Ban for owner of ‘grossly obese’ horse

A “grossly obese” horse more than 100kg overweight and suffering from laminitis was allowed unrestricted grass and fed extra hay – despite advice from welfare inspectors and vets about the same horse three years earlier.

Tracey Anne Woodward, 53, of Chingford, UK, appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on 15-17 June. She was found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to part-bred Hackney gelding John, and failing to provide a suitable diet between 5 March and 5 May 2020.

Last year the RSPCA was contacted by a concerned member of the public about the health of the gelding. The charity attended on 5 May 2020 and found John in pain and suffering from laminitis, but still being grazed with no restrictions and fed extra hay.

A vet described John as “grossly obese” and estimated it would have taken several months for him to have reached the “state” he was in. John was taken into possession by the police after the vet certified he was suffering, and he was transported to a vet hospital.

“His body condition could have been so easily avoided if he had been managed differently by his owner and had his grazing restricted,” said RSPCA inspector Jessica Hayes, who investigated the case.

“It’s really sad that he was allowed to become so hugely overweight, especially as we had previous dealings with Woodward in respect of a similar situation [involving John in 2017] when veterinary and dietary advice was provided, so she knew John’s needs could be met.”

The gelding has since been rehabilitated by Redwings and the judge granted a deprivation order so he can now be rehomed.

“When you read stories about neglect, it is often images of emaciated ponies that hit the headlines, but obesity is a serious welfare issue and we’re pleased it has been recognised with this conviction,” said Nic de Brauwere, Redwings’ head of welfare and behaviour.

“An overweight horse can suffer very significantly, and obesity can also lead to painful conditions such as laminitis, which John was experiencing.”

Mr de Brauwere said during John’s time at the sanctuary he has steadily returned to a healthy weight, which involved losing 124kg in “unnecessary fat”.

“This equates to him carrying 27 per cent more weight than his optimal healthy weight. This was done with John’s mental wellbeing carefully considered, with our team making huge and creative efforts to ensure he was kept occupied and had plenty to eat while still losing weight,” said Mr de Brauwere.

“This once unhappy, frustrated and tetchy individual is now a much more relaxed, active and engaging horse.”

In mitigation, the court heard that the defendant’s actions were described as “misplaced or ignorant”.

Woodward was banned from keeping equines for three years. She was ordered to pay £8,000 costs and a £97 victim surcharge. She was also fined £875.