Starving, exhausted and utterly abandoned, it’s hard to believe this emaciated horse was once the pride of Belfast.
‘Marley’, named after his former owner Mickey Marley, who entertained generations of children in Belfast city centre with his mobile roundabout, was rescued from rain-drenched bogland on the outskirts of Belfast recently.
The horse, thought to be more than 30-years-old was found at Hydepark Lane in Mallusk and is one of the worst cases of malnutrition that animal welfare workers have ever seen. His teeth are ground so far down he can no longer eat and rescuers were told he had been simply left to die.
Lyn Friel, founder of the Crosskeenan Lane Animal Sanctuary, said help arrived just in time.
“He wouldn’t have lasted another night in the field. It is touch and go from day to day with him. We are here to feed him, to groom him, to clean him and to treat him, but it is up to the horse whether or not he wants to live.
“He was obviously starving because there was no grind left in his teeth which meant he was unable to eat the grass,” she said.
Children’s entertainer Mickey Marley, who died in 2005, was immortalised in a song by folk group Barnbrack. His horse-drawn roundabout was so popular that even former Northern Ireland Prime Minister James Callaghan asked his driver to stop so he could meet him. The old roundabout is now at the Ulster Folk Museum.
Crosskennan Lane Animal Sanctuary chairman Janice Watt added: “Our volunteers could not have been prepared for the shocking sight that met them when they eventually found the horse soaked through, wandering aimless on bog land — he is a walking skeleton — quite literally. We are amazed that he has managed to survive, so poor is his condition. We have picked up some emaciated horses in our time but nothing that even comes close to this. After some discussion about what was the best thing to do for the horse — should we end his suffering and have him put to sleep immediately, or should we assess him at the sanctuary and make our decision based on what we observed? — we decided on the latter, mainly because he was so bright in himself. He really made the decision for us.
“We have been astounded by this old boy’s determination to live and are doing our utmost to make sure he has the best chance of recovery. He has a lovely deep, warm, clean bed and gets small warm mashes fed to him every two hours morning and night to gradually re-acquaint his body to food.
“I am sure Mickey Marley would turn in his grave to know his once doted-on horse and companion was left to die in such a heartless way.”
The problem of unwanted horses is becoming more common. There are currently 34 ill-treated horses at Crosskeenan Lane. Staff are putting it down to ignorance rather than intentional cruelty.
Said Janice Watt: “As the only equine welfare organisation currently operating in Northern Ireland we are bombarded with welfare cases on a daily basis.”
Welfare workers are working with the police to try and trace Marley’s owners.