DORSET’S Happy Horses Sanctuary has closed for the last time following the sudden death of its founder David Craig on Christmas Eve.

Volunteers took on the care of 21 horses after the tragedy while trying to find them new homes.

Lorraine Thackwray was with Mr Craig when he suffered a fatal heart attack while tending to his charges at the Corfe Mullen sanctuary.

She said: “Local people, other horse rescue centres and members of the public from all over the country have contacted us.

“Everyone has been incredibly generous with their donations of money and feed to keep us going throughout this very difficult period. I have been astounded by the level of support we have received.

“The regular sanctuary volunteers have basically put their lives on hold since December 24 to ensure the horses have been fed and cared for as best we could.

“Local people have also rallied around to help us, for which we are very grateful.”

Lorraine also paid tribute to vets Simon Adams and Rhian Partridge. “They have been very generous with both their time and financial assistance.

“I would also like to thank everyone who has donated their precious time and/or hard-earned money to help us care for and rehome 18 horses in such an incredibly short space of time. I never imagined it would be possible.

“Everyone has been helping to spread the word about the horses needing homes. A lot of people have seen the horses on Facebook and contacted us from there.”

Of the last three horses – none of which are suitable for riding – another animal sanctuary in Norfolk has agreed to take on two geldings if other homes cannot be found. That only leaves 13-year-old stallion Delta at risk of having to be put down.

“He is a beautiful, healthy horse and this would be a tragedy. We are hoping a stud farm may take him for hunter breeding because he has excellent parentage – his sire is Deltic, a famous racehorse,” said Lorraine.

Anyone who can help can email

Former serviceman Mr Craig, who was 66 when he died, worked as a paddock steward at Poole Stadium’s dog track to help meet the running costs of the sanctuary, which he founded in 1990.