The Rescue of Benjamin and his Friends

Sue Burton and her team have rescued thousands of animals over the past 40 years. Here she recalls the 40th animal that the charity rescued…

“I recall getting a phone call about some horses in Essex one snowy winter’s evening. We stumbled over fields that were 3 to 4 ft deep in snow. I gave up trying to count how many times I fell over in the pitch dark!”

When Sue and her colleagues entered the barn they stopped dead in their tracks – an animal Belsen was presented before them. The poor, poor ponies were emaciated, with large bald areas due to lice infestation. The sight of such vulnerable animals which were obviously being so cruelly and horrifically treated, was beyond comprehension. Sue said they couldn’t believe what they were seeing! The animals had no food, no water and no bedding. Their urine was frozen to the ground, and they stood in piles of dung. Every single one of their ‘five freedoms’ had been taken away from these dear creatures. It is a sight that Sue will never forget.

“The youngsters had never been let out of the barn and didn’t seem to know how to walk.”

When the horses could be taken out the next day, the youngsters’ legs had to be moved for them – literally – they didn’t appear to be able to walk. Their joints were stiff and frozen with cold and inactivity.

The bigger one, we called him Benjamin, had a wooden stake rammed through his stifle. We have every reason to believe that this was done to him on purpose, and the vicious injury continued to cause him problems throughout the rest of his life. The stifle is the largest joint in the horse’s body and the site where the femur meets the tibia in the hind end. You can see the ‘before’ photo of Benjamin, a shadow of the horse he was meant to be. Sue says that seeing the second photo of the horse that Benjamin became is still so emotional.

“When we were trying to get Benjamin out of the barn the owner kept slamming the door against his broken body.”

Sue and her team took five horses out that day with the owner constantly threatening everyone with a kitchen knife.

As well as Benjamin, they were Dolly, Velvet, Toby, and Charlie. All of them were aged from 6 months to just 3 years old. Getting them well became all-consuming and the team worked so hard to give them the best they could, to allow them to go on to lead healthy lives and to forget about all they had experienced at such a young age.

Dolly had a paralysed soft palate and went on to live a life where everything she ate had to be managed, just to prevent her from choking to death. But obviously they all had their issues because of what they had suffered emotionally, mentally, and physically. Yet with Remus’ care they all managed to live into their late teens and early 20’s. They were all such loving ponies and so didn’t deserve how they had been treated. Does any animal ever deserve that kind of treatment?

This particular rescue operation took just two days, but in some cases it can take weeks and even months, running into tens of thousands of pounds. As you’ve no doubt realised from the story of Benjamin and his friends above, the cost is not restricted just to the rescue but must also encompass their ongoing specialist care.

Your support made this rescue mission possible.

Please, help us to help more animals and stop them from being born to die, by participating in our 40th Anniversary Challenge. If you’re a business, you’ll be pleased to hear you can also support us. Please sign up as a Corporate member with Give as you Live first.

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