Newsletter Spring 2017


2016 goes down in Sai Sanctuary history as the year we would all rather forget. Quite apart from Sue’s health problems and the enormous extra pressures this put on everyone else involved with the Sanctuary, we lost four ‘Golden Oldie’ donkeys within a relatively short time, thankfully all from natural causes and all peacefully in their sleep with no signs of distress, fear or pain.

More about that later. . .


Damaged trees

During this particularly busy and traumatic time the ‘bold boys’ – all 16 of them – decided they weren’t getting enough attention so took it on themselves to create a diversion by pushing down a section of fencing and letting themselves into one of our more mature shelter belts now around 200m long and10m thick.

Whether they worked under cover of darkness or how they managed it we don’t know but by the time it came to notice practically all the hardwood trees and bushes had been completely ring barked and in many cases the cambium had also been eaten off, effectively killing the trees altogether.

We intend to wait until April/May to see which trees may survive but ultimately many will have to be felled and many more damaged ones will have to be pruned if they are to have any chance at all.

Damaged trees

Lesson 1: Donkeys damage trees!



We do have to take responsibility as it was known that this section of fence was coming to its end: several posts were rotten and a good few had been replaced during the previous summer but there is nothing wiser than a donkey who wants to be somewhere he knows he’s forbidden and somehow they had managed to chew through, push over and uproot a stretch of fence (cleverly out of vision from our day to day routines) and plough their way into the shelter belt where they gorged on years of overgrown herbage under the trees, then the trees themselves!


Damaged shelter belt trees




It is unfortunate they weren’t caught in the act as their guilty expressions would have been worthy of a complete photo-file!!

Now, of course, we face a big expense to rectify the damage as it will include re-fencing the entire length of the shelter belt as well as the essential felling, pruning and replanting. Perhaps we should count ourselves lucky that it hasn’t happened before given how many young plantations we have around the place.


Fortunately we already have ten hornbeams potted up ready for planting which are now around one metre high, so should hold their own with the bigger trees but not be too large to get cut back by the north and east winter winds – always a problem here as the site is high, exposed and north facing: not ideal for young trees.

Special thanks goes to Stefan Klein, a regular winter volunteer, who took on the onerous task of removing the entire old fence which consisted of sheep netting, barbed wire and electric high tensile wire plus goodness knows how many fence posts – a daunting task by anyone’s standards. Stefan – you are a star!!! We are all extremely grateful for this help, especially the people who would have had to do the job themselves otherwise! Great vigilance is now needed to keep the electric fences active so there are no more sneaky donkey preambles into the shelter belt to finish off the job.



Moose and Minka new foster ownerThanks to enormous help from HungryHorseOutside, primarily Caroline, an absolutely first class home was found for donkey mare Moose and her adorable daughter Sweden!

Right: Moose and Minka with their new foster owner

This may seem an unlikely climate in which to home donkeys. Although overall colder than here in the winter, the area to which they have gone is somewhat drier than Ireland for most of the year and given the amazing five-star facilities they have, coupled with Sweden’s very strict animal welfare laws that make Ireland look as if it is stuck in the Dark Ages, we have no worries about their future.

Stable name labels


Moose and Minka first day

Left: Long before they arrived labels were made for their big stable!


Moose and Minka in the snow









Moose and Minka at Christmas








Above Left: Moose and Minka in the snow

Above Right: Moose and Minka on their first day

Right: Moose and Minka at Christmas


Safe to say we have two happy, healthy ‘Swedish’ donkeys!


The horses and ponies too have been up to mischief, twice breaking down the gate to the hay storage side of the hay barn to feast on our diminishing supply of barley straw small bales and our small emergency supply of really good hay donated by Tom and Mary Latchford (along with delicious apple and rosehip jelly, marmalade and tomato chutney for the humans). On both occasions they had finished their supply of haylage a few hours earlier and although all fat (almost to the point of obesity in some cases), obviously decided they were bored and underfed. Having eyes in the back of your head is definitely a number one requirement when working here!



On March 5th 2017 Hepzibar and Hannah, two of our very large donkey mares (both around 13.2hh) started their long journey, also to Sweden, where they were welcomed onto a farm which has many animals of different kinds, absolutely fabulous facilities and some very excited people.

We have stressed the point that donkeys are indigenous to the desert areas of the world and must therefore be looked after very well in a cold climate and we are assured there are duvet rugs ready and waiting to be put on them as soon as they step off the heated transport lorry. If Moose and Minka are an example we expect them to fare well, in fact, as they cope with dry cold very well with their natural thick winter coats (it does often freeze in the desert over night).



Left: Hepzibar
Below: Hannah

They are unconvinced about stepping into the trailer! Both are big girls measuring 13.2hh.





Hepzibar and Hannah at their new home







Left: Safely arrived at their new home in Sweden—lots of snow but lots of sunshine too!


It seems there are almost no donkeys in Sweden but a great many donkey lovers, so maybe into the future other homes of this quality will be offered. A large number of horses and ponies have been rehomed into Germany but as yet the German people have shown little interest in the donkeys.

Again, Germany’s welfare laws are extremely strict and as a nation they have huge experience with horses, both for pleasure riding and working. We were very fortunate to be found, again through Caroline who works closely with welfare groups in Germany itself, wonderful forever homes for Nutty, a four year old 14hh part bred Connemara who is now trained for riding and having an exciting and busy life and Brio, a thirteen year old Thoroughbred mare who companions another larger riding gelding. From the photos it leaves us no doubt these two get along famously.

We hasten to add that even though these animals are being rehomed abroad, the same rules of our Foster Loan Scheme apply ie. If for any reason they cannot stay in their new homes they must either be returned to us or be moved only into another approved and vetted home. We insist on these terms for the protection of the animals though it does have distinct benefits for their fosterers too, to know that ultimately they will not be responsible for rehoming them should, for any reason, things go wrong through accident, illness or simply a change of circumstances.


BAZ—alias Frankie Baz, known to us as Frankie

Also rehomed into Germany this time, is Baz , known to us as Frankie, an 11hh white pony with just one small brown patch over one ear that looks like a jaunty little hat.

Baz in transit


Right: Baz

Left: Baz in transit to Germany

Below: Baz in harness



Baz in harness






Frankie came to us many years ago from a local Mart and was fostered to a couple who trained him for driving and pulling a cart. Sadly their circumstances changed dramatically and Frankie was returned to us, quickly to be chosen by new foster ‘parents’ in Germany where he has settled down beautifully and seems to be very content with his new life.





Torrin in Christmas headcollar in his stable


Early in November our 16.2hh thoroughbred gelding (who has a double heart murmur) went up to stay with Jacintha at HHO for the winter.

Having lost a couple of her very old horses during the year, Jacintha had a spare stable and kindly offered to take Torrin, who does not winter out happily here on our exposed hill, even though he would have been well fed, rugged and have an open haybarn for shelter.

Torrin just loves his stable!!! The photo shows him wearing his red tinsel Christmas headcollar, of which he was apparently very proud.

He and his new friends will return here for the summer to graze the lakeside field and it will be great to see him again.




Jack and Prin meet the neighbours



These two gelding donkeys came to us from a local home where they have been treasured pets for sixteen years but due to one of their owners suffering serious health problems they decided to relinquish them before they ran into major husbandry problems.

Right: First morning at the Sanctuary and Jack and Prin make friends with some of the horses and ponies in the adjacent field



Neither of the donkeys was microchipped or passported, both needed to have their feet tidied up by a farrier and Jack, in particular, (the brown one) needed his teeth sorting out.

Recognising the expense of all this their owners sent a generous donation with the donkeys so we could get all this work done at no extra cost to the Sanctuary, a gesture that is very much appreciated. We wish everyone was as thoughtful!

Jack is reputedly twenty one years old though his teeth indicate he is a good bit older than that—we’ll find out when the dentist comes and we can get a really good look in his mouth. Prin, who is a fawn and white coloured donkey, is thought to be about eighteen: he is a little overweight and ‘cresty’, a condition that needs to be addressed before he runs into problems with laminitis.

We kept them separated from the main herd for a few days on arrival while they were worm dosed, checked for lice and had time to acclimatise before joining the main gang. Judging by the excitement and exercise they took then, Prin will soon run off his excess weight without too much need for dieting. The donkeys were also being fed maize meal and a cool feed and whilst the latter is an excellent choice maize is far too nutritious for a donkey that is not working. Having eliminated maize from his diet we expect to see Prin’s gentle weight loss over the coming months. It is important not to cut back on their food intake too much or too quickly as this too can lead to problems, not least hyperlipaemia. More next time. . .


Painting by Fergus Lyons
Picture from a painting by Sligo artist Fergus Lyons


by Kathy Taylor

Please don't tell the others
But there's a secret I'd like to share.
Shadow you are the very best donkey
For the rest just don't compare.

I know you're not supposed to have favorites
But Shadow you are mine.
I always smile when I hear you bray
It happens everytime.

You put your whole body in it.
You sound just like a train.
And just when I think you're done braying
You start all over again.

Although you've only been here a year,
I know I could never replace you.
For it wouldn't be only me that missed you,
Mickey would miss you too.

Please don't tell the others
But there's a secret I'd like to share.
Mickey you are the very best donkey
For the rest just don't compare.

Donkey foal


I sure didn't need another donkey
When I saw the ad that day.
But I thought, "Oh, what the heck"
And went and saw you anyway.

When I walked up to you, you raised your head.
At my heart strings you did tug.
You placed your head on my shoulder
And gave me a donkey hug.

So Mickey, you've found a home for life.
And I promise you'll always stay.
If all you do is give me hugs.
Each and every day.

Braying donkey

Please don't tell the others
But there's a secret I'd like to share.
Jasper you are the very best donkey
For the rest just don't compare.

You were tiny when I first saw you.
Just an hour old.
I never dreamed that you'd grow up
To be so very bold.

Jasper you are so cute
With your shaggy coat all year
You've brought me many hours of joy
And I hold you oh, so dear.

Please don't tell the others
But there's a secret I'd like to share.
Ranger you are the very best donkey.
For the rest just don't compare.

I'll never forget the day I found you,
Ranger you started it all.
That day that I first looked in your eyes
Never dreaming how deep I'd fall.

You are my friend and my partner.
You'll always be special to me.
Where ever you go, you bring sunshine.
You're all I'd want a donkey to be.

I guess that I just can't decide.
They're all special in some way.
But I must go, for down the road,
I hear ANOTHER donkey bray!

by Kathy Taylor
Animule Farm
Klamath Falls, Oregon


We tried to contact Kathy to ask her permission to use this delightful poem but did not manage to reach her.
Hopefully as a donkey lover she will not mind sharing!




One new arrival is the delightful Gulliver, so named because he had been on his travels for some weeks before coming to our notice.

A tiny skewbald colt donkey, Gulliver had been wandering the roads in Co. Leitrim giving many a fright to passing motorists when he suddenly appeared on the side of the road, especially at night. Thank goodness he is mostly white or he would have been injured or killed for sure!

He was eventually reported to us by a lady who had seen him a few times and then almost hit him in her car when on the way home from work in the dark one evening.





Above: An exhausted Gulliver on arrival


Neil and Rebecca set off immediately to find him and bring him home—enjoying a good chase around before they managed to corner him and load him onto our trailer. It is alarming how quick and how strong these little beings can be.

Once home Gulliver settled in quickly and soon became, not only easily handled, but positively cuddly, relishing in all kinds of attention and routinely interfering with the day’s work with his demands for scratches and grooming.

Initially we kept him with the ‘golden oldies’ - lots of mother figures who kept a certain discipline without being too hard on him, then later, as he grew in both stature and confidence, he moved next door to the main herd of lady donkeys, gentle geldings and younger ones.

He is very playful and tries hard to engage Carson in a game of touch and tag but Carson is SUCH a Mummy’s boy he is not really interested. Maybe in the summer months they will make better friends and enjoy chasing each other around?

Left: Growing up and showing off his beautiful markings. Gulliver will be gelded in the Spring and perhaps not a moment too soon as he is already getting frisky!




Francis the cuddle-lump


Some years we have lost no animals so although we know it is a down-side of giving refuge to the very old and damaged animals no-one else wants, we had had an easy time for a while and were being lulled into complacency where losses were concerned. It has to be said though that we have never had a year like this one, and hope it is a very long time before we have another one!

The first was Francis, a big dark brown cuddle-lump of a gelding who has been with us since 2008, then Cupid, a badly damaged, tiny and very sweet natured skewbald mare, who really took us by surprise as she was absolutely fine when checked at 11pm the previous evening.

Cupid in the garden



Right: Francis
Below right: Tilly Mill
Left: Cupid

Tilly Mill on arrival





She was followed by Tilly Mill (Matilda) who came to us four years ago from the ISPCA. She had been found wandering the roads with a broken jaw but once this and her damaged teeth were fixed, she managed to eat and gained weight even though her tongue mostly hung out one side of her mouth because her jaw was too twisted to hold it in. . . and her breath was never the freshest!

She was a huge character and a great favourite with the visitors: like the others she just appeared to go to sleep and not wake up.


Tommy Tucker

Then came Tommy Tucker, a very aged, tiny and totally lovable small, fawn coloured gelding who had been with us barely a year. There was nothing to suggest Tommy was about to leave us so he too gave us a nasty surprise.

Back in early 2016 we had lost another extremely old mare, Morestina, who died in her foster home. We brought her companion, Luke, back home to the other donkeys he already knew and he did recover from his loss, then unexpectedly in November we had to have him euthanased with a twisted gut.

He had been playing with another donkey only hours before so it was a great shock. Luke was 27 years old but even so, in donkey years he could have expected at least another ten years of retirement at the Sanctuary so we were all very sad.

Left: Tommy Tucker at his previous home
Below: Morestina on her own and Luke and Morestina in the sand pit



Morestina and Luke










Naturally we had hoped this was the end of this particular run of luck but it was not so.

Four from Co.Clare


We accepted four donkeys from Co. Clare, who came out of horrific conditions although three of them were in good body condition. The oldest mare Lara (35+ years), was the mother of the other three; two mares called Lorna and Leonie and a gelding called Lester.

Poor Lara was almost see-through thin as her teeth were in a dreadful state but thanks to dentist Lisa Molloy who extracted two overgrown and infected teeth from the very back of her mouth, then spent best part of an hour correcting the way her remaining teeth met and ground against each other, Lara was soon able to eat again and was enjoying life in the ‘oldies’ section when she developed what appeared to be a cold.

Soon afterwards Lorna also developed a cold so we isolated all four from the rest of the herd in case it was contagious. We took blood and dung samples but nothing drastic showed up.

Right: Lester at the back, Lorna left and Leonie on the right



Baz, known to us as Frankie

The vet attended on several occasions when suddenly Lorna took a rapid turn for the worst and died within a few hours, very obviously of pneumonia with possible other complications.

Left: Lara looking painfully thin despite her long shaggy winter coat

Lara appeared to be improving and Leonie and Lester merely had the sniffles which a dose of antibiotics and a tonic soon cured.

Lara, who was always frail and weak, first of all improved then gradually declined and four days later went down, unable to get herself up onto her feet. We lifted her a few times and she continued to eat, drink, urinate and make manure but she lost the will to live and in the early hours of a Sunday morning our vet left her warm bed to put her to sleep as she was lying flat out and had started ‘thrashing’ violently with her legs – a sign of great pain.




We were devastated at what appeared to be a senseless loss of two beautiful donkeys out of four with the respective ages of 10, 15, 20 and 35+ years who’s luck had finally changed for the better after years of suffering.

It was particularly hard on Lester and Leonie who have been in the foursome for their entire lives though after a few days, when they definitely felt lost and confused, they rallied, settled into the main herd of the less ebullient donkeys and now seem to be fine. They are still a little shy, Lester less so than Leonie but having discovered carrots and ginger biscuits they grow in confidence daily!

As both Lorna and Lara carried stephococcus, a bacterium infection, we decided to research whether or not it could be carried in bedding or feed. The online Equine Science Newsletter had recently carried out tests on specific beddings and we were relieved to learn that although this infection can and does breed in straw bedding and many types of timber shavings and wood chip bedding, it is not found in Sitka Spruce (which we use) and Corsican Pine bedding. I have always favoured the look and comfort of a thick straw bed but it seems our current choice may be healthier for the animals. It seems one never stops learning!

Right: Leonie after her hooves were trimmed





Then Peadar left us. He had been ‘off colour’ for several weeks but again, vet checks showed nothing especially wrong so we put it down to old age, winter aches and pains and maybe a bit of depression.

Ultimately he lost a large amount of weight and became so unwell opinion favoured an intestinal tumour which may have metastasised into his lower lungs: he was in pain and so miserable we decided to euthanase him on humane grounds.

A shy and rather aloof and extremely handsome donkey, Peadar was a great favourite and will be badly missed.

Right: Puzzle, Peadar and Benson



As if this wasn’t enough we learned on 28th February that Lisa had also died in her foster home (where she was very well looked after along with four other donkeys). The most likely cause was a brain bleed or a stroke.

Lisa and Peadar had come into the Sanctuary together many years before but had since gone their own ways, Lisa befriending Ashtar, and Peadar, always the loner, doing his own thing.

It was a strange co-incidence they both died within days of each other. Ashtar seems not to be grieving too badly so far which is a great relief as donkeys are inclined to pine for a lost mate.

Left: Lisa typically tail-swishing




Our list of volunteers to be thanked is enormous – Neil, Rebecca ( now on the payroll in her first job at 18 years old) Doris, Stefan, Therese, Geraldine, Paddy, Claudia, Shane, Gilbert and no doubt many more who chipped in to help while Sue was in hospital.

We are inordinately grateful to all these wonderful people without who’s help we could not have kept the place running through the summer and early winter months, let alone through the winter itself.

Baz, known to us as Frankie


Neil and Rebecca in particular are to be commended for taking on the responsibility of the Sanctuary while Sue was out of action – an onerous task with so many animals to look after, many of which are old and requiring extra feeding and attention.

Huge thanks also goes to Susan who joined us part time in February 2016 on the Sligo Leader Tus Scheme and was immediately thrown in the deep end.

Susan rose to the occasion, taking on far more responsibility than was in her remit and proving to be a wonderful asset for humans and animals alike.

Sadly the year came to an end in February 2017 and Susan left to continue her new job with the ISPCA in Co. Longford.

We wish her well – she will be missed by us all though she has promised to call in from time to time to catch up with the news and cuddle her best donkey friends.


L to r: regular volunteers Neil, and Paddy with Susan in the middle


We also owe immense thanks to all of you who have donated, sponsored and ‘adopted’ throughout the year, some very generously indeed, and to Sean Keyes for several round bales of feeding quality barley straw; Des Shanley for 30 bales of silage (almost haylage) a few of which we swopped for the equivalent in hay as some of the older animals have difficulty chewing the haylage; to Tom and Mary Latchford, mentioned earlier, for 33 small bales of the best hay and to Dermot Smee for the offer of a few bales of silage should we need them. We are indeed grateful to you all.

The first part of the winter was dry and mild so we expected the feeding to be a bit easier than last winter. . . seems not!

We have used equally as much, if not more fodder this winter, despite having less animals in care. One theory is that after two wet, cool summers the nutrition is just not in the hay and haylage. Another is that this year’s haylage is such good quality the animals are enjoying it more and therefore eating more. Take your pick! Certainly those that were fed early enough in the winter are looking great in the Spring though for the many who have not had the benefit of winter feeding it will take plenty of ‘Doctor Grass’ to help them back into condition.

Bell feeder in action


One of our summer tasks is to create a large concrete or hardstanding pad on which to place the haylage feeders, so the horses and ponies are standing dry while eating, and from the human point of view the area will be a great deal easier to clean. The donkeys are all fed inside in their barns so don’t have this problem.

Over the past two winters we have used the JFC ‘haybells’ to cover the round bales and have been impressed with how dry the fodder stays inside whilst giving easy access for feeding.

Right and below: The haybells in action

haybells  in action




There is still wastage as horses are wasteful feeders at the best of times, pulling chunks out of the haybell bigger than they can chew in one go and depositing the rest on the ground to be trampled, but certainly there is far less waste overall.



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