Bray People - - INTERVIEW -

AS 2014 draws to a close, it gives us the chance to re­flect on what has gone by and our hopes for the New Year. At the Ir­ish Horse Wel­fare Trust (IHWT) in Woodenbridge, it’s been a busy year with highs and lows, how­ever, progress has been made and they are look­ing for­ward to a bright 2015.

The cen­tre cur­rently caters for a to­tal of 80 horses, around eight of whom are cur­rently in foster ac­com­mo­da­tion.

‘I sup­pose 2014 has been a very busy year for us,’ said Claire Owens, IHWT Wel­fare Of­fi­cer. ‘Par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the sum­mer we took an un­usu­ally high vol­ume of calls about stray and aban­doned horses. They had dropped off a bit in Septem­ber, but now that the grass has stopped grow­ing we are start­ing to take a lot of calls about aban­doned horses in bad con­di­tion again.’

Sadly, there have been a cou­ple of grim cases for the IHWT in 2014.

‘ There have been a cou­ple of bad cases that spring to mind this year,’ said Claire. ‘We’ve found a cou­ple of horses in very bad con­di­tion. We found one filly who we called Tess in the Wick­low area in very bad shape. The vet gave her a fight­ing chance but she just couldn’t bounce back and died two weeks after we took her in. There was another mare we took in that was the skin­ni­est I had ever seen a horse alive, but un­for­tu­nately it passed away too.’

A num­ber of fac­tors have led to horses be­ing aban­doned all over the coun­try ac­cord­ing to Claire, in­clud­ing re­ces­sion, in­dis­crim­i­nate breed­ing of poor qual­ity stock and the spin off of the horse meat scan­dal which means horses are no longer be­ing used for their meat.

‘ There are pos­i­tives from this year how­ever,’ Claire said. ‘Min­is­ter Coveney has passed stronger leg­is­la­tion in a new an­i­mal wel­fare act that is a huge step in the right di­rec­tion. All horses now have to be mi­crochipped and hold a pass­port, which will be a huge step to­wards elim­i­nat­ing prob­lems in the un­reg­u­lated horse sec­tor. The change won’t hap­pen overnight, but it is get­ting stronger.’

The IHWT has also man­aged to boost its pro­file among the gen­eral pub­lic with their open day dur­ing the sum­mer and a num­ber of ed­u­ca­tional ini­tia­tives and they are hop­ing the pub­lic will con­tinue to support them in their fundrais­ing. Among the goals for 2015 for the cen­tre is to build a proper ed­u­ca­tional fa­cil­ity at their head­quar­ters in Woodenbridge to run ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes.

‘We’ve al­ready run ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes in places like Moy­ross and Darn­dale and they are usu­ally funded by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties,’ said Claire.

‘But our goal is to have a build­ing with class­rooms here in Wick­low and we will con­tinue fundrais­ing to­wards this in 2015.’

Claire Owens of the Ir­ish Horse Wel­fare Trust with Har­vey the horse.

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