Among the latest victims of the foot and mouth crisis could be agedhorses, warn a welfare group.

The Veteran Horse Society, formed last year has now launched a nationalhelpline and is urging owners to contact them if they have any concerns.

“My own 21-year-old horse jumped over the fence last week – he is so bored being stuck in with the foot and mouth crisis. Horses are becoming quite dangerous,” warned its founder Julianne Aston, of Kenilworth, Warwickshire.

“A lot of these older horses are very intelligent and the boredom aspect is a serious issue. Just riding around or turning your horse out into a wet field can also be a problem. Our helpline is manned Monday to Friday,between 2pm and 5pm, and anyone is welcome to ring, whether or not they are a member,” she said.

The society, which already has 175 members, has received the backing of supplement manufacturer Super Solvitax to help fund the helpline. Qualified councillors are also available to help owners cope with any difficult decisions should their horse’s life become unbearable.

“We are not saying that horses should be kept alive on borrowed time or at any cost, but there is so much that can be done.We are very much a welfare group and our eventual aim is to have a rehabilitation centre for the elderly,” said Julie.

Co-ordinators promoting the work of the society are at work around thecountry but more are needed in Wales.

The helpline number is 01455 847355 or click here to visit