Rescued: June 16, 2015
Diplomat’s rescue was a tense and dangerous affair. Called out by San Javier police, we arrived at the scene to find a skeletal and wild stallion tied inside a small yard.
Under the guard of four armed officers, and with an ambulance on standby in case of violence from Diplomat’s owners, we cut our way into his yard and set him free.
This rescue truly was a sign of changing times in Spain. Even just five years beforehand, we had struggled to convince Spanish police to assist us in cases of abuse and neglect; the default reaction was complete inaction. Now, after years of lobbying and working hard to build relationships, police are increasingly on our side.
Diplomat was very malnourished and full of worms, and he drags one of his hind legs a little, meaning he will never be 100 per cent sound and cannot really be ridden. On top of all that, he was also a big and strong stallion who had very likely never received any proper training. He was uncontrollable, a real handful who would rear if we tried to lead him past another horse.
This is why so many people keep stallions on their own, as they can be dangerous to handle and ride if mares are around. So, as we always do with stallion rescues, we castrated Diplomat as soon as we could, which helped to settle him a little.
It took us many long months to get Diplomat to a manageable level. (We named him Diplomat in memory of Sue’s very first horse back in the UK.) He wasn’t used to any kindness and had clearly been roughly treated in the past. Gradually, he came to trust us and these days he’s a bit of a pussy cat!
However, as a stallion who had always been kept on his own, Diplomat had a lot of difficulty socialising with other horses and didn’t like to share anything. For the first 12 months or so, we gave him his own field, where he’d show off and strut his stuff to any lady who looked his way.
Then we decided to try putting him with Conker, a naughty little pony who was living with some of our older horses and chasing them around a bit too much. It all started very well, but pretty soon they were acting like macho men, each trying to be the boss of the field.
Still, equines are herd animals, so ensuring they have the company of a companion is hugely important to their mental wellbeing. In early 2017 we decided to try opening up Diplomat's gate to let him mingle with the group of mares (Bella, Goldie, Mystery and Nakita) he had been neighbours with for about a year.
Incredibly, within just a few short weeks, handsome Diplomat landed a girlfriend.
Goldie and Diplomat are now officially a couple. They’re together all the while and share their food, which is really lovely because both these horses were kept solo all their life – Goldy was locked in a tiny stable on her own, with such severe laminitis that she could hardly walk, and when she first arrived here she simply didn’t know how to relate to other horses either.
It’s just wonderful seeing this pair find togetherness and companionship after all they have endured.
As a non-profit foundation staffed almost entirely by volunteers, we rely on your donations to continue our work to save horses like Diplomat, and to cover their ongoing feeding and care costs. Find out how you can help here.
Story written by Koren Helbig.