A cheeky trio of ponies who evaded capture for more than a week have been caught — in a tennis court.

The ponies were abandoned and left to run loose in a park in the Bishop Auckland area of County Durham just before Christmas.

Locals spotted the trio on several occasions, but each time the RSPCA and the British Horse Society (BHS) were called, the ponies could not be caught.

Finally on 29 December, a quick-thinking member of the public spotted the colts trudging through deep snow in Princes Street and tempted them into the tennis courts with hay.

He swiftly closed the gate and called the RSPCA.

A BHS welfare officer supplied more hay, water and a padlock for the gate to secure the ponies for the night so arrangements could be made for a more permanent solution.

The trio, who have been named after tennis stars Andre Agassi, Pancho Gonzales and Rafael Nadal, were taken to a nearby yard the following day.

“The ‘tennis court trio’ may have evaded capture for a while, but thanks to a great joint effort between local people, the BHS and ourselves at the RSPCA, they were safely captured,” said RSPCA equine rehoming officer Jacqui Wilson.

“Now three weeks on, they are lovely, friendly young colts who have a great future ahead of them, so it’s very sad to think their previous owners thought it was ok to just let them loose when they decided they didn’t have any use for them.

“Anything could have happened to them or to the public had they been left to roam freely for much longer.”

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She added it is “really irresponsible” to abandon horses, but the ongoing horse crisis means this is something they see “so often” now.

No owner has come forward to claim the ponies and the RSPCA is seeking homes for them.

“Unfortunately foals like these are irresponsibly bred and have little or no value,” added Ms Wilson.

“We did have some reports that a man was seen before Christmas, chasing them out of a lorry near the town’s rugby club, so if anyone with any more information about this can call our inspector’s appeal line number on 0300 1238018.”

BHS regional manager Wendy Suddes added: “We are very fortunate indeed that members of the public cared enough to act and that the RSPCA were in a position to offer these poor foals respite.”

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