Famous horse April Airs retires to Norfolk

A once-famous endurance racehorse has been discovered at a sanctuary outside Norwich in a condition a world away from her heyday.

April Airs, a 26-year-old Anglo-Arab, had been a respected horse competing in long-distance events of up to 75 miles in the 90s.

A book on endurance horse riding published in 1996 by a previous owner, Claire Wilde, was also dedicated to her with the message: 'To April Airs, the horse of a lifetime'.

But she was sent to Hallswood Animal Sanctuary in Stratton Strawless, near Norwich, when later owners could no longer care for her.

Although they had treated her well she was underweight and had only a third of her teeth left, so found it hard to process food. She is currently being fed soup so that she does not have to chew.

Liz Hall, owner of the sanctuary, only discovered her unique past when she noticed her markings and looked up her history.

Now her keepers are keen to find out how such an animal ended up in care.

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Mrs Hall said: 'She had a very fruitful life; she was a very respected endurance horse, very well bred.

'She then got passed on and passed on and passed on. We think she's had five homes in seven years.'

She added that the horse had given birth to several foals because of her breeding. Because of her heritage foals from her could be worth thousands of pounds, but it is not know how many exist or where they are.

'As time has gone on she's become more and more depleted,' she added. 'Human-wise we'd say she was Kate Moss, there's no meat on her at all.'

But in just three weeks at the sanctuary she has already put on two-and-a-half inches around the belly and her condition is improving gradually. 'She's a beautiful, gentle-natured, doe-eyed baby: she's adorable. For her to end up in such a condition is heart-breaking,' said Mrs Hall.

'She's basically given her life to humans and I'd love to find out what's happened to her, but she can't tell us.

'Hopefully there are people out there who care for her and would like to know what's happening to her.

'If they just want to say goodbye or come and cuddle her, that's fine.

'She was once a famous horse. I'd love to know what her story is,' she added.

For more information on the sanctuary visit www.hallswoodanimalsanctuary.co.uk or call 01603 745388.

Do you have an interesting animal? Call reporter Matthew Sparkes on 01603 772439 or email matthew.sparkes@archant.co.uk