A pony found with “monstrous horny growths” for feet due to years of neglect has been rescued from filthy confinement.

Belgian animal protection organisation Animaux en Peéril (ASBL) was notified of the pony, and a horse, in need on 17 March.

A welfare officer visited the site in Picardy Wallonia, a town in south Belgium.

The pair were kept in “makeshift” boxes in 60cm-deep manure, “so much that the head of the horse struck the low ceiling”.

The horse and pony had been kept in these conditions for at least three months.

When removed from their stables, the pair were “soiled with droppings from head to toe” and riddled with lice.

Both had a body condition score of 1, “the last stage before death”.

“The pony weighed just 70 pounds, the weight of a big dog,” said an ASBL spokesman.

“But the most striking thing is the condition of the feet of the animals. [The pony’s] limbs were extended by two enormous horny masses which curve and make a complete turn on themselves, plus another half-revolution for good measure.

“We have seen our lot of unmanaged and disproportionate feet with sometimes 180 degree rotations, but the spiral 540 degrees (one and a half turns) that we see here represents a heartbreaking first in a 24-year career.”

The horse and pony were freely given up to ASBL.

“The facts, however dramatic, had never been reported because the equines were not visible from the public road: relegated to the back of a block of garages,” the spokesman said.

“The individual who detained them declared that he wanted to get rid of [them]. It is on this voluntary basis the rescue took place, without the usual hostility in such a case.”

The horse and pony were carefully transported to the ASBL centre and assessed by a vet.

The vet found the chestnut pony was around 18 years old and his feet had not been trimmed for around 10 years.

The grey horse is believed to be a similar age and was also suffering from neglected feet.

ASBL staff washed the horse and pony and treated them for lice.

They were rugged up, placed in quarantine, and fed and watered before being wormed.

24 hours after arriving at the centre the pair were treated by a farrier.

“He removed most of the monstrous horny growths, but it cannot all be removed at once,” the spokesman said.

“The pony compensated for his handicap for so long that correcting the posture at once would cause additional pain.

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“The return to normality will be progressive.”

A report from the vet will be sent to the public prosecutor’s office, who has two months to decide whether to take the case to court.

“It is impossible to imagine the distress of the last few years, the omnipresent suffering, the hunger that gnaws and disintegrates, the torture of itching, the confinement in the impenetrable air,” added the spokesman.