Emaciated horse found frozen in snow, with fresh hay out of his reach

The owners of a horse whose emaciated, frozen body was found curled up in the snow, while fresh hay was on site but out of his reach, have been banned from keeping horses for life.

Another horse belonging to Kimberley Thompson, 27, and Wayne Shepherd, 43, both of Dividy Road, Bentle, was found alive but emaciated by an RSPCA officer in February.

The couple pleaded guilty to two animal welfare offences, at Staffordshire Justice Centre on 13 July.

The court heard RSPCA inspector Natalie Perehovsky went to the field on 8 February in response to a call from a member of the public.

“She could see Mr Eddy, a bay horse, in the distance and could tell he was thin, despite the fact she was standing at least 10 metres away,” an RSPCA spokesman said.

Ms Perehovsky said the horse seemed young, and was emaciated.

“All his ribs were visible and his spine and hip bone were prominent,” she said. “He had no access to water; all he did have was a small amount of haylage on the floor. There was a fresh bale of hay by the gate, but the horses didn’t have access to it and it was still in its grey wrapper.”

The body of the second horse, Mr Winston, was found frozen in the snow nearby.

“He was in a cordoned-off part of the field and was laid curled up on some haylage with a blue rug on,” Ms Perehovsky said. “In front of him was a bucket of food that seemed to contain some form of liquid and grains. I lifted up the rug and could clearly see his ribs and hips. He had been there for sometime and had gone into rigor mortis so it was hard to move him to get a clear look under the rug. Plus the weather was extremely cold that day, it was snowing, so he had probably also frozen overnight.”

The owners of the land told the RSPCA they had rented the field to Shepherd and Thompson. Police and vets were called while the horses were temporarily seized.

“Thompson and Shepherd later arrived at the field and expressed their shock that Mr Winston had died,” the RSPCA spokesman said. “Shepherd said the horse had collapsed the day before and he’d managed to get him sitting up, but he’d not called a vet and had left him where he was overnight. He said he was going to call the vet that morning (8 February), but had been waiting on an appointment. Inspector Perehovsky told him that it was now 2pm and he had still not rung one.

“The horses had been fed linseed, barley, cranberry and apple juice as they had not been drinking the water, added Shepherd.”

The RSPCA said the vet who examined both horses gave them a body condition score of one out of nine.

“He said it was his opinion that Mr Eddy had been subjected to unnecessary suffering due to a lack of good husbandry and veterinary care and that this could have been prevented if adequate feeding and regular monitoring had been provided,” the spokesman said.

The vet added: “If the owners had called for veterinary assistance when the first signs of anorexia occurred, it could have prevented Eddy from suffering and helped him to recover faster. I cannot venture an opinion as to how long he suffered; however it takes a substantial period of time; several weeks, to become as underweight as Eddy.”

In mitigation, Shepherd and Thompson both expressed remorse about what had happened. Shepherd said they were struggling financially on benefits, and Thompson said she had had horses when she was younger and even though her mother had cared for them, she believed that had given her enough experience to look after them.

As well as the life bans, the pair were each given a 12-month community order and told to complete 15 rehabilitation activity requirement days. They were each fined £240, and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £95 and costs of £400.

Mr Eddy has made a good recovery and will be rehomed.