Captain & Hope
Rescued: June 21, 2010
The first time we peered into the old barn and saw Captain and Hope, we knew we had no time to waste. They were standing in complete darkness and so thin that their hips protruded sharply and we could see every rib bone. They had no food or water, and as we looked around the barn floor, we discovered it was littered with scraps of sharp iron and junk metal.
A local man had first made the shocking discovery after hearing a noise while walking past the barn, on the outskirts of Daya Vieja.
He emailed us for help and we immediately asked local police for assistance, but they didn’t have the legal power to step in. We took it a step higher to the Guardia Civil, but they didn’t want to know about it. With only one option left, we approached the Daya Vieja mayor, who could legally seize the horses.
Disappointingly, the mayor seemed more concerned about why our large group of volunteers was visiting his house on a Sunday morning, and refused to look at the photographs of Captain and Hope that we offered as proof. He claimed animal cruelty was an everyday matter (which, sadly, is often true in Spain) and insisted the case could be left until the next day. But we feared Captain and Hope wouldn’t survive another night in that barn.
News of this case spread quickly and a group of about 50 people gathered to demand the freedom of Captain and Hope. Our last option was to confront their owner. Eventually, he agreed to sign over ownership after taking payment from two of our supporters, Kate and Solvi Jansen. That signed receipt later proved crucial during legal proceedings.
Finally, we could free Captain and Hope. We led them out of the darkness and filth with bailing twine. It was only once they stood in broad daylight, sucking down buckets of water, that we understood just how close to death they both were.
We also discovered Captain had a serious infection from an untreated puncture wound behind his knee, likely caused by the scrap metal littered throughout the barn.
We rushed Captain to the Alicante animal hospital, where veterinarians operated to drain the fluid and abscesses that had formed across his untreated wound. Captain stayed there for three weeks and gained an incredible 18 kilograms – yet even then, he was still stick thin when we brought him home to our rescue centre, which shows just how emaciated these horses were when rescued.
As for Hope, we initially thought she was in foal but closer veterinary examination revealed she had already given birth. We still don’t know what happened to her foal.
We believe Captain and Hope’s case was a turning point for animal welfare in Spain. Their plight gained momentum in the community and generated widespread media attention, which pressured police into action. Officers were able to use our signed purchase receipt as evidence in the case against Captain and Hope’s former owner, who was later imprisoned – the first such prosecution in Spain, we believe.
Ever since, police and councils across the Alicante province have been far more willing to act against animal cruelty and help us during rescues.
Hope has now found true love with another rescued horse named Vinny and the pair live permanently together in the same field, as they are happiest together.
Captain was initially heartbroken by this development, but recovered after meeting another mare named Crystal. Captain had always rather fancied Crystal, but for two years he watched from afar as she was Arisco’s girlfriend.
But in 2014, we sadly had to put Arisco to sleep as his kidneys were failing. Crystal was distraught by Arisco’s death and became terribly depressed – until we put her with Captain. The pair them became inseparable. Captain and Crystal would wander the laneways between our fields by day and come in to the stables together at night. They were never apart, which shows the deep relationships these animals are capable of forming.
Sadly, in August 2017, Crystal suddenly fell seriously ill and soon after we made the difficult decision to put her to sleep. Laboratory results later confirmed she was suffering from equine Motor Neurone Disease, an extremely rare disease. Very few cases have ever been reported in Spain.
Captain was with his best friend Crystal when she passed away, and so was auntie Rosie. We think Captain actually knew what was happening – afterwards he and Rosie quietly wandered off together. Now these two beautiful horses are always together, a friendship that grows stronger every day.
As a non-profit foundation staffed almost entirely by volunteers, we rely on your donations to continue our work to save horses like Captain and Hope, and to cover their ongoing feeding and care costs. Find out how you can help here.