'Skeletal' horse saved after Facebook selfie

Ruth Doherty

'Skeletal' horse saved after Facebook selfie 
'Skeletal' horse saved after Facebook selfie

A rider has been banned from keeping horses after eagle-eyed Facebook users spotted pictures of her riding a skeletal ex-racehorse online.

Charlotte McPherson, from Kidderminster, Worcestershire, was reported to the RSPCA after horse lovers spotted her riding her skinny thoroughbred horse Thor at a public event in March.

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She had covered the horse's hindquarters with an exercise sheet, designed to keep the horse warm, but it also prevented event organisers from seeing the horse's protruding bones.

But after official photographs of the event were released on Facebook, dozens of people reported her to animal charities - and she admitted two counts of animal cruelty at Birmingham Magistrates' Court earlier this week.

Pictures of the underweight horse, whose race name is Hoare Abbey, but is known as Thor, were posted on social media which sparked an investigation.

The 22-year-old was charged with causing unnecessary suffering by failing to investigate and treat the cause of his poor body condition, and failing to protect him from pain, suffering, injury and disease by riding him in this state.

She has been disqualified from keeping horses for 10 years after appearing at Birmingham Magistrates Court on Tuesday 6 December.

She was also given a 12-month community order, 160 hours unpaid work and must pay £300 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

The 10-year-old horse is in better hands now after the RSPCA intervened.

RSPCA inspector Suzi Smith, who investigated, said: "Thor looked incredibly thin and you could see pretty much every bone in his body.

"He was obviously unwell, and after a vet examined his body, his body condition was rated zero out of five because he was that thin.

"McPherson continued to ride him twice a week in this condition, including at a fun ride in Bissell Wood, Blakedown, in March.

"Not only was he thin, but he had a sore on his spine which was directly underneath the saddle.

"Thor would have been in a lot of pain while he was being ridden."

After a thorough examination, it was revealed Thor's drastic weight loss was because of a high worm egg count from not being wormed properly.

Suzi added: "It was a slow progress to get him on the road to recovery as he would not have survived a wormer straightaway due to the condition he was in.

"Within five months he had put on weight and been properly wormed, where he soon showed that he had a zero worm egg count.

"We are so thankful to the Retraining of Racehorses charity who assisted with the veterinary costs in this case, and also to everyone in 'Team Thor' who provided the care and attention he needed.

"Thor has done amazingly well and he has now been rehomed.

"He is loving his new life and when he trots across a field, you would find it hard to believe what he was like earlier this year."

Organiser of the Fun Ride at Bissell Wood, Neville Cope, 74, said: "I'm over the moon that she has now been seriously penalised because I was appalled by it.

"She hid the rib cage of the horse by putting a blanket over it.

"We have a vet who goes around especially to make sure they're all okay but the rug on the horse meant they couldn't see.

"When she got back from the ride and took the rug off we were all so appalled by it.

"I'm delighted by the justice which has been dealt and quite right too.

"I've been involved in horses all my life and never ever have I seen a horse in as bad a state as this, I was absolutely disgusted.

"We have a vet to make sure all the horses were alright but unfortunately we missed it until after."