Rafiki, a young cob rescued from a miserable life of fly grazing and neglect, has landed on his feet in his new home, thanks to Blue Cross. His new owner Margaret suffers with severe arthritis and following radical surgery earlier this year is now unable to walk and needs a power wheelchair. Rafiki has turned her life around. “He gives me a reason to get up in the morning,” she says. The pretty little strawberry roan cob, who was named after the baboon in the Lion King because of his indomitable spirit, was found fly-grazing in Buckinghamshire with several others. Three ponies had already been found dead at the site and a further two had to be euthanased as a result of a condition caused by excessive burdens of encysted small redworm.
Rafiki, at just 18-months-old, had a massive worm burden of 5300 eggs per gram and needed urgent veterinary attention, including specific treatment for encysted small redworm. He was nursed back to health by experienced staff at Blue Cross and within weeks was looking much healthier and was ready to be routinely castrated. Understandably wary of people, he was gently introduced to basic handling until he was happy to be groomed and to have his feet trimmed. He was then put in a short-term Blue Cross foster home for some invaluable one-to-one attention to prepare him for rehoming on the charity’s loan scheme.
Rafiki is now living like a king in his new home with Margaret. Unrecognisable as the shabby waif he once was, he is her pride and joy. Margaret is an experienced horse handler who has, amongst other things, worked with semi-feral young New Forest ponies. She was determined not to let her wheelchair curtail her lifestyle.
“Once I had got used to the wheelchair I was bored, getting fat, and really missed fresh air and equine company,” she said. “I looked at the Blue Cross website and there he was. It was instant. We went to see him and he was perfect. He was not the slightest bit bothered by the wheelchair and quite happily sniffed me all over.”
“From day one he has been an absolute joy. He is kind, gentle and so patient. He seems to understand that wheelchairs are not as versatile as legs, and waits until I have sorted my muddles out. All the credit of this goes to Blue Cross. They have done the most amazing job in making him the way he is now, and I thank them enormously. He has made such a huge difference to my life and given it some purpose. He is doing me much more good than anything I can do for him.”
Margaret handles Rafiki every day. In time, she plans to introduce him to as much as she can, including a saddle, bridle, rugs and a trailer. With the help of her daughter, she hopes to be able to take him for walks round the village and the farm where he will become familiar with traffic and tractors.
Vicki Alford, Horse Manager at Blue Cross in Burford, continued: “We couldn’t have asked for a better home for Rafiki. We are currently inundated with lovely young cobs like him and are desperate to find them good homes before winter sets in and our resources become tighter. If you are an experienced horse owner with the knowledge, time and facilities to give a calibre youngster a home, please get in touch.”
The tragic death of some of Rafiki’s companions has prompted Blue Cross to remind horse owners to treat their horses for encysted small redworm during the late autumn/early winter. Small redworm is the most common worms found in UK horses and, in their encysted stage, they are potentially fatal. As they don’t show up in faecal worm egg counts and may not cause any obvious symptoms, owners often don’t know their horse has got them. Blue Cross advises horse owners to speak to their vet or SQP for worming guidance.
To find out more about how you can give a cob a home or make a donation to Blue Cross, please visit www.bluecross.org.uk. The Blue Cross supported loan scheme offers borrowers financial help with vaccinations and worming costs until the horse is four years old.