A Nottingham businesswoman has left the Home of Rest for Horses £300,000 in her will – in spite of the fact that she had no previous links with the Buckinghamshire based charity.

Shirley Harper died of motor neurone disease last February at the age of 69. She left an estate of worth around £1.8 million, with much of the money going to animal charities.

As well as providing care for retired horse, ponies and donkeys, The Home of Rest for Horses is also the UK’s largest provider of funds into equine research.

Mrs Harper was the owner of Glanford Brigg, who finished eighth in the 1974 Grand National, but was not known by staff at the centre.

A spokesman at the rescue centre, which is based in Risborough, says they are “stunned and delighted” by the donation.

Susan Lewis, assistant administrator, said: “We are eternally grateful for the money we have been left – it will be a great help towards the work that we do. It costs us £3,000 a year to look after just one horse and we have 120 animals at the centre so any money that we get is very well received.”

The legacy will go towards the general running of the centre, such as providing food and bedding as well veterinary and farriery treatment for the animals.