The RSPCA has launched an emergency appeal to find foster homes for a “never ending tide” of abandoned young horses. 

The charity said it was currently looking after nearly 600 horses and ponies which have suffered neglect and cruelty – a figure which has more than doubled since last year, with almost half of the animals involved being youngsters.

It has launched the “Stable Future” appeal to find fosterers able temporarily to look after some of the 270 animals which are too young to be ridden.

Sally Learoyd, the RSPCA’s equine rehoming officer, said: “Over the past year we’ve seen a huge increase in the amount of horses being disowned or allowed to get into an appalling state because the trade in horses has collapsed.”

She added: “I’ve heard of young horses being sold for £5 – less than the price of a bottle of wine. I’ve heard of horses being bought and sold in pubs and we’ve come across a case of someone keeping a horse on a tower block balcony and feeding it on kitchen scraps. We have a never-ending tide of young horses coming into our centres. Fostering our youngsters is a way that horse lovers can help us with this problem.”

The recession, rising hay costs and irresponsible breeding are thought to be to blame for the rising number of horses being neglected and abandoned.

An RSPCA spokesman said: “We have found new homes for a record number of horses over the past year but we simply cannot keep up with the flood of animals which need our help because of terrible neglect and cruelty. We face a huge £3.2 million bill just to care for the influx of ponies and horses which does not include vet bills or prosecution costs. To help ease the crisis we are urging people to foster one of our youngsters until it is old enough to be prepared for work and we can find it a new home.”

Ms Learoyd added: “Fostering is a great way for people to have the enjoyment of being around youngsters whilst helping us out in the short-term. Just like teenagers, these young horses need experience of life, a day to day routine and a guiding hand. Being a fosterer is a really rewarding experience. You can see these youngsters’ personalities change and develop as they grow.”

The RSPCA has 594 horses and ponies in its care compared to about 290 in April last year – 266 are youngsters. It rehomed 240 horses last year – 50% more than the previous year.

The youngsters available for fostering are aged between one and three and all happy, healthy and handleable. They are microchipped, will have passports and tetanus vaccinations.

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“If you have a horse, or a few farm animals, a young horse would be great company for them & also give you lot’s of pleasure, one things for sure, a young colt or filly will keep you laughing!

 “There are many benefits of getting a young horse too,  it grows with you, your voice, your commands,  you teach it, you learn together for whatever discipline you have in mind.  You also know it’s not picked up bad vices, like you often get when going for an older horse, who has been passed from owner to owner!!” 

“Take a look at this video, it was taken several months after we rescued some gypsy horses from an auction & possible kill buyers. They had never known what it was like to be loved, never mind to run free,  so for them, it must have felt like they were flying ….I will never forget their excited whinny’s, it truly was awesome! It’s an amazing & proud feeling, to know that you have held out a helping hand, & given a loving home to any unwanted animal.  Turn your speakers up & listen to the sound of happy, healthy little colts, playing for the first time in their lives (sorry, excuse the phone ringing on the video…lol)”  

“If only to hear the whinny’s of excitement, I would do it all over again & again if my health wasn’t deteriorating so fast. So in light of that, I have already found My Bengie, the piebald (black/white) colt, a new forever home, with some friends, their little girl can’t wait to get him…It’s going to be hard for me to say goodbye, but I’ll still be able to see him & under the circumstances, I have no option.  I know he is gong to be very happy, which is my one & only concern.”