A Fell described by a vet as the fattest pony she had ever seen has lost 14 stone since his rescue, in an “amazing transformation”.

Five-year-old Dave was grossly overweight and in pain caused by laminitis when he was found by World Horse Welfare field officer Chris Shaw in Buckinghamshire last April.

“I realised straight away he was severely overweight and seemed to be having difficulty walking – clearly he was in a lot of pain,” Mr Shaw said.

“It turned out his owner had abandoned him in one paddock but over time the fences had come down turning that smaller paddock into a very large paddock with a lot of grass. Left to fend for himself, Dave had just been gorging on this almost never-ending supply of food.

“Given his condition and the amount of pain he was clearly suffering, the decision was made to remove him as soon as possible. No owner could be located so working with the RSPCA, he was taken into World Horse Welfare’s care.”

Dave was taken to the charity’s Glenda Spooner Farm, where vet Anna Langford assessed him.

“His crest was around a hand’s width bigger than normal and so extreme we could hardly put a headcollar on him,” she said. “The headpiece had nowhere to sit behind his ears due to the excess fat.

“One of the biggest problems we have in this country is the two extremes – some horses who come into World Horse Welfare’s care are emaciated and at the other end of the scale you have horses like Dave who are extremely overweight.

“The overweight ones can be much harder to manage and it’s taken a year of very hard work to bring Dave back to a more healthy weight.”

Dave has now lost 90kg thanks to a carefully planned diet, exercise and physiotherapy programme. His laminitis is under control, World Horse Welfare said, and he “looks like a completely different pony”, although his weight will always need to be managed.

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“Dave’s situation and the pain he went through were completely avoidable and should never have happened,” Mr Shaw said. “There is plenty of help and advice out there to support owners in managing their horse’s weight and we would urge anyone concerned that their horse is becoming overweight to call our advice line on 01953 497238 or visit our website.

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In this week’s magazine, out on Thursday 19 April 2018, don’t miss our special report from the British Dressage Winter Championships, plus full analysis from the Grand National — including expert comment, pictures and more. Read our report from the dressage and showjumping World Cup finals, and in this week’s ‘vet clinic’ we discuss the facts about fitness.