Thankfully, police pulled over the vehicle – also filled with a group of youths – and made sure the Shetland pony was rescued before he could endure any more mistreatment.
He soon found himself safely in the care of Blue Cross, but the trauma of the incident, combined with the likely neglect he had also experienced in his short little life, had sadly taken its toll.
Not only was Gary thin and in terrible condition, he was merely a shell of what a happy, inquisitive foal should be and, quite understandably, was petrified of people.
Shutdown and preferring to be alone, he just stood sad and forlorn in his stable for days after his arrival at the Blue Cross Burford centre in Oxfordshire.
Emily Lambert, Rehoming Coordinator, was one of those involved in Gary’s care. She said: “He was terrified; he would do anything to get away from you or would sometimes just stand there and close his eyes and put his head to the floor as if he was thinking: ‘ If I can’t see you then you can’t see me’.”
“We had to spend a very long time just sitting in the stable with him, trying to get him used to us being in the same space as he was in. If he looked at us we would reward him with a treat. It took about three weeks before we were able to start approaching him with touch,” explained Emily.
From then on, the Burford horse team worked on getting him used to the many things any well-kept pony would have experienced – from wearing a head collar and grooming, to visits from the vet and farrier.
Emily said: “He was very quiet and it took a while for him to give us anything back, really. But we always knew he would come round eventually, and towards the end of his time with us he had started playing with the other horses and would start whinnying when we approached.”
Once Gary was ready, we started the search to find him a home where he would get the love he deserved.
He had quite specific needs; due to his age and his newfound love of play, he needed a pony companion of a similar size and age, along with a patient owner who could continue to help him overcome his fears.
Luckily, Louise Coulson was scanning the Blue Cross website at just the right time in her search for a friend for her miniature pony Zebby, who had lost his own companion, Dolly, a few months before.
And soon, after more than three-and-a-half months in Blue Cross care, Gary was on his way to start his new life in the Suffolk countryside with Louise and her husband Richard.
Like the Blue Cross team, the couple had to work hard to build Gary’s trust as he was so scared of anyone new.
Louise explained: “When we first got Gary we couldn’t get near him for the first week; we had to work very hard to get him over his nervousness and being comfortable in handling and being around people again.
“He was very, very scared of people, which is what you would expect from a pony that hadn’t had a very good start. And I really did start to worry initially that we wouldn’t be able to do anything with him. He would just back into the corner of the stable and be too frightened to come near me at all.”
Richard said: “We would sit outside his stable and not do anything until eventually he would come and stick his head around the corner.”
“Then we worked gradually from there,” added Louise. “It was a slow process to get him to trust us.”
But nearly six months on, Gary is unrecognisable from the traumatised, terrified and withdrawn foal he once was. He happily trots around his field with pal Zebby, greets new people with confidence and takes most aspects of life in his stride.
There are still things he’s scared of, but the bond that he has with Louise is unbreakable, and with her by his side he has become very brave in approaching situations that could be frightening. And seeing Gary grow in confidence and learn to trust again has brought its own benefits to Louise:
“I have pride in myself that I’ve been able to bring him on and that he’s responded so well and so quickly,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see him come out of that shell and become a confident, happy pony.”
Emily added: “We were so pleased when Gary found ‘his person’ in Louise and went off to a home where he would be so loved. No animal should have to suffer the start to life that Gary had, so it’s wonderful to see him thriving and continuing to develop so well in his new home.”
If you would like to make a donation to Blue Cross to help us help more animals like Gary or if you are interested in rehoming a horse or another pet then please visit www.bluecross.org.uk