10 years on: remembering the horrors of Spindles Farm

  • An equine welfare charity is holding commemorative events throughout 2018 to mark 10 years since the harrowing Spindles Farm crisis.

    Redwings Horse Sanctuary is running activities and fundraisers in memory of the horses who died and to honour the survivors of the horrific case.

    On 9 January 2008, 32 Redwings staff responded to an urgent call for help from the RSPCA to help rescue more than 100 horses and donkeys at a farm in Amersham, Bucks.

    Staff from the Blue Cross, the Horse Trust and World Horse Welfare also took part in the operation.

    This donkey was so weak he had to be carried down the lorry ramp on his arrival at Redwings

    The animals were found in varying states of emaciation, suffering from overgrown feet, covered in lice, and surrounded by bodies of more than 30 others.

    The case was the first high-profile use of powers under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to remove the other equines from the farm.

    Ponies at Spindles Farm

    “I remember seeing the horses and donkeys as they arrived at Redwings and it wasn’t just their appalling physical state that shocked me, but their eerie quietness and sheer sadness,” said Redwings’ chief executive Lynn Cutress.

    “It wasn’t until weeks later when we heard the donkeys sing for their breakfast for the first time that we knew we had turned a corner in their recovery and they finally felt safe.

    “It’s a testament to the hard work and love of our veterinary, rehabilitation and care teams that, despite their horrific neglect, so many of the horses and donkeys rescued from that terrible place are still enjoying happy lives 10 years on.”

    She added the rescue has left a mark on the public’s memory.

    “Never before had people’s eyes been so opened to the suffering of equines in this country,” said Ms Cutress.

    “The use of the new powers under the Animal Welfare Act was a real ground-breaking moment for the animal welfare community and has gone on to revolutionise how we save horses in need ever since.”

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    The landmark case will be remembered through events throughout 2018, including the launch of a new fund to help care for the surviving horses and donkeys for the next decade.

    The charity initially took 21 of the most vulnerable equines to its Norfolk headquarters for immediate treatment.

    It has since offered a home to 60 equines and six foals born to mares rescued from Spindles Farm.

    A total of 58 survivors remain in Redwings’ care, 46 still at its bases and 12 living in private yards through the charity’s guardianship scheme.

    James Gray, who owned Spindles Farm at the time, was ordered to pay £600,000 following a lengthy legal process — involving an appeal by Mr Gray and his co-defendants — and served 12 weeks of his eight-month prison sentence behind bars. He was given a lifetime ban from keeping horses.

    His son, James Jr, was sentenced to an 18-month supervision order, while James Gray’s wife, Julie, and two daughters Jodie and Cordelia, were each found guilty of two counts of failing to protect animals with each ordered to undertake 150 hours of community service. The family was banned from keeping horses for 10 years.

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