A pony recently rescued from a field in Bedfordshire has been described by The Horse Trust as “one of the worst cases of animal neglect we have seen”.

The 12.2hh 18-month-old colt – named Quest by charity’s supporters because of an unusual question mark-shaped stripe on his nose – was said to be pitifully thin, dehydrated and crawling with lice when he was rescued on 21 March.

Jeanette Allen, chief executive of The Horse Trust said: “Quest arrived in a worse condition than the Spindles Farm ponies, which made such dramatic and widespread headlines in 2008.

“We are doing everything we can to save him, but it is going to be a long road. No-one here has ever seen a pony so thin yet still alive.”

But Quest has surprised staff not only by surviving his first night, but by making small signs of progress in the past week, including showing an interest in eating hay.

Welfare charities blame indiscriminate breeding for the increasing abandonment of unwanted animals.

RSPCA inspector Kirsty Withnall said: “Quest is typical of the type of pony we are finding abandoned and neglected – 18-month-old colts with no value.”

The Horse Trust is appealing for financial help to support the vital veterinary care that Quest needs for his survival. To donate visit www.horsetrust.org.uk.