In January 2008 RSPCA inspectors and police officers attended Spindles Farm in Amersham and found what has been described as one of the worst cases of animal cruelty the UK has ever seen.
Over 100 horses, ponies and donkeys were found in the most horrific conditions; 34 were already dead. These poor creatures were found barely alive, crammed in filthy pens and standing on the dead bodies of their companions. A large scale rescue operation was mounted by animal welfare charities from across the country. It took eight days to complete due to the number of animals and their appalling condition. 115 animals were rescued and taken to animal welfare charities to recover.
As the closest welfare charity, The Horse Trust gave sanctuary to 14 of the sickest animals. It cost over £150,000 to nurse them back to health. All horses required monitoring around-the-clock as they were starving, emaciated, depressed, and suffering from a variety of serious health problems. The sickest animals were unable to stand without help. Sadly, some of the ponies had to be put to sleep later due to conditions linked to their poor start in life.
As tragic as this story is, there were some happy endings and thanks to the generous support of the public and the dedication and commitment of The Horse Trust staff, the remaining horses, ponies and donkeys now have a secure, healthy and happy future. A few of these horses are detailed below:
When Disney was rescued from Spindles Farm he was very ill and dangerously thin. After two years of specialist treatment and care from The Horse Trust staff, he had more than doubled in weight and made a full and fantastic recovery. Disney has now been happily re-homed with the Horse Rangers Association where he helps to transform the lives of disadvantaged young people by helping them learn how to ride and care for horses.
Star was only 6 months old when he arrived and was the youngest pony rescued from Spindle’s Farm. Tiny Star was massively underweight, weighing only 197kg rather than the expected 250kg. Star was so weak he could not even make it up the one-inch step into his stable unaided. Thanks to veterinary treatment and round-the-clock care Star made an amazing recovery and four years after his rescue, he was backed to ride and drive, and wowed spectators in a driving demonstration at Blenheim Horse Trials.
Duke, a gorgeous thoroughbred gelding, was severely underweight and suffering from potentially life-threatening infections. After intensive veterinary treatment and care Duke began to recover, but sadly his troubles were far from over. Duke went on to develop Sarcoids on his left eye. These small tumours caused extreme irritation and painful swelling. Removing them surgically would have been almost impossible. Duke travelled over 200 miles to the University of Liverpool’s Equine Hospital where he received specialist treatment to remove the tumours. Thankfully Duke’s treatment was successful but he has since suffered recurring bouts of colic which were so severe he had to undergo life-saving surgery at The Royal Veterinary College. Duke has been through so much in his short life, but thanks to the round-the-clock care and specialist treatment given at The Horse Trust and the generosity of our supporters, he has now been backed and is living life to the full.
Duke’s health problems mean that he can’t be re-homed, but we guarantee that he will have a happy and secure home at The Horse Trust for the rest of his life. Duke is our very own modern day Black Beauty and dearly loved by staff and visitors alike.
Other Spindles Farm survivors enjoying their second chance at life include donkeys Lola and Nora who settled into life at The Horse Trust in the donkey field with ex-Battersea Children’s Zoo recruit Briar.