Welfare charities have collaborated to rescue 17 “rotting” horses in Essex.

An anonymous caller alerted World Horse Welfare to a large group of feral horses in some fields near Romford last week.

The horses had terrible feet, with maggot-ridden frogs — and were eating rotten bread as there was no grass. 3 young horses were living in a putrid shed, 3ft-deep in manure, while 1 mare with a foal was on the verge of death.

2bad feet - credit World Horse Welfare

3 horses were rotting,” said World Horse Welfare officer Ms Swadlo, who attended with RSPCA inspector Steven Reeves. “They had maggots crawling out of their frogs and severely long feet; the smell was like nothing I have ever smelt before. If these horses had been left, their hooves would have simply rotted away.”

Although the fields were situated behind a travellers’ site, the inhabitants pledged ignorance. As the horses are not micro-chipped, no owners have been identified, but the police are involved and enquiries are ongoing.

1Bad feet image - credit World Horse Welfare

11 horses were removed immediately, in the dark, as the situation was deemed too serious to wait for morning.

The mare’s feet were so rotten they were almost falling off, and she was euthanased. Those that were well enough to travel have been taken to World Horse Welfare’s Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Norfolk for rehabilitation, having received urgent farriery attention.

3youngsters - credit World Horse WelfareBecause of the degree of malnourishment in the rescued horses due to poor diet, World Horse Welfare realised it was “a priority to go back for the rest”.

Redwings stepped in to assist in rounding up the remaining 6, who have also been taken to World Horse Welfare’s rescue centre.

Redwings head of welfare Nic de Brauwere said: “It is important for charities to work together on larger, more challenging cases to make best use of our respective skills and specialist resources.”