Poisoned Horse Rescued with Young Foal Beats the Odds to Survive


Mare with suspected ragwort poisoning makes miraculous recovery

Dolly arrival

When Dolly was discovered by a World Horse Welfare Field Officer in March 2017 she was emaciated, weak and struggling to survive whilst still taking care of her very young foal, Rocket.

Dolly’s body condition score was recorded as 1 out of 5, and it was clear she needed urgent veterinary attention. Her owner signed her over into World Horse Welfare’s care and she was transported to the safety of the charity’s Glenda Spooner Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Somerset.


- Dolly and Rocket shortly after arrival 

Glenda Spooner Farm Supervisor, Grace Vooght, said:

“When Dolly first arrived she was very thin with all of her ribs and vertebrae clearly visible. When new horses come into our care they are always examined by our vet and routine blood tests are undertaken to ensure they are not suffering any underlying problems. When Dolly’s results came back it became apparent she was suffering from severe liver damage which could have been caused by a number of poisons.

“One of the most common causes of liver damage that we see is ragwort poisoning but without knowing her background, it was difficult to determine what had caused Dolly to be in such a terrible condition. The first step was to wean Rocket onto eating more independently so he was less reliant on Dolly’s milk, which worked well as he was quite a greedy foal. This allowed Dolly to put what little energy she had into repairing her damaged liver.

Rocket arrival

- Rocket on arrival 

“Unfortunately Dolly’s condition didn’t seem to be improving and new blood tests showed that her liver was not repairing in the way it should be. We continued to monitor Dolly and provide her with all the nutrition she needed so she could bring up her young foal and it was very much touch and go as to whether she would survive.

rocket now

- Rocket ready for rehoming

“After a few months of dedicated care and attention, Dolly miraculously began to recover and her liver finally started to function properly, which amazed us all. Both ponies are now living out in their herds and have undertaken their handling training as well as learning to go into a trailer – all in preparation for them to find loving new homes on our rehoming scheme.

dolly now

- Dolly ready for rehoming

“Dolly’s recovery really is miraculous and I can’t wait to see both her and Rocket settled into happy new homes.” 

To find out more about ragwort and the dangers it poses to horses visit: www.worldhorsewelfare.org/ragwort

dolly and rocket