An overwhelming response to its first ever Crowdfunding campaign has enabled equine welfare charity The Mare and Foal Sanctuary to buy a vital and very unusual piece of lifesaving kit.

‘Max’ is a life-size fully articulated equine mannequin which is designed to help train emergency teams to rescue horses and ponies from trenches, ditches and cliffs and from being trapped in water and mud.

Max has been engineered by specialist UK company Resquip and is designed to be as life-like as possible with realistic joint articulation and muscle definition. Rescuers rarely get the chance to practice realistic livestock rescue scenarios, so The Mare and Foal Sanctuary hopes to offer professional extraction teams the opportunity to learn best practice alongside them in future training exercises.

Generous supporters of The Mare and Foal Sanctuary contributed to the Crowdfunder campaign launched in the autumn, raising £9,289 of the charity’s £8,802 target.

Then, incredibly, the Crowdfunder prompted a massive donation of £175,000 by Lesley Willan in memory of her friend Jeff Ward. In appreciation for their kindness, the charity asked Lesley to name the new mannequin.

Lesley says: ‘I wanted to help with the purchase because this was something that would have a direct impact on the welfare of the horses in the Southwest that Jeff cared so much about.

‘I knew straight away that it should be called Max, after Jeff’s late dog. Sadly, Jeff’s partner Patricia passed away eight years before Max’s arrival. From then on, Max was always by Jeff’s side, providing comfort, companionship, and unconditional love until he passed away. So, in Max’s memory, I see the mannequin horse as a quiet, unassuming companion who is always there, ever ready to train people to rescue equines in a number of scenarios.

‘I’m proud that Jeff’s donation will make such a huge difference to the lives of horses, ponies and the people who care about them. This donation was about enabling one of his favourite charities to purchase much needed equipment and leave a lasting legacy.’

Syra Bowden, The Mare and Foal Sanctuary’s Head of Equine Welfare says: ‘Too often we witness terrible cases of horses and ponies becoming trapped in tight spaces or stuck fast in rivers or bogs. A horse can weigh anything up to around 600kg, which is more than 90 stones, so such rescues are highly dangerous and can result in the death of the equine and injury to rescue team members.

‘Specialist training exercises using Max, our new horse mannequin, will help us to build emergency response partnerships and develop more effective extraction techniques. This kit could help to save lives in the future, so we would like to thank the generosity of our Crowdfunding supporters and particularly to Lesley for gifting so much in Jeff’s memory.’

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary is hoping to work with rescue teams in the Southwest in collaborative training exercises using Max later this year.

You can find out more about Max and the work of the Mare and Foal Sanctuary online at: