Zelda is our youngest horse, a pretty chestnut thoroughbred mare. She's just 8 years old and 16 hh. She, like the others she came with, was a race horse who was retired early and bought by a rich family who neglected her. She was locked in his stable with no food, water or exercise for weeks on end.

Zelda was rescued on 23rd August 2018, along with Hannibal, Boris and Africa. When she arrived at the sanctuary she was underweight and unkept.

Zelda, though comparatively the strongest of the new herd, has quite a tricky/unusual condition that could be cause for concern at any given time. She has what’s known as a Recto-Vaginal Fistula, which is a perforation through the septum between the rectum and the vagina. In regular English, it’s a tear in the wall that separates the rectum and the vagina.

When we first got Zelda, we noticed that every time she would pass urine, there would be some amount of dung lodged in her vagina as well, which would then be pushed out along with the urine.

Obviously something was wrong so we consulted our equine vets/experts. Recto-Vaginal Fistulas can sometimes occur as a birth deformity, though most often it’s usually a result of an accidental tear during the mares foaling process. This could happen if the foal is positioned wrong/oversized or mishandling of the mare/foal by the breeder/vet during parturition, or even with violent reactions of the mare while birthing. Other causes could simply be bad rectal examinations performed by an unqualified vet.

Since we don’t know the real history of our rescues, we were told nothing about the horses when they arrived except that they were excellent racers in their time, we can only guess what they’ve been through given what we see now.

It’s likely that Zelda had foaled in the past and was handled badly, which is how she ended up with a perforated septum. At the moment we can only wait and see how extensive the condition is. What is common with recto-vaginal fistulas is urinary infections, which we will have to look out for and treat with antibiotics. Ultimately she will have to have surgery to repair the perforation. This is quite an intrusive/extensive surgery so I’ve been advised to delay it as much as possible, given her condition.

Aside from the fistula, Zelda is now a perfectly healthy, gorgeous horse will a stellar personality. Every other morning she, Hannibal and Frodo are let out onto the backwaters to graze freely. Zelda is always the most excited during turn out and lets out a series of happy bucks and kicks every single time before finding her favourite patch of mud to roll in. She and Hannibal roam the backwaters together all day, inseparable and infinitely content, grazing lazily by the lake.

Feed: We’ve calculated Zelda’s diet based on her estimated weight and body condition. Her diet currently includes 85% dried oats,15% bran mash, boiled groundnut cake (high in protein), rock salt (mineral supplement) and a Himalayan powder, brilliant for digestion.