Three sentenced after ponies found in 'shocking' state at horse therapy centre in Cornwall

  • ITV News' Alex Lovell speaks to Dawn Vincent from the Mare and Foal Sanctuary.

Three people have been sentenced after ponies were found in a 'shocking' state at an horse therapy centre in Cornwall.

The ponies were left without enough food, water or shelter in 27 degree heat, with rescuers saying it was the worst case they had ever worked on.

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary, in Newton Abbot, were contacted by a concerned member of the public in 2021 and have been nursing the animals back to health.

Senior welfare advisor Rebecca Sherrell was involved in the rescue. She said: "It was the worst case I’ve ever worked on.

Ponies were found in a 'shocking' state when they were rescued. Credit: The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

"I’ve never seen horses that thin before. They were lacking food, water and shelter in 27 degree heat. It’s a case that has really stuck with me. 

“Many of the equines were in a very poor state with conjunctivitis, lice, malnourishment, worm burden, overgrown hooves, heart conditions, alopecia, anemia and chronic inflammation. 

“Their bones showed through their skin, and some were covered in paint brush marks from children’s parties. We also believe some were showing signs of severe depression. It was shocking to see, especially at a place which claimed to offer equine assisted therapy.”

Sarah Baker, Darren Laker and James Baker were sentenced at Truro Crown Court for animal welfare offences relating to animals they kept and cared for at Family Nest Therapy in Par, Cornwall.

The ponies, Poppy, Lola and Sherbert have been nursed back to health. Credit: The Mare and Foal Sanctuary

Sarah Jayne Baker and James Baker both of Eastcliffe Road in Par, were sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for two years, and disqualified from owning animals for life. 

Darren Paul Laker, of Snowland Caravan Site in Par was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for two years, and disqualified from owning horses for 10 years, with no right to appeal for five years. 

After more than a year recovering with the charity, having fully regained their health, three Shetlands; Poppy, Sherbert and Lola now have lifelong sanctuary with The Mare and Foal Sanctuary and are thriving. 

The Mare and Foal Sanctuary provided 14 months of rehabilitation to the ponies. They’re now providing permanent lifelong care to three of the Shetland ponies involved.