THE Royal Marines were involved in helping to round up almost 100 semi-feral horses on a remote farm at Dallas in Morayshire in a major operation co-ordinated by the charity World Horse Welfare.
It was the charity’s biggest and most unusual project and also involved vets from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the armed forces charity, Horseback UK.
The operation was organised after an elderly farmer contacted World Horse Welfare as he was concerned about his Highland-type horses and ponies and realised help was needed to rescue them.
The animals were in danger of becoming serious welfare cases.
The herd, made up of stallions, mares and foals had been increasing in size for many years due to uncontrolled breeding.
The 1,000 acres of grassland, forest and scrub land could not sustain them adequately.
The horses and ponies had separated into different herd groups and were rounded up in two days by eight World Horse Welfare staff, 14 Royal Marines and six Horseback UK volunteers who were riding their own horses.
After being rounded up and driven into a corral, the horses were sedated and micro chipped.
The mares and foals were then put into different fields separate from the stallions which were castrated by surgeons and student vets from the veterinary school.
Eileen Gillen, who manages the charity’s Belwade Farm in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, co-ordinated the operation.
She said: “It has been a real challenge but it’s been a great opportunity to work alongside the other organisations involved and help all of the horses.
“To leave the horses as they were would mean they would continue to breed, leading to more health problems in the future.”
The horses are likely to be sold in the summer and a donation from the sale will go towards the cost of the operation.