Essex woman to receive national award for dedication to rescuing thousands of horses

An Essex woman is to be recognised with a special award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at the House of Lords, honouring her dedication to rescuing and improving the welfare of thousands of horses.

Animal lover Sue Burton, (52), from Billericay, set up Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary and animal centre more than 30 years ago and now provides rehabilitation and long-term care for around 200 animals at any one time. The centre focuses particularly on horse, pony and donkey rescue but Sue and her team of 15 staff and 40 volunteers also take in goats, sheep, cows and cats, along with one resident dog, at the 40-acre site in the Essex countryside.

Sue was inspired to open her sanctuary in 1983 after being moved by the plight of horses on Rainham Marshes, where more than 100 horses were left on the bleak marshland and 13 died in horrific conditions after being cut off by floodwaters. The Rainham Marshes incident was followed by the case of Remus, a horse which was stolen and starved for three months in a feud over a £50 debt.

Remus was left tied to a lamppost and despite Sue’s valiant efforts to save him, he eventually had to be put down, but these cases emphasised to Sue the huge horse welfare problems in the county and she was determined to help other animals in Remus’s memory. Many of the animals she takes in have suffered physical or mental abuse because of human cruelty or ignorance.

Sue aims to help all the horses she can which have been left in fields to die and if she has no space at the centre she will travel out to keep feeding them. The sanctuary has also gained a reputation as a specialist centre for the treatment of veteran and blind horses, including having provided a home to two of Britain’s oldest known horses, one of whom recently died at the age of 50. Sue and her team also offer advice and workshops for the owners of elderly horses to ensure their animals can thrive in their final years.

Philip Mansbridge, UK Director of IFAW, said: “Sue’s dedication to horse rescue and protection is a great example of animal welfare in action. Her efforts have saved thousands of horses and other animals and she is a true inspiration to others. She is a very deserving winner of IFAW’s Equine Welfare Award.”

Sue said: “I was very pleased for the whole team to hear I would receive an IFAW award, as it represents the work done by everyone here. Our work is often very much along the same lines as a hospice, giving these animals, which have usually suffered greatly, the very best of care, allowing the younger ones to get over their abuse and develop into happy adults, or for the older ones to spend their twilight years doing as they wish while enjoying the highest quality care that we can achieve.

“I don’t think a horse should be put down because it has reached a certain age if it can still thrive; I think we should be giving something back, especially when so many of these horses have suffered in the past. The most satisfying aspect of the work is seeing a horse that at first had completely shut itself down and wouldn’t interact suddenly coming to you or playing with other horses in the field. This is how they should be, full of life, and when you see that restored it is very special.”

The work of the centre also extends into the wider community, with ponies taken to visit care homes for the elderly and schools to educate young people about respecting and caring for animals. Remus is an accredited organisation offering work placements to young people and is a Duke of Edinburgh Award training venue. Tours and talks are also provided for disabled and deaf and blind groups.

Around the clock, Sue is available to respond to calls to help animals in need and is also under constant pressure to fundraise to pay the running costs of the centre, which are in excess of £400,000 annually. She relies completely on public donations.

Despite all the demands on her time from running the centre and carrying out hands-on rescue work, Sue continues to campaign for improved horse welfare and has lobbied at Westminster on the issue. She also promotes horse welfare and cruelty issues locally and encourages members of the public to be on the lookout for signs of distress in horses and to report any suspected cruelty or neglect, in Essex and across neighbouring counties.

Sue will receive her award at IFAW’s prestigious Animal Action Awards event, hosted by Baroness Gale and presented by TV wildlife presenter Bill Oddie at the House of Lords on October 20.

About IFAW

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Animal Action Awards are sponsored by the Express newspaper.

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