Woman spared jail after neglected horses left with hooves so overgrown they could barely walk


A woman from Lancashire who neglected her horses so badly four of them had to be put down has been spared jail.

Julie Lee, 51, of Spitten Farm in Accrington, failed to give her six horses, who were kept on a field outside Bury, proper care, leaving them needing treatment from vets, farriers, and dental care. Some of the horses, which included a 12-year-old Shetland pony, were so lame they could hardly walk, after their hooves became overgrown and barely functional.

The horses, which were being kept in a field at Hen Heads Farm on Kings Highway, near Haslingden, were first seen by the RSPCA on October 12 last year, after the charity had been alerted to the neglect by a concerned member of the public. Inspectors Susie Micallef and Alison Fletcher attended, alongside officers from the World Horse Welfare charity.

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There, they found four of the horses had overgrown hooves, with a vet later confirming they were all lame – meaning they were unable to move or stand properly. Three were overweight, and examinations showed some of the horses had not been given proper dental care.

The RSPCA were forced to call out vet Suzanne Green, who tragically had to put three of the horses to sleep at the farm to end their suffering. Although the other three were taken into the charity’s care and transferred to boarding accommodation, a fourth horse, a Bay Welsh mare, had to be put to sleep just three days later because she was suffering so badly.

The 12-year-old Shetland pony, one of the three to be put to sleep at the farm, was in so much pain she could barely move. A statement from Inspector Fletcher said: “she She had extremely overgrown hooves, with the front hooves curling upwards and over.



The Shetland pony was in so much pain she could barely move

“The pony looked extremely uncomfortable in its standing position. Every little move appeared to leave the pony in agony and she was reluctant to move at all. It was obvious that she was in need of urgent veterinary attention.”

The Shetland pony had to be carried off the moor by the two RSPCA inspectors, the vet, and both charity workers, as she had to be put to sleep in the field where she stood. X-rays later confirmed her hooves of her were severely overgrown and had curled up, as well as showing that she was chronically lame.

An appaloosa mare and a gelding, who were both lame and suffering from overgrown hooves, were also put to sleep at the farm by the vet. Officials said the mare was so lame she was shifting weight from one foot to the other to help ease the pain and discomfort, whilst the gelding did not appear to have been treated by the farrier for at least a year.



An appaloosa mare had to be put down at the farm

The Bay Welsh mare who had to be put down had not been given any dental treatment for a “number of years” according to examinations. A fifth horse was suffering from overgrown hooves and dental problems, while a sixth horse had also not received proper dental treatment.

In her statement, the vet said: “The severely overgrown hooves and painful lame hooves were easy to be seen even by a lay person and the owner should have sought both veterinary and farrier attention for this. A responsible horse owner should be expected to provide farrier treatment every four to eight weeks and dental care every 12 months.”

Lee pleaded guilty to three offenses under the Animal Welfare Act and was sentenced at Blackburn Magistrates’ Court last Tuesday, April 12. The magistrates said they agreed to suspend Lee’s prison term because of her previous good character and had given her a reduced sentence of 18 because weeks of her prompt guilty pleas.



A gelding also had to be put down at the farm

She will also have to complete 200 hours of unpaid work, alongside 10 rehabilitation activity sessions. Lee has also been banned from owning horses for the rest of her life, and the two surviving horses will soon be made available for rehoming. She will not be able to appeal the court order for ten years.

After the verdict, Inspector Micallef said: “This was a really harrowing case and all the staff who dealt with it were upset with what happened. The defendant told us she’d just get the knackerman down and have all the horses shot. They’d all just been left in a field unable to walk. This sad case reminds us that treatment of equines such as this simply will not be tolerated.”

Lee also has to pay court costs of £700 and a victim surcharge of £128.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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