WIN! a por­ta­ble bar­be­cue

When Dawn’s minia­ture Shet­land pony needed a hero, huge Stan­ley didn’t say neigh... We drained six litres of blood

Real People - - CONTENTS - with Jane Com­mon

Bro­ken bones, ba­bies on the way – there’s never a dull mo­ment at the hospi­tal where I work. But then, it isn’t your av­er­age hospi­tal. I’m a vet at Red­wings Horse Sanc­tu­ary, the largest equine res­cue cen­tre in the UK.

‘Io’s face is all puffed up,’ one of the sta­ble hands ra­dioed me, first thing one morn­ing in Novem­ber 2017.

Sweet lit­tle Io – I was so fond of her. A minia­ture Shet­land pony, just 2ft tall, she’d ar­rived at Red­wings around the time I’d started there, 13 years ear­lier.

She was one of a herd of 43 semi-feral ne­glected Shet­lands, all suf­fer­ing from worms, lice and over­grown feet.

But she was a good-na­tured lit­tle thing, al­ways up for a chat and a cud­dle when I walked past her field.

A puffed-up face could sim­ply mean Io was trap­ping food in her cheeks, ham­ster-style.

She’d suf­fered with di­ar­rhoea over the past fortnight, though, so, ‘Bring her in,’ I said.

Bet­ter safe than sorry...

‘Oh dear,’ I frowned when the tiny pony trot­ted into the treat­ment

cen­tre half an hour later.

Her whole head was puffed up, as if there was a balloon inside her skin, in­flat­ing it.

Tests showed that lev­els of al­bu­min – a pro­tein – in her blood were very low, caus­ing ex­cess fluid in her head and mak­ing the tis­sues swell.

She needed a plasma trans­fu­sion and as fast as pos­si­ble, or she might de­te­ri­o­rate quickly...

‘Make her com­fort­able in an in-pa­tient sta­ble,’ I told the vet nurses.

The equine equiv­a­lent of a hospi­tal bed...

Then I marched around the 36 in-pa­tient sta­bles, look­ing for a suit­able blood donor – if we could find one, we could move fast.

I needed a healthy horse who wasn’t on any med­i­ca­tion.

‘Ah, Stan­ley!’ I said, spot­ting one of our two huge Suf­folk Punches, nos­ing at me over his sta­ble door.

Should have kept your head down, Stan­ley…

He was as fit as a fid­dle, only in the hospi­tal as com­pany for his best hor­sie mate, Wilf, who was be­ing treated for lame­ness.

Stand­ing 5ft 8in tall – al­most three times the height of Io – he had plenty of blood to do­nate.

There was just one prob­lem. Stan­ley’s bad-boy rep­u­ta­tion meant that he’d prob­a­bly need se­da­tion for the pro­ce­dure.

He and Wilf had ar­rived in 2014 as wel­fare cases.

Their pre­vi­ous owner had sim­ply kept them in a barn for a year, with no ac­cess to the out­side world.

Wilf’s mane had fallen out, and the two ne­glected horses’ hooves were in a ter­ri­ble state.

But, when we’d tried to get close to put head col­lars on and res­cue them, they’d led us a merry dance.

And, when we fi­nally moved them to Red­wings, they kicked out if we tried to help with their hooves or vac­ci­nate them.

They just weren’t used to hu­man contact...

‘They need to go straight to the be­hav­iour cen­tre,’ we’d agreed. A sort of borstal for naughty horses.

Amaz­ingly, Stan­ley and Wilf were re­ha­bil­i­tated to the ex­tent that, two years later, they moved to our Ayl­sham cen­tre, where mem­bers of the pub­lic come to visit.

They weren’t up for cud­dles and still kicked out oc­ca­sion­ally but, dash­ingly hand­some, peo­ple loved pho­tograph­ing them in their field.

‘Will you do­nate blood and save Io’s life?’ I asked Stan­ley now. ‘There’s a car­rot in it for you.’ The bribe worked. Stan­ley stood still as a statue as we drained six litres of blood from him – not one kick – and didn’t re­quire any se­da­tion. ‘You’re a star,’ I smiled. Then, in a three-hour process, we pumped the pro­tein-packed plasma from Stan­ley’s blood into Io, through an in­tra­venous line in her jugu­lar vein.

She was ab­so­lutely un­fazed, munch­ing con­tent­edly on hay.

Over the fol­low­ing days, Io’s swelling sub­sided and her pro­tein lev­els rose, re­cu­per­at­ing with ap­ples and the oc­ca­sional Polo mint.

A fortnight later, Io was dis­charged. Be­fore she was re­united with her pals, though, there was some­one we had to visit.

‘Thank Stan­ley for sav­ing your life,’ I nudged Io, and she lifted her head in greet­ing.

Of course, she couldn’t reach, so Stan­ley low­ered his huge head over the sta­ble door, nuz­zling her.

‘You’re a re­formed char­ac­ter, Stan­ley,’ I laughed.

From hood­lum to hero, there’s only good blood in that boy now.

We’re all as proud as Suf­folk Punch of Stan­ley.

Dawn Tray­horn,

42, Nor­wich,


Lit­tle and large! The two friends horse around Hero Stan­ley (left) with pal Wilf

Pa­tient Io hav­ing her trans­fu­sion

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