Thieves who stole a horse carriage from a pony rescue centre have left the owner devastated - and thrown a bride’s wedding plans into disarray.
The carriage was tethered outside the centre premises - which re-homes stricken ponies and provides riding therapy for disabled children and adults - in Horsham, when the thieves struck.
The carriage, along with Shetland pony Marmite, was scheduled to ferry a bride to her wedding on Saturday. Rescue centre owner Julia Rigby said: “She’s been devastated by it. Absolutely devastated. It’s been horrendous.
“We have had a year and a half of planning the wedding and we’re thinking we are not going to be able to do it. But we have an old cart in about three pieces and we’re hoping we can do something.”
Julia has run Maryland Rescue Ponies for the past seven years looking after and helping to re-home abandoned, ill or ill-treated animals.
She currently cares for eight horses, including Marmite who is one of four permanent pony residents and is a popular visitor at a number of local Christmas fairs and grottos, as well as Southwater parish church’s annual Nativity.
“He’s an amazing little fellow,” says Julia.
Marmite’s stolen carriage is also frequently used to give disabled youngsters a taste of ‘riding.’
“It’s incredibly important,” said Julia. “and it’s unacceptable that someone has done this.”
Julia herself suffers from a range of health problems and empathises with her disabled riders after spending much of the past two years in a leg brace following an operation.
“I’m in pain for weeks if I get stressed,” said Julia. “It causes havoc when I get an incident like this happening.”
The financial impact of the theft of the cart - worth around £400 - is also severe. Julia funds her rescue work, aided by two helpers, by clothes’ recycling and by holding regular boot sales to raise money.
“Any money we get goes purely towards the ponies’ feed,” says Julia.
Two of her latest rescue animals are two mares which were saved from a slaughter yard and later found to be pregnant. Both have since successfully given birth to healthy foals.
l In another blow, one of Julia’s two pet tabby kittens went missing from her property on Monday.
The kitten - named Mopsey - is not yet allowed out and was last seen at around 5pm.
Julia said her daughter Jasmine, 12, was ‘really upset.’