The Famous Gizmo – Catley Cross Veterinary Clinic, Essex

Last week, I had an extra special shoot. All of my shoots are special, of course, but I have a feeling you guys might just be a little excited about this one.

Somtimes, to keep myself inspired and motivated, I just find it beneficial to shoot things that I enjoy, aswell as being able to give back a little, to those who deserve something nice. It’s just a good way to create an all round ‘feel-good’ feeling, for both me and whoever it is I’m working with.

Some of you may remember, last year, when a little coloured pony called Gizmo hit the headlines after he was rescued by the RSPCA and the incredible team at Catley Cross Veterinary Clinic and pulled through, despite all the odds being stacked against him.

He became quite a little celebrity and at the beginning of the year, I emailed the ladies at Catley Cross to see if they’d be interested in having some photographs taken of him, to mark his amazing recovery, just over one year on.

Long story, short, they said yes and I went over to meet Gizmo and his girls last Wenesday. I can honestly say that he stole my heart and I was completely smitten. He is a little charmer!

Anyway, I asked Carolyn, one of his adopted mummy’s to tell me his story and I’m just going to go right ahead and copy and paste exactly what she sent me, because there’s no way I could tell it better…

“Gizmo was found lying on the edge of a road behind a caravan park in Ridgewell, Essex by the RSPCA, February 2015, after a phone call tipped them off to his location. He was four months old and was barely alive when we arrived. Hailey (our nurse), Louise (our yard manager at the time) and myself were dispatched out to him. Louise drove the horsebox with Hailey (who was pregnant at the time with William) and I followed in my vet car.

The sight was appalling. He was lying in a patch of frozen grass and was so hypothermic I barely managed to get a thermometer reading. He could barely lift his head up. He had pneumonia from lying down for too long. Sarah the RSPCA inspector and I had a chat about what we should do- its hard to justify spending charity money on a dying foal with no owners, no future. Sounds hideous but is the unfortunate reality….

By the time we walked back to him, Hailey and Louise had propped him up, he had eaten a polo from Hailey and they had called him Gizmo.

Well, he had a name and he had eaten a treat- so putting him to sleep didn’t seem right. We decided we would give him the night- and if he didn’t make it, at least it would be warm and loved, even for a short period of time.

The police and ourselves had to roll him onto a rug and carry him to the lorry. He didn’t move, didn’t struggle and just lay flat out there, looking so lifeless. He weighed less than 100 kilograms at the time. Hailey got him on a drip quickly whilst I ran his bloodwork. If we had seen those results before we admitted him to the clinic, I would have put him to sleep. He was in liver failure and also had septicaemia, on top of the pneumonia. Any one of these things are bad news but the combination seemed insurmountable.

But there he was, propped up and trying to eat, surrounded by our staff and hot water bottles and fed through a drip line… and that was the first night. We didn’t think he had a chance but we wanted him to be comfortable. And to prove us all wrong, he lived through that first night.

We had six other RSPCA horses in at the time, which were part of an investigation and we needed rugs desperately for them. And so, because Gizmo didn’t have an owner, we posted a photo of him on our Facebook page, (most cases can’t be spoken about, for legal reasons) asking if any clients with spare second hand rugs could bring them in to us. And that was the start of it all…

The post got shared over and over and we started getting more and more phone calls and messages, from complete strangers who wanted to help. Offers of money for his bill and offers of help. We we so overwhelmed that the RSPCA ended up making a Just Giving page for Gizmo, because so many people were asking us how they could help save him. And the local press caught wind of the story and started calling for updates followed by the national press who actually wanted to come and film him.

It was like all of a sudden the world cared, which we are not used to. Usually it’s our little team fighting for these horses and ponies lives, in the dark and all of the sudden we were in the spotlight.

Hailey and myself man the Facebook page and we started posting daily updates about how Gizmo was. The more posts we wrote the more people seemed to share his story and want to be involved in helping some way. It was truly amazing and slightly daunting. He wasn’t out the woods at all and he suddenly had tens of thousands of followers wanting to know if he had had a comfy night. We had clients drop in teddy bears and leather head collars, for when he was better and we had total strangers send us chocolates and care packages and cards with the sweetest kindest words, to keep us going.

Of course what really kept us going was Gizmo, nicknamed “Darling”, who started to truly fight – whinnying for his milk pellets and trying to get up. Although he still couldn’t.

He was still SO poorly. He kept spiking fevers and every time we thought we had turned a corner, something set him back a few days. He had to have multiple plasma transfusions and he was on intravenous antibiotics and inhalers for weeks and weeks. The Just Giving page went crazy and in a few days, people had literally donated thousands of pounds. So we had free rein to give him anything he needed, including an orthopaedic mattress that we propped him up on!

He had to be turned every two hours to help his lungs and his pressure sores and had to be placed in a sling five or six times a day, to do physio and try and get his legs working again. The sling was the bit everyone hated. All Gizmo would do would be to flail around in it and get distressed, but we knew we had to keep going with it or he would never walk again.

He got pressure sores on his elbows, so badly that his elbow bones were visible and we had to replace the dressings multiple times a day, because he would pee on himself because he couldn’t get up. It was awful!

Two weeks to the day of his rescue, we lifted him up (a six person job) and suddenly we all realised none of us were particularly holding him up. He was actually standing by himself! He did for about 20 seconds and then collapsed again, but I think that’s my fondest memory, because it’s when I realised that he might actually make it!

He was still unable to get up by himself for about three months. But once he was lifted to his feet, he started standing for longer and longer and got stronger and stronger.

My bosses, and owners of the clinic, Robert and Avril, used to have their post dinner coffee in his stable with a biscuit (that he always ate!) and then have to tip him onto his mattress at night, otherwise he would end up plonking himself to bed on rubber matting or in his water bucket. And the stronger he got the more difficult he became to place on the mattress. We knew we were making progress! His character was huge and if he didn’t want to do something, you knew about it!

Slowly, he healed. His sores became smaller over the course of months. He put on weight slowly. He was able to walk and then, one day, he got up by himself!

Thanks to his Just Giving page, he was able to be saved and so were six other horses, who weren’t able to have the spotlight, but who all went on to be re-homed by the RSPCA because of people’s generosity.

What was amazing to us and continues to be, is how much people seemed to care! And still care!

We are so used to helping these awful neglect cases the RSPCA bring in to us, that we never realised that people actually wanted to help. I think people may have thought that neglect cases like Gizmo’s are isolated and rarely happen. But sadly, Gizmo is one of many thousands of cases. He happened to be incredibly lucky and we are forever grateful to both the RSPCA, for giving him a chance and mainly to his fans who saved him. He would never ever have had a chance without the funds we had available to fix him and the amazing support we had which kept us going in moments of doubt.

He is now eighteen months-old and is the most stunning little gelding. His personality is huge! And he still comes cantering over to the word Darling.

Hailey and myself have now officially adopted him and our bosses kindly let him live at the vet surgery, where he is turned out with a rescue sanctuary donkey, a Shetland and a couple of ponies. They are like a band of brothers and he has spent the winter out at grass growing up and being a horse.

As for his plans for the future… Well, he knows he is a star and he loves the attention he gets (we recently had people visit him from Canada!) and he is scared of nothing. And I mean nothing!

He will go to a couple of local shows this summer and will return to Equifest this summer, to defend his RSPCA rescue champion title, which he won last August.

In the long term we hope he will be a lovely child’s pony. Despite her claims her son wouldn’t be horsey, Haileys little boy (pictured), who was just a bump all through Gizmo’s rescue, is now almost a year old and he loves Gizmo. Adores him even! And the funniest thing is, Gizmo adores him back. He actually pops his head into the pushchair and is always fussing over William.

But I suppose the main thing is that we want Gizmo to have a life. And be loved. And never know a day of suffering again.

I don’t think he remembers a thing about what happened to him. He loves his humans and he will never have to worry about anything ever again!”

Ok, is anybody else covered in goosebumps and tearing up right now? I was so moved by Carolyn’s email and I’m so honoured that I got to document what a beautiful young man Gizmo is turning into.

After such a horrendous beginning, it seems that Gizmo has well and truly landed on his feet. And it is no more than he deserves!

I do believe that if you’d like to donate to Gizmo’s Just Giving page, to help some of his friends and other ponies with a similar story to him, you can still do so at


Now fully booked for June & July.

BOOK YOUR SHOOT NOW for August/September 2016 –!book-a-shoot/p0zf9


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This entry was posted in Equine Photography Essex, Equine Photoshoots, My Favourite Stories, Standard Shoots. Bookmark the permalink.

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