'Frightened' horses kept in terrible conditions on Wigan foal farm

A brother and sister who allowed a pack of neglected ponies to roam on a Wigan industrial estate have been banned from keeping horses.


Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court heard Aithne Ashurst-O’Shaughnessy and sibling John Declan Ashurst-O’Shaughnessy plead guilty to a string of offences in a prosecution brought by the RSPCA and receive community penalties.

One of the rescued ponies

One of the rescued ponies

Aithne Ashurst-O’Shaughnessy, 23, of George Street, Atherton, admitted seven offences related to the care of seven Welsh-type ponies while her brother pleaded guilty to four charges involving looking after the same animals.

A grey mare was found by RSPCA inspectors with her feet in terrible condition. The animal was lame from severely overgrown hooves, had an abscess and suffered from chronic laminitis.

Five of the ponies were also not protected from pain and suffering because a farrier was not employed to look after their hooves.

The seven animals were also not provided with a suitable living environment.

Frightened ponies were rescued by the RSPCA

Frightened ponies were rescued by the RSPCA

John Declan Ashurst-O’Shaughnessy, 24, admitted failing to provide suitable accommodation for the ponies, not providing them with daily care and supervision to prevent harm coming to them, neglecting the grey mare and not getting a farrier for two grey mares.

Most of the animals were pregnant and one sadly died from complications giving birth after the RSPCA had rescued them.

Animal welfare inspectors found the terrified creatures causing chaos at a glass manufacturer’s site in Hindley after escaping from their grazing grounds.

They had also crossed a main road streaming with traffic during their wanderings.

Rescued ponies

Rescued ponies

RSPCA inspector Alison Fletcher said: “This case highlights the need for responsible equine ownership. Horses need to be contained in a suitable and secure environment.

“There have been a lot of problems with straying horses in Wigan over the years and it causes a risk to the animals and to people.

“The ponies had got off the land where they were originally being kept, gone down a main road and ended up on an industrial estate. It was extremely dangerous for them and they were very fearful.

“This case also highlights the basic needs horses have, like regular foot trimming. If this doesn’t happen it can cause them immense suffering.

Rescued ponies

Rescued ponies

“You can’t just have a pet horse in a field. The costs of looking after them are extremely high and people need to think through what they are going to need before they take on an equine.”

The animals were so frightened they had to be sedated for inspectors’ safety during the operation to remove them on February 2, a day after the welfare charity was called about them.

Defending Aithne Ashurst-O’Shaughnessy, Paul Blanchard said ownership of the horses had been transferred to her from other family members in December 2017 and she had to take responsibility for what subsequently happened to them.

Peter Leather, representing John Declan Ashurst-O’Shaughnessy, said his client admitted neglecting the ponies after being tasked with maintaining the fences and keeping their enclosure secure as well as feeding them hay each day.

District Judge Mark Hadfield gave them both community orders lasting 12 months, with John Declan Ashurst-O’Shaughnessy having to do 120 hours of unpaid work and Aithne Ashurst-O’Shaughnessy being given 70 hours.

They were banned from keeping horses for two years and deprivation orders were made to take the six surviving ponies and their foals away from the Ashurst-O’Shaughnessys.

They were found roaming round a glass manufacturer's site

They were found roaming round a glass manufacturer's site

They also have to pay £2,400 and £1,200 respectively towards the prosecution’s costs along withan £85 victim’s surcharge each.