ANIMAL charities worked alongside police to rescue 26 neglected horses that were abandoned in a field on Church Lane, Highclere.
Hampshire Constabulary executed a search warrant on October 12 and, along with the RSPCA, Redwings Horse Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare, started the removal of the most distressed horses from the field.
Senior field officer at Redwings Horse Sanctuary, Julie Harding, said: “This rescue is another great example of effective partnership working among the equine welfare charities.
“However, it is also sadly another example of an owner not taking responsibility for or meeting the needs of their horses – indeed, in this case choosing to abandon without water or forage.
“As a result, many of the horses were in very poor condition, which was very upsetting to see.”
RSPCA operational superintendent Lee Hopgood said: “These horses had to be removed after a vet sadly confirmed they were all either suffering unnecessarily or their needs were not being met.
“The RSPCA and other equine welfare charities have been picking up the pieces of the ongoing horse crisis for many years, rescuing sick and injured horses who have been left without appropriate care.”
World Horse Welfare field officer, Sarah Smith, said: “It has been really distressing to see these vulnerable horses abandoned in this way.
“Many of them were in need of urgent veterinary treatment to prevent further deterioration in their condition.
“It was a very sad situation, but a superb team effort from all the charities working together to ensure the horses got the treatment and care they so desperately needed.”
The RSPCA rescued 979 horses in 2016, an increase of 55 per cent on the previous year.
Mr Hopgood said: “We also urge people to seriously think about the commitment involved in caring for horses as this sadly happens far too often.”
None of the horses rescued in Highclere were microchipped, meaning their owners cannot be traced.
The RSPCA is therefore appealing for information about the horses and their owners. Anyone with information is being urged to call 0300 123 8018.