Steel Came to the Centre directly from the pit. He was covered in coaldust, shod and very tired. When Blackie arrived from the same colliery in the same dirty condition. With the help of our vets we had by that time begun to develop a picture of the health problems facing these old four legged colliers.
We were also fighting a battle with the Health & Safety Executive about the weaknesses we saw in the 1956 Act that should protect the ponies at work.
We approached several Veterinary Hospitals to try to get the two ponies seen. We called it a MOT. Liverpool Large Animal Hospital replied positively and we took the two ponies to them in the spring of 1999. The information we were able to glean from them has helped understand their needs. One major point to arise was with Steel's breathing problems. We had been using Ventapulmin when his wheezing became really bad. However the effects of the drug were to relax the airways. In a asthmatic or horse with dust allergy this would help the breathing. However with steel as the problem was coal dust relaxing the air ways made no difference. In fact the relaxant effect made it more difficult for him to breathe as he relies on the abdominal muscles to draw in enough air and the relaxant effect made this harder.
When we saw the entry in the Horsekeepers record book from the colliery we realized that Blackie had been worked for some time without a current certificate, and when a certificate was obtained it has reservations over his health. Subsequent investigation found that the vet who signed the certificate was given a false picture of the work Blackie was doing. We tried to get the vet to help us show the HSE how easy it is for the annual certificate to be granted for an unfit horse. Unfortunately Dales & Irons would not help.