An abandoned horse surviving on just tree bark ends up as a ‘walking skeleton’

The RSPCA and Police are calling for the public’s help to identify the neglectful owners


Maggie Just Rescued

Maggie, a young 3 year old horse, and her foal have been rescued after being abandoned in a flooded field in Hertfordshire. The horse was close to death and described as ‘looking like a walking skeleton’. Requiring urgent veterinary attention, Maggie was sent immediately to the Royal Veterinary College for emergency treatment, after which she was sent to The Horse Trust, a Buckinghamshire based charity, for 24 hour care and attention.

Maggie had been surviving by eating the bark from a tree and showed signs of serious neglect. When she was discovered, Maggie, was seriously underweight and also suffering from overgrown feet, a lice infestation, mange and numerous other health problems.

Maggie just 3 years old already had a foal that was found with her in the field. In caring for her foal, a healthy 6 month old filly, Maggie had given everything she could from her own body and her own health had suffered seriously. Following a report from an alarmed member of the public the RSPCA took action to rescue Maggie. It took almost a week to catch Maggie as she was not used to being handled and was terrified of people. She eventually had to be sedated with tranquiliser darts in order to rescue her. Despite Maggie’s terrible condition it seems no-one will be prosecuted for this appalling neglect as her owner cannot be traced.

This case is not unique as sadly there has been an alarming increase in the number of horses being abandoned across the UK. In February 2013 five horses are known to have died within five miles of where Maggie was found. There may be other cases that may not have been reported or discovered. The RSPCA and local police are calling on the public to pass on any information that will help to identify the owners.

Maggie is now being cared for by the dedicated staff at The Horse Trust and is gradually learning to trust people. As her foal was ready to be weaned the foal has been sent to a specialist rescue centre for raising young horses.

Although still very thin and showing signs of her ordeal Maggie has slowly started to gain weight. The vets assessment of recovery is only 50/50 but The Horse Trust is hopeful given the specialist care and attention they provide. The hope is that the loving care and attention of the staff at The Horse Trust can help her pull through.

Jeanette Allen, Chief Executive of The Horse Trust commenting on this appalling case, said, “Maggie is just one of the victims of the national equine welfare crisis. In the UK there are too many horses and not enough homes. Horses like Maggie have little commercial value and sadly this means more and more horses are being abandoned and left to fend for themselves. Without The Horse Trust cases like this will end in premature horse fatalities, which is why we are so grateful for the support and donations that our members make that enable us to continue. Maggie is one of the lucky ones and although she is still very ill and her future is uncertain we are doing all we can to save her. She is a real fighter and we all have our fingers (and hooves) crossed for her”.

If you have any information about Maggie you should call the RSPCA inspectorate appeal line on 0300 123 8018. If you would like to help Maggie you can make a donation at or by calling 01494 488464.

The Horse Trust, founded in 1886, is the oldest horse charity in the UK. Based at Speen, Buckinghamshire, it provides a place of retreat for working horses that have served their country or community and nurtures them throughout their final years. The charity also gives sanctuary to horses, ponies and donkeys that have suffered and need special treatment. The Horse Trust funds non-invasive research that advances knowledge of equine diseases, improving diagnosis and treatment and reducing suffering among equines worldwide. The charity also offers training for professionals and owners, with a focus on equine welfare and quality of life assessment.

The Horse Trust depends on the support of the public to look after retired working horses. It costs the charity an average of £12 per day to look after each horse at the sanctuary, which includes the costs of grooms, forage, farriery and veterinary care. The Horse Trust spends £50,000 a year on vets bills to keep our horses, ponies and donkeys fit and healthy. To donate to The Horse Trust, please visit, or contact the charity on 01494 488 464 or

The Horse Trust’s Home of Rest for Horses in Buckinghamshire is currently closed to the public as we are undertaking extensive repair and renovation work. This work includes replacing the 40 year old stable blocks, building a new intensive care unit and equine treatment clinic to help better care for rescued and retired working horses at our Home of Rest. We will also build our first ever sand school and horse walker which will provide therapeutic exercise for our older horses and ponies and be used for backing and training younger rescued horses. The Horse Trust will re-open to visitors in spring/summer 2013.

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