Equine charity The Horse Trust has noticed a dramatic increase in the number of horses being abandoned across Buckinghamshire, the same county as horse abuser James Gray's infamous Spindles Farm.
In 2010, The Horse Trust, which is based in Buckinghamshire, took on seven abandoned horses. In the previous five years (between 2004 and 2009), it did not take on any abandoned horses.
Other equine welfare charities are experiencing the same problem. On Friday, Redwings announced a 400% increase in the number of horses reported as abandoned in December 2010, compared with December 2009.
The Horse Trust often receives calls to its equine welfare helpline from owners increasingly desperate due to the combination of the credit crunch, government cuts and the increasing cost of hay.
"Until recently, there wasn't a problem with horses being abandoned in Buckinghamshire," said Liane Crowther, Welfare and Education Officer at The Horse Trust. "But now it seems that the economic climate and the spiralling cost of hay is pushing owners to desperate lengths. Many owners keep their horse on a shoestring budget, so simply can't afford the increased cost of feeding and looking after their much loved horse."
One recent abandonment case taken in by The Horse Trust is Shetland pony Piglet, who was found abandoned by the police at a busy roadside in Chalfont St Peter.
Piglet was brought to The Horse Trust’s sanctuary in Speen, Buckinghamshire when an owner could not be traced. When Piglet arrived at the sanctuary, he was suffering from a number of veterinary problems including an infected eye, severe malnutrition, high worm burden and overgrown feet.
"When Piglet arrived he was in a bad state and hadn't received the care he needed for some time. It looks like his owner hadn't been feeding him properly or paying for farrier or veterinary treatments for a number of months. It's sad to think how long he suffered before he was abandoned," said Liane.
Staff at The Horse Trust are now nurturing Piglet back to health and have provided urgently needed farrier and veterinary treatment, including a referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist. Piglet's overall health has improved, but sadly his eye will be removed as the infection is not responding to treatment.
It costs The Horse Trust on average £12 per day to look after each abandoned horse it takes in, including the costs of grooms, forage, farriery and veterinary care. To donate to The Horse Trust, please visit the charity's website or call on 01494 488 464.