round she went like a graceful lioness watching, stalking controlling until she slowly but surely began to run out of energy as she weighed up empty belly verses power trip! And as we were always told the way to the heart is through the stomach, slowly but surly her circles became smaller and smaller with her speed matching until she stood face to face with Joe, mad as hell but the rumble in her belly was a stronger emotion than the anger in her brain and slowly but surely with head down she approached the feeding bowl for her first aggravated submission (with extremely measured caution).

Turns out after noticing all her cuts and bruises and much research later Rosie was previously beaten into a horse box getting trapped over the front bar and after nearly destroying herself those responsible contemplated shooting her, eventually she got out but in order to box and deliver her to us she had been give three seditions on the one day! So what were we left with? A raving terrified traumatised mental wreck! Standing eating out of Joe’s hand as he spoke softly to her in as reassuring a voice as his fear would allow him! But something inside her seemed to be screaming to get out, something more powerful than hatred, Trust!

Holly and Rosie were soon sorted out into their warm comfortable stables and slowly began their long journey of rehabilitation Joe attentively persuaded Rosie & Holly to both trust and commit to him they began putting on weight and allowing him into their private space although as much as they bonded with Joe they both continued to have huge issues trusting anyone else. Joe then arranged for Holly’s three year old Trinny to come up from Waterford in order to assure her safety also, as wonderful noble animals like these with such imperial bloodlines deserved to have a secure protected future. A few evening later Joe just happened to be watching a random documentary about Irish show jumping where an appeal was put out for any breeders in Ireland who might have good racing stock to please consider breeding top bloodline sport horses. Joe decided the best way forward was to perhaps cross Rosie & Trinny with his End of line Irish draft Rosheen Othello – (Can give you his story Emma)to continue Holly’s ancestral bloodline in Irish Sport horses! However fate had one last hand to play in Holly’s life story and during our vets visit it was suggested to Joe that given Holly’s current excellent condition it would be viable to consider taking one last foal from her before retiring her. Joe at first rejected the suggestion however after being assured she was really fit and well to produce one more foal he decided to go ahead choosing Tikkanen as a suitable stallion as he though he had an excellent record and was a fine striking stallion.

Holly breezed through her pregnancy and on 11/04/2010 Phoenix (a beautiful strong, confident colt foal) was born with no complication’s. Phoenix (he rises from the ashes) arrived into the world rose to his feet, checked his surroundings and proceeded to circle his mother at a speed that even she found dizzying
(against all the odds he had arrived!)

We no sooner had Holly, Rosie Trinney and Phoenix settled in the stables when providence again gathered us up and carried us along in the direction of yet another fateful phone call which rang shrilly on a wet cold miserable evening, an urgent, relentless noise cutting into the air, an ear piercing ring that you could almost sense something wasn’t right.

Can you come right now Joe Peter said he had just received a call from a woman to say ‘something’ was screaming on the side of the mountain. The caller was sure it was a donkey but the sound she was hearing was out of this world. Joe grabbed his coat and headed out to hook up the horse box; Peter arrived with the jeep to help out. They left not knowing what to expect or what was in front of them…

Nothing could surprise Peter and Joe after some of the experiences they have already had in the past few months; but every experience is different. A few minutes later they arrived on the side of the mountain. It was mid winter; the snow and wind were howling venomously. With coats and hats pulled down tightly they started up the hill. What they found will haunt them until the day they die.

Tethered to the ground in the middle of the field (on the exposed side of the mountain) was a little donkey. He could hardly stand up he was so ill and the hysterical fear in his eyes was sole destroying. Someone had left him tied and abandoned to die a slow agonising death with no food or water just driving hail and sleet biting into his hanging skin, right to his very bones of his body. Joe, Peter & Suki were used to seeing life when it is not so kind. Never in all their lives have they experienced anything like the poor wreck that was left for dead standing in front of them. It brought tears to their eyes. The three rescuers could smell the donkey from the bottom of the field and knew something was not right. He was bound to have infection somewhere. Suki’s stomach turned. That wasn’t important though, not at this stage. Getting that donkey onto the horse box was more important, getting him out of the driving hail and freezing conditions was the main priority. Cutting the rope which tethered him to the ground was the most rewarding feeling Joe could ever experience. Very slowly they walked the poor soul down into the horse box, he just followed without question, and no fuss as his alternative was death. Alfie walked into the box and out into a new life, a new existence, a life of compassion and joy a paradise of unconditional love!! A home in Holly’s Horse Haven!!

The vet was already waiting for us at Alfie’s already prepared, lovely, warm, comfortable stable. Alfie had to be sedated and the head collar which had embedded itself into his little head had to be surgically removed. It had cut into the skin so deep that it was covered by infected skin which had to be cut away and cleaned. A huge lump of skin had amassed under his chin and had to be removed and stitched. After his clean up, tetanus and antibiotic injections, it was discovered Alfie had double phenomena. Alfie was on deaths door and the vet thought the next 48 hours would be crucial.

Joe & Suki jumped in at the deep end and offered to check on Alfie every two hours day and night for the next few days to make sure he survived. Alfie was fed warm baby milk in a syringe every two hours and all his medication had to be injected into him. Alfie had to be kept wrapped up warm and comfortable in his cosy little stable. The vet called out every few days to check up on him but didn’t give much hope! But God was good and three days later he began to show signs of recovery. First Alfie accepted a little bread soaked in the baby milk and then moved on to a little 18% foal feed.

Alfie is now the king of all. King Alfred thinks he owns and rules everything and is the most love and adored donkey on the face of this earth. He is never ever left alone in a field, he always has company and is never tied, tethered or closed into enclosed spaces. He loves his family and friends and spends all his time living the good life. Alfie will always be with us to the day he dies and will never ever spend winter outside. He will always be in his warm, cosy comfortable stable with all the staff at Holly’s Horse Haven at his command.

Unconditionally of course!

And so the momentum began and the rescue centre evolved, never in our imagination or in our wildest dreams did we envisage having a equine rescue centre, nowhere did it say in any books we had read how to care for a dying horse or donkey,(or maybe we had never needed to look) it seems life deals you the cards and you have no choice, you just have to play the game.

Not every story is a crazy rush to save a poor creature from the clutches of death. Many of our rescues come in to the centre with a special reason all of their own. Bea is just one simple case of life taking a wrong turn and for some reason ending up on a road that leads to God knows where. Sometimes its just a case of a round about of misery going round and round and round in a circle game!

Bea began her life as a race horse running in both Ireland & England. Bea chalked up many races and was then retired as a brood mare to a racing yard in Southern Ireland. Life then took a new direction for Bea and she was sold to a private owner in the West of Ireland. Poor Bea went from stabling and having a rug on a harsh winter’s day to spending her days on a bog in Ireland. Rough, cold, miserable weather and Bea in foal didn’t help. Bea was bought by an older man whose intention was to breed her as he wanted to get into racing stock. All went ok for a little while; she was covered by a thoroughbred and all seemed well. That was until the man’s father took very ill and needed 24hr attention. After many months of trying to balance caring for his father and his horses the pressure became too much and he just had to admit he couldn’t cope with both.

A solution had to be found to his dilemma. In the meantime, poor Bea found herself out in the open elements of a cold, wet miserable Irish winter; one of the worst we have seen in many years. With no rug, no stable, just cold harsh unrelenting rain Bea’s life got as miserable as the weather. With both elements and the arrival of a wee filly foal born into the harsh bleak unforgiving sleet, only an Irish bog can condemn any living creature to. Bea struggled on. not surprisingly she learned how to adopt to scavenging for any morsel of food nature had sneaked in between the ravaging elements and circumstance, but in this God forsaken place Bea had one main attribute that dominated all else ‘maternal instinct’. To protect her baby was all that mattered.

Luckily for Bea life was about to take a change of direction. Fate had taken pity on Bea and her baby. Powers directed her life to us here at the centre, bringing her a ray of light as she was gathered up and guided into the safe secure arms of Holly’s Horse Haven. Bea arrived mentally broken, exhausted and in the most appalling state. Open weeping sores covered her entire back from rain scald (left untreated), she had no fat on her body at all and most of the seeping sores were infected. Her foal was also extremely underweight and had never had human contact from the day she was born!

Joe thought Bea’s problems could be fixed with TLC but his biggest concern was her state of mind. Bea could not trust anyone. If ever a horse needed an ‘enter at your own risk’ it was Bea. Bea was out to sort out the whole entire world with just one bite. Stamping, biting, rearing and kicking with front hooves were just her level; Bea was on protective mode. Level two included lifting her feeding dish to throw it at the feeder, kicking her stable walls (just for practice,) throwing herself against the front gate and this was all part of Bea’s normal daily routine. No-one had a chance of getting her on a lead rope. Complete destruction of the entire human population was Bea’s ultimate mental focus. But we had to do something. It was too cold for either of them to be outside so Bea with the strategic placement of both horse box and large chain link panels was herded with foal at foot into a warm, clean comfortable stable. There she was left to settle her head. How we were going to work with Bea, no one knew. A large 12ft gate system seemed to be the answer to keep her in her comfortable secure stable. This gate would also give us a chance to clean her out and keep her bedding fresh, daily feeding, cleaning her cuts with a sponge on a long stick, spraying her from a distance with antibiotic spray for her wounds. With these small steps and loads of TLC Bea very slowly began to come round; she stopped throwing bowls, she began to kick the stable wall less, she snapped at people less and slowly she allowed Joe to enter into her space…but just Joe and only on her terms. No book existed that contained the kind of information we required to sort Bea, only one strategy – “UNCONDITIONAL LOVE” – loads and loads and loads of unconditional love!

Once again fate or the powers that be decided to take us off the roundabout we were on and had chosen to direct us down the road of official Equine rescue centre, if we had sat down and decided to do some kind of required business plan for the centre we could not have found the word’s to write, were would we start or who would we approach for advice and guidance (how do you become a proper rescue centre) we had never even given this a second thought! But the universe had already chosen this route for us as I went to answer the door on a bright spring morning as there standing in front of me was not one but three ISPCA inspectors in bright yellow coats and official badges, my first thought was dog licences as the local warning drums had been beating that they were in the area checking however when I went to the hall stand drawer and produced dog licences with pride (my baby’s were all licensed) babies being my two Dobermans a lassie dog and poodle however I was floored when they informed me it was not the dogs but the horses they were here about. My life flashed before my eyes as I said oh my God do I need a licence for all them? No Tommy informed me, he was the main talker, no he said we’re here to talk to you about your horse rescue he said, everywhere we go people are telling us about you taking in all the rescue horses, ponies and donkey’s so we are here to meet you to see if you would be interested in becoming our equine critical care centre, as we don’t have a specialist centre and one would be a great benefit to have in the area. He then had a wee look around the centre was obviously optimistic by what he saw and informed us his boss would be calling us to let us know we have been added to the equine critical care listing for the ISPCA (Irish society for the prevention of cruelty to animals) Had we just been inspected? Is that how it happens, what happened to making an appointment, sweating about them coming out to check you out, trying to find out names of who to contact, they had only left twenty minutes when the phone rang with confirmation that we had been entered onto their critical care listing. We were on our way, had moved into the proper rescue centre criteria, or is there such a thing? Had this situation just taken place within a time frame of approximately an hour we had been approached, vetted and confirmed but when you have the powers above guiding you and the universe in charge who are we to disagree with what it seems has changed from a passion to a destiny! Holly our first rescue horse had a lot to answer for. If we are now official as such I said to Joe as we were sitting having a cup of tea with our voluntarily helper Ann and some of our daughters , we are going to have to think of a name for the centre, what do you think? I asked We thought for a moment and one of the girls laughed and said what about Holly’s Heaven, no we thought although really lovely it might sound like the horses have passed over, what about Holly’s Haven then one of the girls said that sounds really nice Holly’s Haven of peace for all her equine friends that would be perfect they can all follow in here hoof prints to a happier, healthier life, so it was agreed and Holly’s Haven entered into existence. But no time to draw your breath when the creator puts you on his universal listing you have no time to waste or contemplate its straight back to the grindstone without delay however being called out to witness some atrocity towards these loyal caring creatures is not always torture and torment, sometimes in the mist of the mayhem we encounter situations that leave us with no option but to look back at the thinking what the hell just happened as you chuckle at the crazy commotion you have just witnessed,

When Fiona Squibb animal inspector for the Louth SPCA rallies her troops its like a military undercover manoeuvre, all systems go! As the ground forces are deployed with strategic tactical precession equivalent only to a desert storm invasion.

But on this bright beautiful spring day Joe and Ann were simply checking ponies grazing in a picturesque pasture nestled in the scenic town land of Ravensdale. But this serine relaxing atmosphere was soon to be shattered as they spotted Fiona’s prominent red Louth SPCA van pulled in along a local road. Pulling up behind the van they spotted Fiona mobile phone in hand poised and ready for action! With disbelief she looked from Joe to Ann like they were beamed in from some alien space ship and glancing at her mobile phone she said with complete shock and surprise “I just dialled your number Joe and you’re here!” We have a problem we need to sort out right now! another drama! or just another day in the normal saga of an animal welfare inspector’s life, never knowing what the day holds or what trauma is going to unfold from one moment to the next.

So what now? there in front of them in the centre of a large field stood pure mayhem, with four legs! The likes of which could only be experienced from a panoramic arena seat in a roman coliseum, while watching the famous gladiator “Spartacus” take on Goliath, Maximums and the Rock all rolled into one! There he was, standing in the middle of the field “weapon at the ready” was a tiny grade “A” grey welsh pony (we later named BUSTER!!) in direct conflict with two 16 hand mare’s one in season, ONE NOT! And he was adamant they were both his trophies like it or not! Blood pouring from the wee man he powered after them both, mentality of a mustang stallion, weapon glinting in the sun determined to claim his prize his Loral of honor. But never underestimate the shrewdness of a female as swiftly “NOT IN SEASON” blocked him with a round house swoop (one of many he had already taken) that hurtled him across the field like a beach ball in the wind.

Hurling herself across the field in defence of the gladiator Ann grabbed the wee man insuring the predator female could not come in for the final kill while “IN SEASON” launched a sneak attack from behind in order to continue the evolution of the equine world! well “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” Ann defending from both ends of the arena held tight while Joe covered the ground like a gazelle in order to command some control of the mares, all coordinated of course from ground command “Fiona”, however Buster on realising his male ego was AT RISK! From another male intruder JOE! took off on the defensive charging across the arena teeth gnashing, screams of wrath as he again launched his assault on his next victim, diving and dodging Joe managed to avert him while he rounded for yet another attack and in the meantime ground command (Fiona) ordered up reinforcements ie Peter & Nadelle with horse box in toe! To initiate a divide and concur tactic.

With mares finally slipped out of the field and secretly loaded, Buster squealed and pranced with fury and rage, blood flowing from his seriously injured eye and massively swollen nether regions they then managed to bundle him next into his separate chariot, with much screaming, biting, scaling at the battlement’s (back door of the horsebox) in order to move him to a secure stable in the centre for both his safety and all those involved in Busters own wee private war!, So mares, Buster and crew arrived back separate and safe.

With Vet arriving just in time to save his eye (with seven stitches), and administer to the two mares who looked like they had just come through the Roman crusades all on there own (they needed, vet checked, with injured legs, necks, backs and ego’s!)they all came through the disaster, just about!

After a week of stable rest the mares were taken home by their owner and Buster is now settled, gelded and quite contented with his own army of volunteer devotees at his beck and call!

He will continue his life much more contented and at peace here at the centre with all those who have the pleasure & joy of meeting him!

Just another day in the life of an animal protection inspector & volunteers.
© Hollys Horse Haven