Spirit’s Story of Recovery

Written by Robyn Greyling, Equine Behaviour Consultant (www.robyngreling.com)

In mid-January 2017, a miserable brown-and-white pony was surrendered to Animal Outreaches and brought to The Horse Zoo in PE. The little guy was very nervous, not trusting of people at all, and in poor condition, with rainscald (a bacterial skin disease) and mange. We named him Spirit.


Initially, Spirit had to be fed five small meals a day (overfeeding a starved pony too fast can cause fatal digestive problems) and roughage when needed. He was checked over by the vet and dewormed, and then training on catching him and handling his feet could begin. This was a priority as Spirit was around ten years old and had never had his feet done before. It’s not easy to get horses used to having their feet handled and it takes patience.

Once he was comfortable having his feet picked up and cleaned, the farrier was called in to give him his very first trim. This turned out to be quite entertaining as little Spirit was very happy to pick up his feet but didn’t really know how to balance himself so we needed a human for him to lean against. But he was feeling much more comfortable afterwards.

While staying at our facility he also got the opportunity to see and interact with people, including lots of little riders. It didn’t take him long to learn to enjoy carrots and bread – and, importantly, that humans weren’t all that bad as they came bearing yummy gifts. Spirit definitely loves his food and, after three weeks, we were able to reduce the number of feeds – a real win.

Now, at the end of March, Spirit is looking nice and round, is receiving two feeds a day (certainly a lot easier for us without the early morning and late night feeds), and has even started gentle work. He’s willingly joining some of the other ponies with a little walk and trot around. Because his muscle tone is still very poor from being in such a malnourished condition for such a long time, he’s sticking to light work with light riders, which he seems to enjoy.

Spirit has been very rewarding to work with as he’s turned into a truly good-natured and happy little horse. Most mornings when he goes out into the large communal paddock he gallops around, bucking and playing, and just enjoying feeling good and having space and friends to play with.

Unfortunately, Spirit’s past is not an isolated story; many horses are in the same situation he was in. Please don’t hesitate to lend a hand if you can, or call the closest Horse Care or animal welfare unit for assistance if you should find a horse in trouble. Sadly, the poor horses that are severely neglected until there is no hope of recovery are the ones the welfare usually get called to help – and, by then, it’s usually too late. The sooner the horse gets help, the easier the rehabilitation! 

Spirit was a lucky little fellow as he was handed over in time and his story could have a happy ending. He is now fully on the road to recovery and will be looking for his forever home in the near future!

There have been many people who have contributed to his recovery and we all thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. It wouldn’t have been so easy without your help!

Mike Kerr, Chairman of Animal Outreaches in Port Elizabeth, adds…

“What a difference from when he first came in, and what a beautiful horse he has turned out to be. He now trusts people and the riding school kids love him to bits.

“With thanks to my good friend Robyn for giving him the love and care he deserves, and to the people who donated for his recovery as I can’t treat all the animals that come through our hands without your help.”