A well-known horse sanctuary in the West Country is appealing to horse lovers to think twice before starting up their own horse sanctuary.

HorseWorld in Bristol has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people setting up their own private sanctuaries and then getting into trouble.

In a recent case HorseWorld and the RSPCA had to rescue 20 horses and ponies from a private sanctuary.

HorseWorld’s equine welfare manager, Jerry Watkins, said: “The ponies were extremely emaciated and a number of them were showing signs of serious illness.

“The sheds the youngsters were found in were knee deep in mud and there were hazardous materials, equipment and jagged wire lying around.

“Two of the horses were in such poor condition it was decided to put them to sleep.”

Although the owners showed remorse for the condition of the animals and cooperated fully with the charities, Jess Winchester of HorseWorld said people don’t know what they’re getting themselves into.

“Everyone is very well meaning, but often people take on more than they can cope with,” she said.

“A private sanctuary is set up, people in the area get to hear of it and before long you’re taking in every waif and stray and you become swamped.”

She said the charity is encouraging horse lovers to work more closely with existing sanctuaries.

“We want people to loan horses from us. Then they will have ongoing support and help. We offer advice and support to everyone who loans one of our animals.

We are always at the end of the phone if there are any concerns. We can then prevent cases like the recent rescue from happening.”

For more information visit: www.horseworld.org.uk