AN urgent appeal has been launched by the RSPCA to find foster homes for hundreds of young horses.
The charity currently has 594 horses and ponies in its care due to neglect, cruelty and abandonment.
Almost half of them are youngsters, still too young to be ridden, including 104 in the North region.
The Stable Future appeal aims to find fosterers to temporarily look after them until they are old enough to be prepared for work and can find a new home.
Morpeth farmer Cheryl Watson fostered two horses, Zoe-May and After Eight, a year ago after adopting two RSPCA riding horses. She is using the youngsters to graze a paddock.
She said: “We had sheep on there for quite a while and had a bit of a worm problem so decided to get a couple of ponies to break the worm cycle, which has worked really well. They are really easy to handle, they don’t take up too much time because you don’t have to ride them, and for me they have a really practical benefit.
“I’ve had them about a year and in that time they have become more trusting. I love their curious nature, they want to learn and discover new things. Being on a farm with tractors and quad bikes they are certainly getting some new experiences.”
The recession, rising hay costs and irresponsible breeding are thought to be to blame for the rising number of horses being neglected, with reports of some changing hands in pubs for as little as £5. The RSPCA faces a £3.2million bill just to care for them, without taking account of vet bills or prosecution costs.
Horses available for fostering are between one and three years old and are all happy, healthy and able to be handled. They are microchipped and have passports and tetanus vaccinations.
Foster carers should have experience of handling horses, grazing and be able to provide a home for at least six months.
To apply visit www.rspca.org.uk/stablefuture or call 0300 123 8000.
Donations of spare tack, rugs and equipment would also be welcome.