My Lovely Horse seeks public support

Over the past year a team of volunteers have worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for neglected horses in Cork, writes Irene Halpin Long.
My Lovely Horse seeks public support

TREATING THEM WITH CARE: Jeanette O’Connell, Sharon Campbell, Lucie O’Rourke and Alesha Prince, at the My Lovely Horse rescue centre in Cobh, County Cork.

MY Lovely Horse Rescue was established in 2011 by Martina Kenny, Deborah Kenny and Cathy Davey in County Kildare, after they observed horses in urban areas being mistreated.

Cathy, a well-known singer-songwriter, lives with her partner, Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy — who is the man behind the song My Lovely Horse, which famously appeared on Fr Ted — hence where the organisation gets its quirky name.

Kelly Mellerick is a volunteer and homing officer for the centre and has fostered horses for My Lovely Horse Rescue (Kildare) for more than two and a half years. More than a year ago, Kelly set up the Cork branch of My Lovely Horse Rescue, based in Cobh.

Adequate land and shelter is necessary to home some of the horses that My Lovely Horse Rescue deal with.

Kelly says: “It is only possible that we can run a centre in Cork because of Louisa Heckett and Jeanette and John O’Connell.

“Louisa gave the organisation use of her land and stables four years ago. Jeanette and John gave us the use of seven acres of land and a shed. Without their generosity, we would not have been able to establish a Cork base for My Lovely Horse Rescue.”

The rescue group has been inundated with reports of equine cruelty. Equine neglect is a huge problem across Ireland.

They currently manages 200 horses across the country, 18 of which are looked after by the Cork branch. They have several foster homes established in the Cork area and are currently seeking more.

Volunteers have investigated may unfortunate cases of neglect. They have found horses in poor health, some suffering from painful illnesses, some with open and infected wounds.

Kelly explains some of the cases that they have dealt with in the Cork area.

“We had one little foal that came to us, aged two months. He had no mother with him. Ideally, a foal should stay with its mother for at least six months. We had a huge hill to climb to try to help him recover. He was very poorly.

“We also came across a little pony abandoned in the woods near Macroom. Three days after we rescued her, she gave birth to a foal. Because she was such an elderly mare, and wasn’t in good condition, we lost the foal, aged three weeks. We put so much effort in to try to save the foal. It was heart-breaking to lose her.”

Volunteers make a valuable contribution to My Lovely Horse Rescue’s work and make a positive difference to the lives of animals.

A CALL OUT TO GET INVOLVED: Volunteers and supporters of My Lovely Horse, Cork branch, Alesha Prince, Jeanette O’Connell, Sharon Campbell and Bonnie Prince
A CALL OUT TO GET INVOLVED: Volunteers and supporters of My Lovely Horse, Cork branch, Alesha Prince, Jeanette O’Connell, Sharon Campbell and Bonnie Prince

No experience is needed to volunteer, as they require a range of skill sets to build a greater network in the Cork area.

There are 18 volunteers in the Cork area at present. Kelly hopes that more volunteers will come on board.

“We really hope that we can extend our network across Cork. We need active volunteers — we need people who can help fund-raise, people who can help with administration, people who can be called upon to assess a horse that might be in danger.

“The bigger and stronger our volunteer base, the wider the area across Cork we can cover.”

The volunteers from My Lovely Horse Rescue regularly assist the Gardai and the Department of Agriculture in moving neglected horses to a safe place.

Volunteers rehabilitate and rehome rescued and surrendered equine which are transferred from local authority horse pounds.

Kelly explains why My Lovely Horse Rescue is vital to ensure the well-being of horses.

“The Department of Agriculture is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. A lot of calls we receive are in the evenings and weekend so we, as volunteers, are the first to act in a case of neglect a lot of the time.

“Generally, members of the public contact us. Someone might see a horse on the side of the road, in a housing estate, in a field abandoned, all showing signs of neglect.

“We visit the site and make an initial assessment and then decide whether a case needs to be escalated to the Gardai and the Department of Agriculture”.

Volunteers with My Lovely Horse Rescue are not authorised officers but their relationship with the authorities charged with implementing the laws governing neglect is vital in helping improve the welfare of horses in this country.

Kelly recalls a case in the Cork area earlier in the year where the organisation and staff from the Department of Agriculture worked to improve the lives of two ponies.

“The ponies’ feet were severely overgrown. We contacted the vet officer at the Department. He reached out to the owners of these ponies and ordered that a vet be brought onsite to tend to them. He then followed up to ensure the owners carried out the order.”

The importance of the rehoming and rehabilitation programmes managed by My Lovely Horse Rescue must not be underestimated. During this summer’s drought, volunteers in Kildare got together and supplied water to horses who were not given adequate water supplies.

When horses are seized by the local pound, My Lovely Horse is often the pound’s first port of call, in relation to rehoming.

Kelly explains; “If those horses and ponies that are seized by the pound are not reclaimed within five days, they are put to sleep.

“We are in contact with the pound on a regular basis. They ask us to take animals but, we can’t always say ‘yes’. Neither can other rescues due to finite resources.

“So, we try to work with the owners of horses on site, alongside vet officers from the Department of Agriculture.

“This is a better alternative than authorizing seizure of animals by the pound.”

Kelly explains how My Lovely Horse Rescue work with owners, as opposed to against them.

“We aim to educate people about how to properly care for their horses.

“We have been working this year with the Traveller Visibility Group, running projects with children and youths from the Traveller community.

“We have also visited various schools in Cork city where we teach various classes about caring adequately for horses.

“We want to plant seeds in young children’s minds, especially. Try to change their mentality.

Over the past year a team of volunteers have worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for neglected horses in Cork, writes Irene Halpin Long. Now, the local branch of ‘My Lovely Horse’ are looking for more volunteers to sustain and expand their work in the region.

“We find the youngsters are taking a lot of the information we give them on board about how to care for a horse, how to prevent certain illnesses from happening to their animals, what they need to do if they notice an animal may have a certain illness.”

My Lovely Horse Rescue is a not-for-profit voluntary organisation. The majority of the charity’s funding comes from public donations and via the charity’s website,

People can adopt, foster or sponsor an animal via the website. Sponsorship of €10 will buy a bale of hay for a pony named Pedro, which is currently under the care of the charity. One-off donations can also be made via the website.

In less than a year, Kelly and the team of 18 volunteers in the Cork area have worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for neglected horses. Kelly says: “We would love to have more people come on board. All of us volunteers also work regular jobs during the day. A larger network in Cork would be fantastic.”

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