Abandoned horses rescued from National Trust land in Mournes
SICK and abandoned horses are being rescued from National Trust land in the Mournes after a wildfire in spring forced them onto higher ground.
More than 30 ponies have so far been rescued but up to 50 horses are still on the mountains.
The Trust said the horses are not hardy native breeds but abandoned domesticated horses which are not adapted for living on steep and uneven terrain.
Since wildfires tore through the Mournes in April, the horses have been forced higher up Slieve Donard and Commedagh.
They have shown signs of inbreeding, genetic deformities, deadly parasite infestations and malnutrition.
Two ponies have died - one above Bloody Bridge and one foal named Sunnie who had to be euthanised due to a severe open leg fracture.
The charity is working with rescue organisations Equine Halfway House and Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary to rescue the horses.
Once the animals are in better health, they can be rehomed.
Walkers in the Mournes have been asked to look out for the horses.
The public has been urged to take pictures of the animals, drop a pin on Google maps and send a message to the Mourne Horse Watch Facebook page so they can be located and rescued before winter sets in.
Marc Vinas, area ranger for the National Trust, said the number of horses on its land had increased over the last three years.
"It’s important for the public to understand that these are not managed herds of hardy native breeds like the Exmoor ponies we use for grazing at Murlough Nature Reserve,” he said.
“They are domesticated horses in origin that have been abandoned in the mountains over a number of years and are not adapted for living in such harsh conditions.”
Katryna Gamble from Equine Halfway House said the horses' rounded tummies are the result of a "severe worm infestation".
"These parasites drain nutrition from the horses whilst at the same time, swelling their bellies," she said.
"If left untreated, this can result in long term health problems including gut damage, colic, weight loss, diarrhoea or even death."
A spokeswoman from Crosskennan Lane said the rescued ponies will get veterinary, dentistry and farrier treatment.
"Once this is achieved, we can look for suitable homes for the horses where they can live with the care they need as a domestic breed of equine," she said.
To donate towards the horses' veterinary and dentist bills visit https://gofund.me/cafaa20f