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A man who left two horses and a foal to become so emaciated the mare could no longer produce milk claimed he felt he had done all he could to care for them.

Neil Harper, of Montacute, Somerset, was found guilty of three counts of causing unnecessary suffering to three horses on 1 June at Taunton Magistrates’ court.

The 38-year-old was found to have failed to investigate and address the cause of grey gelding Aramis’ weight loss, failed to ensure six-week-old colt Tristan had received adequate nutrition and failed to investigate or address the poor condition of his dam Meggy.

The RSPCA was called by members of the public concerned for the horses’ welfare last year.

Inspector Marie Griffiths said: “It was heartbreaking to see horses so extremely thin and undernourished and particularly upsetting to find that Meggy had suffered such weight loss that she was physically unable to produce milk to nourish her young foal.

“To let these horses get into such a shocking state is inexcusable. Aramis had been left to suffer so badly, he sadly passed away, but thankfully both Meggy and her foal Tristan have made a brilliant recovery and I hope that they will now go on to live out their days in wonderful, loving homes.”

Harper had pleaded not guilty at an earlier hearing, saying he felt he had done all he could to care for his animals.

Meggy and Tristan, who were seized by police and given into the RSPCA’s care at the time they were found, have been signed over to the charity and will be rehomed.

Harper was banned from keeping horses for life. He was also fined £400 and ordered to pay £1,000 in costs.

The disqualification order was suspended for six weeks to allow him time to rehome the other horses in his care.