A man has been handed a suspended jail term and banned from keeping horses after a mare suffered such severe injuries from a halter rope around her face that she had to be put to sleep.

Stephen Lees, 61, was found guilty of an Animal Welfare Act offence in his absence, and sentenced on 13 May at Mold Magistrates’ Court.

A statement from the RSPCA said that one of their inspectors Jenny Anderton attended a farm in St Asaph, Wales, in October 2019 to respond to welfare concerns about a grey Arab mare.

The horse was seen in a field with a roller around her body and a rope headcollar on her head, with the lead rope dangling to the floor. The horse repeatedly stood on the rope, causing the head collar to tighten more and more each time.

The statement added that Lees was urged to seek urgent medical attention for the mare and to find a veterinary surgeon who could dart her if she could not be caught.

However, Ms Anderton witnessed Lees trying to catch the mare by driving after her in a vehicle and beeping the horn repeatedly, something which caused the horse “great distress”. He told the charity that he had “absolutely no intention of incurring any vet bills”.

‘Unnecessary pain’

The RSPCA later contacted a vet, who was able to sedate the horse with a dart. Sadly, the injuries to the horse caused by the rope were so severe that she had to be put to sleep to prevent further suffering.

Vets found that bone on the horse’s head had been left exposed and there were deep wounds on the underside of the jaw area. Wounds were filled with maggots and eggs.

“Veterinary opinion concluded that the horse had been caused unnecessary pain and suffering by having had a rope halter tied to her face and being placed into a field,” added the statement.

Lees was sentenced to 18 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.

He was also disqualified from keeping all equines for 18 months and ordered to undertake 25 rehabilitation days over the next year and a half. In addition, he must pay £600 in costs and a £122 victim surcharge.

RSPCA chief inspector Leanne Hardy said: “We urged the man to seek veterinary attention for the horse and to get help in catching the distressed horse if this was needed, but this was not heeded.

“At the site our inspector Jenny Anderton instead witnessed the man driving after the horse in a vehicle and beeping the horn repeatedly. This would only have caused the horse great distress and only made a bad situation even worse.

“RSPCA Cymru brought an independent vet to the site who was able to sedate the horse, remove the rope and check her over. Sadly, the injuries were so severe that they were of the opinion she should be put to sleep to prevent further suffering.”

Find out what’s inside the latest issue of Your Horse

Get the latest issue

Check out our latest subscription offer