Horses across Britain are being abandoned in unprecedented numbers as the recession takes its toll on owners who can no longer afford to keep them, according to a Westcountry charity.
Over-breeding and the recession have caused a surge in horses being dumped, say staff at the Mare and Foal Sanctuary, in Newton Abbot.
The charity is struggling to deal with the increase and staff there have just taken on their latest charge, Stanley – a skewbald young Welsh cob, found in a poor state in a field in south Wales.
Sally Burton, the charity's equine manager, said: "Stanley was found in a field with his tether caught in a tree's branches. He'd probably been there a couple of days.
"If he hadn't been found he wouldn't have survived because he couldn't move. He's recovering now but things like this are happening more and more. We've seen an increase in horses just being abandoned."
She added: "Farmers often find they've suddenly got a horse in their fields that isn't theirs.
"It's because of a combination of things – the recession means people have less money to buy, and care for a horse.
"There's been a collapse in the market for new horses, but there's an over-breeding problem. Breeders are still producing them, but there's no market for them."