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Three years after horses were rescued from a farm in Buckinghamshire, they're now settled in a new home
More than 1,500 people applied to adopt one of the 37 horses - rescued from horse dealer James Gray’s farm near Amersham- in the RSPCA’s care. New homes were also found for a further 80 horses that had been rescued by the RSPCA from elsewhere.
Many generous people also gave much-needed donations towards the animals’ care.
The Amersham horses were among 100 horses, ponies and donkeys removed from horrific conditions at Spindle Farm. Many of the animals had little food or dry bedding and were crammed into pens, fetlock (ankle) deep in faeces. Other horses had simply been left to die where they fell, dead horses had been burned on bonfires, and a pile of bones and a skull were found lying against an outbuilding. Since then the horses have been lovingly cared for by the RSPCA, The Horse Trust, Redwings and World Horse Welfare.
In addition to nursing them back to health, dedicated RSPCA staff spent two-and-a-half years assessing and handling the horses so they could be found new homes as soon as possible after the court case was over.
Jerry, a chestnut Welsh Section A, bay cob Hamish and three-year-old Friesian mare Twiggy are already happy and settled in their new home with Tamsin Conyers at her stables in Norfolk.
“They’re all such lovely ponies. They’re not scared of people and have been superstars. Twiggy is a big baby and loves to have cuddles. She’s a very pretty little horse and I think dressage will definitely be for her. Hamish looks amazing trotting around and he loves to go out hacking – he’ll take the lead wherever he goes. And Jerry knows he’s a bit special – he trots and canters with his little feet flicking, so he’s definitely got a career in the show ring. I’d definitely rehome more horses from the RSPCA. It’s nice to deal with the hairy cobs as well as the competition horses – we’ve had fun with these three and hope to get a few more!”
Jerry (left) with other ponies before they were rescued from Spindle Farm
True to her word, Tamsin has just taken on another pony from the RSPCA - a five-year-old coloured cob called Leo, who is settling in well.
Another happy owner is Liz Downes, from Lincolnshire. She is thrilled that Shetland mares, 13-year-old Rosie and one-year-old Ruby get on so well with her other horses and ponies.
New owner Liz Downes with Shetlands Rosie and Ruby
She said: “Rosie and Ruby are so different to big horses. They have a huge amount of personality packed into very little bodies! Rosie is still very shy and wary of people. She had a horrendous experience and horses have got long memories. But if you treat them with patience and kindness they soon come round.”
RSPCA equine rehoming officer Sally Learoyd said:
“We’ve had a massive response to the Amersham appeal and we would like to say a big thank you to everyone who supported us. Many people expressed an interest in adopting the horses, and sadly not everyone could be successful. But I would like to thank everyone who applied for their interest, time and patience.Some very experienced, knowledgeable people came forward and the horses are doing well in brilliant homes. The horses have had a long, difficult journey but now have great futures ahead of them – it’s wonderful to see.”
In May 2009 James Gray, 46, and a 17 year old who can't be named for legal reasons, were found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to 40 equines after a 12-week trial, brought by the RSPCA. Along with James Gray’s wife Julie, 42, and daughters Jodie, 27, and Cordelia, 21, they were also found guilty of failing to meet the welfare needs of a further 114 equines.
Appeals against convictions brought by James Gray and Julie, Jodie and Cordelia Gray were dismissed. The 17 year old was acquitted on two charges, but convicted of the rest. An arrest warrant was issued when James Gray absconded from court when his appeal against sentence failed. He was later caught and was sentenced to nine months in prison.
The Horse Trust is currently looking after 11 horses, ponies and donkeys that were rescued from Spindle Farm. Some of the older animals will be given lifetime sanctuary at the charity’s Home of Rest for Horses, such as jenny donkey Gladys, who was unable to stand unaided for 10 days after she arrived, and Angel, a mare with eyesight problems. The Horse Trust hopes to rehome most of the younger horses and ponies to enable them to have an active life with a loving owner, however they require further training and will not be ready for rehoming for several months. The Horse Trust is also looking for good homes for retired, unridden horses under its rehoming scheme.
Redwings Horse Sanctuary is currently caring for 63 of the horses, ponies and donkeys from the Amersham rescue. Many came into the Sanctuary with ongoing handling or veterinary issues so each will be individually assessed over the coming months and only those deemed suitable will join the Redwings Re-homing Scheme.
World Horse Welfare took in 11 of the Amersham horses. They are now beginning to assess their suitability as either riding or companion horses for rehoming through their horse loan scheme.