St Albans foal suffered from wounds caused by embedded collar

World Horse Welfare's field officer Nick White and Star

World Horse Welfare's field officer Nick White and Star - Credit: Archant

A St Albans groom was banned from owning or keeping horses after causing unnecessary suffering to a foal in her care.

Pascale Musk, of no fixed abode, originally pleaded not guilty in January to animal cruelty charges but changed her plea before sentencing on Monday at St Albans Magistrates Court.

The 35-year-old failed to adequately check and maintain the fitting of her pony colt’s head collar, which led it to getting embedded in the animal’s head and causing infected wounds.

RSPCA officers went to the field in Lower Woodside Farm, Hatfield, where Star, a two-month-old dun coloured foal and his mother Ivy, a 16-year-old bay mare were kept last summer.

When they saw the extent of the pony’s injuries, which included a large weeping wound on his face from where the collar cut as he grew, they took possession of the animal and its mother on August 15.

The court heard Star also suffered a further wound behind his ears and that there was a strong smell of rotting flesh from him as well as maggots in his wounds.

As a result of the collar becoming embedded in his head the bone was deformed as it had not been able to grow.

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Prosecution lawyer David Matthew said the injury would have reportedly taken two to three weeks to develop.

Mitigating, Nigel Weller said Musk noticed the head collar was tight on July 20 and from then onwards did all she could to catch Ivy and Star.

He said the key to catching Star was to get his mother first, but she could not corner the animals.

Musk apparently did not want to get external help because strangers would startle Ivy even more and make it difficult to catch Star.

But deputy district Judge Kwame Inyundo said: “Miss Musk had significant [horse] experience which caused difficulty in the defence submission. In light of that, she ought to have been able to, and should have, acted more quickly and more decisively in a situation quite apparent to anyone with equine experience.”

He added that Musk should have done everything that she reasonably could to address the situation as a matter of urgency.

Judge Inyundo sentenced her to a three year disqualification from owning, keeping, or transporting horses, which cannot be appealed for 12 months.

Musk was also ordered to undertake 100 hours of unpaid community service work - to be served within 12 months - and to pay £500 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

Speaking after the court case, Nick White, World Horse Welfare’s field officer for the region, who assisted in the catching of the horses said: “It was obvious that this head collar had been left on for a long time without being removed or adjusted.

“Star had endured this unforgiving head collar eating into his flesh and bone, plagued and infected by flies, during the hottest part of the summer whilst, like all other foals of his age, he continued to grow.”

RSPCA inspector Tina Ward, who first noticed Star’s injuries, said: “This was an experienced horse owner who knew that there was a problem but did nothing about it.

“The foal could have been prevented from suffering and trauma if the defendant had simply sought help or advice and loosened the collar.”

Claire Phillips, farm manager at rescue centre Glenda Spooner Farm, said Star should soon be ready for rehoming: “We really struggled to find homes for our youngsters last year and we desperately need them.

“So if you think you can rehome a youngster like Star, please get in touch.”