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Cold weather blamed for condition of horses
A MAN accused of neglecting four horses yesterday blamed the freezing winter weather for the animals being left in squalid stables.
Brian Skipper, 56, said temperatures of -20C stopped him from mucking out the block in Sadberge Lane, Middleton St George, near Darlington, for more than six months.
Darlington Magistrates’ Court was told that four of Mr Skipper’s 11 horses, which he owned alongside his 61-year-old equine author wife, Lesley, were taken into care by the RSPCA in June last year.
Three of the animals were later put down.
The court heard Mr Skipper allowed the horses to sleep on more than a foot-and-a-half of dirty bedding and failed to book them in for veterinary appointments – despite accepting the animals suffered from overgrown hooves and digestion problems.
The couple, of Durham Road, Stockton, both deny four counts of causing unnecessary suffering to the horses and two charges of failing to ensure the animals’ welfare.
Mr Skipper said he had always planned to remove the bedding with a mechanical digger when the weather improved.
He said: “We built up a family of horses, kept a good environment and looked after them properly.
“We had a routine of mucking out but, because of the severe weather, I had to use very deep litter.
“It was -20C and we needed to give the horses warmth, the bedding got deeper and it was impossible to dig them out by hand.”
Mr Skipper, who suffers from bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, denied not booking his horses in for surgery and refuted suggestions from Kevin Campbell, prosecuting, that a 23-year-old mare was left emaciated.
He added: “One of the stallions had severe foot problems and the vet didn’t expect him to survive.
“We worked with him and he made a full recovery and had booked him in for another operation when the weather conditions stopped it.
“Horses can deteriorate very quickly and the mare was being fed extra supplements, as were the other horses.
“She was underweight, but when she was out to grass she looked extremely well.”
The case continues.