A Suffolk woman has been banned from keeping horses and given a suspended prison sentence for allowing her pony’s hooves to grow so long it could barely walk.

Marilyn Read, 68, of Home Farm, Mitford Road, Benhall, was sentenced at Ipswich magistrates court on Monday, 8 October after pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a spotted mare, Firefly.

Read was banned from keeping equines for two years and given a 12-week prison sentence which was suspended for a year.

Eighteen other ponies and donkeys belonging to Read were signed over to the RSPCA.

The court heard Read had become depressed following the death of her partner and her mother developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The case was brought by the RSPCA after the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH) was called to Read’s rented field in Iken, near Woodbridge, after a call from a member of the public.

Firefly, 12, was examined on site by an independent vet and an RSPCA inspector and was deemed to be suffering. As well as severely overgrown hooves she had laminitis and found it very painful to walk.

Read agreed that 9.2hh Firefly should be taken to ILPH Hall Farm in Norfolk for treatment. She will eventually be rehomed through the charity’s loan scheme.

ILPH field officer Michael Smith said: “There’s no doubt that the new Animal Welfare Act that came into force on 6 April this year, made it easier for the ILPH and RSPCA to act, as it places more responsibility on the owners of animals to ensure they don’t suffer.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (18 October, ’07)