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Tales of The Sanctuary

Story Letter Billy Wilson June 2004


Big as they come in the Shire style horse, Guinness standing 7 foot to his ears, built like a Brick Outhouse, black as coal with a white frothy face that obviously earned him his title of Guinness. He had become a dangerous ‘tank type horse’ with lashing back feet. 


Polly had spent a great deal of time and money in love of this great horse but somewhere in his history he had been spoilt like a kitten by ignorance of the deadly habit of selfishness which when he was around other horses he would barge, kick and scream to capture their food.We live today in a strange somewhat wicked world of liability. Possessing a dangerous horse renders the owner to find themselves into bankruptcy for the sins of a barging, kicking horse who is also difficult to catch if the mood took him. 

In many situations of this nature it is seen as a strong case for euthanasia, in a hurry.

 Polly felt that underneath, Guinness had the kindly nature that was generally possessed by the Shire style hulk and spent considerable moneys in trying to find an answer.

 Then she happened to ring me and caught me in one of my benevolent times. Benevolence is always available for telephone advice, benevolence in visiting is getting as rare as Hen’s teeth in these days of the deadly bureaucracy needs of this society, which moves further and further away from country lore. 

Billy Wilson Horse Sanctuary

Benevolence in taking in such a horse is a commitment of an extreme challenge that 25 years ago was a regular love. Today with so many mouths relying on me to feed them, I have to contain my enthusiasm accepting that age and burdens have eroded my nimble agility.


Polly sounded so genuine and devoted, I agreed to listen. Having lost the Mighty Shire ‘Prince’ taken in from the Ironbridge Museum and remembering the lovely nature that we had turned beloved ‘Prince’ into when we had weaned him from the foolish hand feeding which he had become so accustomed to and restored his gentlemanly conduct, I agreed to give ‘Guinness’ probably his last chance of life.

My daughter Verity and her brother William have been taught the gentle ways of reschooling horses to proper conduct, also how to feed horses in groups without the dangers of flying hooves that can kill quickly. However, it was soon apparent that I had to spend some time myself with switching into his telepathic train of thought and bringing his spirit to accept that we were here to help and that we were not built of steel to withstand his bunting shoving and deadly kicks.

Billy Wilson Horse Sanctuary

Guinness was certainly a handful and had ingrained bad habits. I did not want to keep him separated from the other horses, we do not have finance and facilities for individual groom. I had hoped that the long legged large horses would collectively put him in his place.

It was soon realised that Guinness could seriously hurt one or other of these large horses who were mostly old and gentle. Guinness did not take kindly to any of them and disappointed me that he was not actively seeking a friend. He simply wanted a large amount of space and first choice of everyone’s food.

Monitoring him daily was too time consuming and reasoned that perhaps he had gone that step too far into the world of selfishness. That he was failing to recognise the kindness and peacefulness of the Sanctuary, nor did he honour my authority as supreme leader.

Well I announced, ‘one last chance with the large herd of native ponies and horses.’ In that herd I have Johnny who had stood his ground even though losing a part of his jaw in a stand off with Big Sam the black and white Shire 2 years ago. (Pleased to say they are now good friends and Big Sam is a quiet accepted member of the herd). 

There was Big Sam of equal size, there was Black Bess who could command the best, there was Tilly who was large, young, able and capable of standing up to him.

So I approached Guinness having been informed by Verity and William that he was swinging his backside round to tell them to keep away when they tried to move him.

With arms behind my back and my head ben in a horse manner of command I twitched my whiskers right up to his nose. He sniffed back and I held eye contact with him whilst I attached the lead rope to his collar.

There we stood for 12 long minutes. My whole concentration went into his eye contact and the battle of silent wills commenced, I did not pull on the lead and he did not pull back. Once or twice he tried to bluff his way out of the situation by attempting to nonchalantly graze, I placed a gentle hand beneath his jaw to stay with it. Then the magic happened. He decided to put his head on my shoulder and together we walked to the Big Herd Field. 

Now what usually happens when a new horse enters the Big Herd Field is that the herd chase new horse around the field for many hours. Taking turns the younger horses are sent in groups of 4 or 5 to keep up the chase to totally exhaust the new horse and make him servile to herd laws.


Guinness strutted into the Big Herd Field and I watched. The herd gathered around him. Big Bess, Johnny and others sniffed him and he sniffed back, then the inert screams and front leg pawing commenced.


Suddenly, Guinness became highly aroused and showed his teeth and his ability to high heel his back end. Others came over and surrounded him. Guinness stood his ground and took on all challenges from all sides, he refused to go on the chase!!

Billy Wilson Horse Sanctuary

This went on for 1 hour. Guinness cleared a space around him and in his conquering majesty he grazed whilst the others watched.

This stand off situation continued day after day, the herd eventually ceased to attempt friendships and Guinness ignored the fact that he was given an acre’s width by all of the other ponies and horses.


 I made a daily habit of walking to him from all directions without attempting to catch him always leaving behind a carrot placed in a special way so that the mysterious appearance would relate to my daily visit. Then after my 10th visit I sat without a carrot and in a yogic trance whilst Guinness inspected me all over with his whiskers but when I left, the mysterious carrot was left in my place, a confidence was built.

 The herd by now had totally shunned Guinness, this is a usual occurrence when a new horse attempts to join as a senior rank and refuses the servility imposed by the ‘Herd initiation Chase’. They ostracised Guinness completely. This is alright in summer and autumn because grass is readily available in all directions. The problems come in winter when the herd refuse to let the ‘awkward one’ near the hay and fodder.

 I have seen this before and the ‘awkward one’ receives the humiliation of being sent to Coventry and survival with the humble donkeys. This could not happen because we had tried earlier. Guinness had rejected a donkey companion and Big Softee lived with the donkey barn herd and the inevitable fight was unthinkable.

 So I felt that Guinness’ last chance was soon to become final. Feeding Guinness separately was a task that in these days of Health and Safety I could not assign to other staff and my time was far too valuable needed to devote to one stubborn horse.

 As we approached winter and the need for hay feeding, I knew that this would be the test of all tests. When large herds receive communal feeding from multi mouth hay racks.

Being the person I am, for one thing in my mind would not accept defeat, meaning that to clear my thoughts I either had to make the quick decision to kill Guinness or to return Guinness to Polly who would have to make the same decision.


The other point of my mind dwelled on the compassion of ‘life is so precious’.


I oft times think that I am the possessor of miracles aided by God and my belief in the supernatural help from the great friends departed in death and therefore in touch with the answer to all worldly matters.


As the days of Guinness’ life drained away I kept his problems in a small corner of my thoughts. My best thoughts of the most inspirational, come in the middle of the night when I wake for duty at 2am.


One recurring thought nagged me. ‘he could not eat, and kick’.


Well, I am not going to reveal the results of my inspiration and how I adjusted Guinness to shared winter feeding. What I am telling you is:-

Here we are entering summer, Guinness is a keen participant in the herd community, he has made close friends with three of the tiniest ponies. All of our staff can walk up to him without fear of any aggression, Verity has collared him up for the farrier to trim his feet and Polly is delighted. She can visit, call his name and he toddles over to say hello. He does have a nagging arthritic shoulder but apart from that, he is settled and happy.


Written in aid of The Horse Sanctuary (Tettenhall)

Billy Wilson Horse Sanctuary
Book no.1
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