Charity still has 58 Amersham horses in its care, 10 years after major welfare case

Horse and donkeys were found in appalling conditions at Spindle Farm
Horse and donkeys were found in appalling conditions at Spindle Farm.

A charity involved in a major British horse welfare case 10 years ago still has 58 of the equines in its care.

Redwings Horse Sanctuary is gearing up to the mark the 10th anniversary of the notorious Spindles Farm case, which gave rise to one of the biggest equine welfare operations in British history.

The operation unfolded at Amersham, in Buckinghamshire, from January 9, 2008. The charity had responded to an urgent call from the RSPCA to help rescue more than 100 horses and donkeys living in horrific conditions.

The animals were found in varying states of emaciation, covered in lice and suffering from overgrown feet. The carcasses of more than 30 horses and donkeys laid around them.

The case saw the first effective use of new powers under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which enables the removal of animals from situations where they are suffering or are highly likely to suffer as authorised by a veterinary surgeon. It ensured every horse and donkey was transported to places of safety as quickly as possible.

Redwings initially took 21 of the most ill and vulnerable equines back to its Norfolk Horse Hospital for immediate treatment. Over the next few years, it offered a safe forever home to 60 horses and donkeys from Spindles Farm, as well as six foals born to rescued mares.

Rumpel, left, and Esther are two of Redwings' Amersham survivors.
Rumpel, left, and Esther are two of Redwings’ Amersham survivors.

Despite their terrible ordeals and extensive veterinary treatment, an incredible 58 Amersham survivors remain in Redwings’ care 10 years on – 46 horses and donkeys are enjoying life at the Sanctuary, while a further 12 have been rehomed to loving guardian homes through its rehoming programme.

Redwings plans a series of activities and events throughout 2018 to recognise the Amersham survivors, including the launch of a new fund to help care for them for the next 10 years.

“Amersham was a momentous rescue that not only left a mark on Redwings, but the wider public too,” Redwings’ chief executive Lynn Cutress said.

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

“The rescue also saw colleagues from various animal welfare organisations, including Blue Cross, Horse Trust, RSPCA and World Horse Welfare, unite, inspiring numerous multi-agency operations thereafter.

Rumpel was a terrified youngster when rescued.
Rumpel was a terrified youngster when rescued.

“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.

“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 these horses and donkeys rescued from that terrible place are still enjoying happy lives 10 years on.”

Cutress said Redwings is 100% funded by donations, and the outpouring of support following the rescue was overwhelming. She hoped that the public would show their generosity again by donating to its new Amersham fund.

The heaviest sentence handed down in the case was six months imprisonment, with an order to pay costs of £400,000. Sentences imposed on other members of the same family included supervision and community service.

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