A woman who left more than 20 horses in “dreadful” conditions has been convicted on five counts under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Valerie Pritchard, 65, of Cuminestown, Turriff, Aberdeenshire appeared at Banff Sheriff Court yesterday (6 October).

World Horse Welfare field officer Doug Howie visited a field at Ms Pritchard’s farm on Wednesday 14 May 2009, in response to a telephone call from a member of the public.

He found a foal which had been still-born that morning along with a herd of more than 20 semi-feral horses in a poached field with several areas of marshland, little grass and no shelter.

A two-year-old filly could not get to her feet, was sweating and her eyes were rolling.

A vet was requested and shortly afterwards the horse was put to sleep.

Several visits were needed to be made to assess the situation and determine the best course of action.

On one of these visits 12 to 15 carcasses of horses were found in a shed.

The remaining 23 horses (one of which is pictured above), which were all underweight, had poor feet and were covered in lice, were taken to World Horse Welfare’s Belwade Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Aberdeenshire.

Ms Pritchard admitted to one charge of failing to dispose of carcases but denied four charges of causing unnecessary suffering and one charge of failing to provide for the welfare of her horses.

She is due to be sentenced at the same court on 1 November.

Speaking after the case, Mr Howie said: “This case shows a blatant disregard to care for these animals.

“They were kept in dreadful conditions and had never been wormed, vaccinated, or seen a vet for many years.

“These horses could have easily died if left in the location where we found them but now many of them will go on to lead happy, useful lives in loving new homes.”