Arabs found terrified, shuddering in pain and trapped in filthy stables are “unrecognisable” a year on thanks to rescuers’ efforts.
In September 2018 31 Arabs were rescued as part of a multi-agency operation in Blackpool. Of these, 11 horses had to be put down on veterinary advice.
A spokesman for the RSPCA said: “When the charity’s rescuers arrived at the premises, they had to use a hammer and screwdriver to smash open stable doors where mounds of dirty bedding had built up as the animals had been shut inside for weeks.
“Some of the animals were suffering from such crippling lameness as a result of their neglect that their hooves were left curling in a way that is known in the horse world as ‘Aladdin’s slippers’. Some were in such pain, their legs shook as they staggered out. One horse collapsed as she tried to make her way off the pile of muck which had built up in the stables.”
RSPCA equine welfare operations manager Gareth Johnson said when he arrived at the scene it was “hard to take in” at first, with stables filled knee-high in muck and the emaciated, filthy horses inside.
“Some were shuddering from the pain from their overgrown feet, others terrified to be touched, and some with their withers almost reaching the door frame because of the level of filth that had been allowed to build up,” he said.
“I remember one horse in particular took over an hour for us to coax him down off of the muck and out of the stable as his hooves had curled up and over and were causing him so much pain. He hadn’t been out of the box for so long, he was just terrified of people. It was distressing to see such majestic horses like these scared and covered in muck.”
Mr Johnson said the charity faced a “tremendous task” in getting the horses out of the stables and loaded into trailers for urgent veterinary treatment.
“We were joined by the owners of a private boarding yard who had agreed to board the horses for us. After being treated by the vets the horses were taken to the yard and that is where the real work started,” he said.
The charity spokesman said one year on the horses are “almost unrecognisable” following months of specialist care and rehabilliation.
“We and the private boarding yard owners have worked tirelessly night and day to help these horses start their lives over. We persisted with kind and gentle handling and after about a month, some started to show signs of responding and gradually they all began to trust us,” said Mr Johnson.
“Looking at them today, I cannot believe they are the same horses. Although their rehabilitation has been some of the most challenging work we’ve done, it’s absolutely some of the most rewarding. We helped bring them back to being horses again, and now it’s time for them to find the forever homes they truly deserve. A special thanks should go to veterinary surgeon Suzanne Green of Greenway Equine Veterinary Services whose expertise changed these horses’ lives.”
The charity is searching for “special homes” for some of the rehabilliated Arabs.
“This is a unique opportunity to rehome very special horses in our care. What these horses went through in their previous home is awful, but it makes me very proud to see them now and I really cannot wait to see them adopted into new homes where they will be loved and properly taken care of, something all of our horses deserve,” said Mr John.
“Some of the horses have been taken on by our partners at Redwings Horse Sanctuary which is wonderful, and we’re very grateful to them as well as Lancashire Police, World Horse Welfare, Bransby Horses and HAPPA for assisting us with the rescue.”
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Six horses were put down on veterinary advice and a further five were put down at a later date on
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Redwings’ welfare veterinary surgeon Roxane Kirton, who attended the rescue, said she had never seen horses in as much pain.
“I was shocked and horrified at the conditions they were living in and I’ve seen some terrible cases of neglect over the years. It’s really nice then to hear of the happy lives the surviving Arabs are now leading and to be involved in the care of the group now living at Redwings,” she said.
“We specialise in sanctuary care and the group we’ve provided a home for are quite elderly and require intensive care for issues, such as ongoing lameness, dental problems and liver disease, as a result of their previous dreadful neglect. A couple of them are also still very shy around humans which is not surprising. Unfortunately this means they won’t be appropriate candidates for our rehoming scheme in the future, but we are very happy to provide them with a safe home and all the love we can for the rest of their lives.”