Horses and donkeys are given a second chance of life at a rescue sanctuary in Huddersfield that very few people know about.

Golcar Horse Rescue is based on fields just off Leymoor Road next to St John’s Junior and Infant School and has been quietly saving horses and donkeys for more than a quarter of a century.

It was set up by Debra Hall and over the years has provided a place of sanctuary and peace for horses and donkeys, including some that have suffered the most appalling neglect and cruelty.

It now has four donkeys and 13 horses and without Debra’s kindness and compassion none of them would probably still be alive.

She couldn’t do it without two dedicated volunteers, Frankie Dagnall from Lindley and Zoe Hudson from Marsden.

Some of the stories of how the horses and donkeys ended up in Golcar are horrific.

Two horses, Thunder and Storm, were just four months old when they were rescued from severe neglect during a police and RSPCA investigation. Both were severely emaciated and riddled with worms.

Debra and her team managed to pull Storm through but, sadly, it seems the worms had got to Thunder’s brain and he had to be put to sleep.

“It was absolutely awful,” said Debra. “The neglect they suffered was appalling.”

Debra Hall and, below, Shadow

Two other horses, Shadow and Polly, were rescued when they were between six and nine months old and Polly was so badly infected with lice she needed to be shaved right down to the skin. Both were horrendously underweight but Debra now describes Shadow as “like a tank.”

Another horse called Foxy had been attacked and abused so was very scared and nervous when she first arrived at the sanctuary but is now far calmer.

One of the horses, Prince, came to the sanctuary when was just 11 months old and he’s now 24 so he’s had a very long and happy life there.

One of the donkeys, Briony, was rescued from terrible conditions – so much so that you could see her ribs – while another donkey, Hazel, had simply been abandoned in a field in Huddersfield along with other donkeys.

“Hazel was so depressed when she came to us and wouldn’t go to anyone,” said Debra. “Now she’s completely the opposite, loves people and is the first to greet anyone who arrives at the sanctuary.”

Another donkey, Poppy, arrived with a broken ear and Debra said: “It takes a lot to break a donkey’s ear. She came to us last December and it was July before she’d let anyone near her but she’s coming round now.”

Miniature donkey Joseph struggles with arthritis in all four legs even though he’s only 16 years old yet loves being kissed and cuddled.

Debra, of Longwood, also has arthritis in her spine, legs and ankles so has trouble lifting the heavy stuff but the three-strong team means someone is at the site every day, 365 days a year from at least 12 noon to 4pm.

The site is rented from Kirklees Council and covers 17 acres across 10 fields so the horses and donkeys have plenty of room to roam but can always find shelter in sheds dotted around the sanctuary. It’s protected by CCTV and friendly neighbours who keep a lookout to make sure the animals are safe.

Debra said: “I love horses, it’s in the blood and I’m well-known in the horsey world so I suppose it all started when someone asked me to look after a tiny white pony called Freddie that they’d rescued. He was a really old pony in his 30s by then and was in a mess but after I said ‘yes’ to him then others started to follow. Many of them are old and lame.”

The biggest expense is hay in winter but a tree surgeon provides all the bark chippings they need for free.

Funding is always a problem and people can support the sanctuary by giving through PayPal and families can pet, groom and cuddle the donkeys for £9 per half-hour. This needs to be booked in advance through the sanctuary’s Facebook page.

Hazel the donkey senses when people are sad or stressed

Golcar Horse Rescue is also visited by people from homes for the elderly, disabled groups, people with mental health issues and people on probation can do work there.

Debra said: “One young man came to us with the probation service after he was convicted of car crimes. He’s absolutely loved being with the horses and donkeys and says it’s changed his outlook on life and promised he won’t offend again.”

She added: “Sometimes visitors arrive and look sad or stressed but within 10 minutes they have a smile on their faces. Our friendliest donkey, Hazel, seems to sense this and is always the first to go up to them and nuzzle her head in close.”

Some of the horses can be loaned out to people who have a field and would like a horse to look after, but they always belong to the sanctuary.

The PayPal link is

The Golcar Horse Rescue Facebook site is

Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.