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Durban - “Emaciated”, with open sores on their backs and deep gashes in their hooves, was how NSPCA officials found 33 horses - many of them former race horses - on a Harrismith farm last week.
In total, 18 horses were in such bad shape they had to be put down.
Criminal charges would be brought against the two Gauteng farm owners, the farm manager and other interested parties, said Inspector Mike Allen.
Some of the animals had serious injuries that were no longer treatable, the society said.
A fire ravaged the animals’ grazing area in July and their diets had not been supplemented since, said Allen.
He and his team were alerted to the neglect after the farm put a number of its horses up for sale and a member of the public saw a photograph.
Of the surviving animals, a mare and her foal, were relocated to another property belonging to one of the farm owners, six foals were sent to a trainer at the Vaal Race Course and the remainder were sold to “concerned horse people” living in Harrismith.
The Thoroughbred Breeders Association’s chief executive, Tom Callaghan, was shocked by the situation and has vowed to find out how the animals ended up on the farm.
“In most cases, they are sold in good faith from racing yards. They are usually looked after and have great lives, but sometimes end up with people like this,” he said.
The association would pursue action to ensure the farm owners “never own another horse”.
Association members took the care of their retired horses “very seriously” and were investing ways to improve the care of all horses, said Callaghan.