AN author who has written a number of books about equine care and behaviour has appeared in court charged with the neglect of four horses.

Lesley Skipper, 60, and her husband, Brian, 55, are being prosecuted by the RSPCA after an inspector found the animals being kept in stables that were piled high with old bedding and which had problems with hooves or teeth.

Three of the four animals taken into RSPCA care were eventually put down.

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Mr and Mrs Skipper, of Durham Road, Stockton, each deny four charges of causing unnecessary suffering to four horses by failing to seek veterinary care, and two charges of failing to ensure the welfare of the animals, which they kept at stables on Sadberge Lane, in Middleton St George, near Darlington.

In prosecution arguments at the start of a five-day trial, being held at Darlington Magistrates’ Court, RSPCA inspector Gary Palmer gave evidence about his visit to the Skippers’ stables on June 14, last year.

He said: “Brian Skipper was trying to cut the hooves on a horse. I thought he was struggling to trim them. The horse had overgrown hooves and when he put its foot down it was unstable and lame.”

Insp Palmer told the court the Skippers had 11 horses, four of which gave cause for concern.

Speaking about two other horses that he found in stables, he said: “They were so raised up in the stables that their heads were nearly touching the ceilings. When the door was opened I could see it had not been cleaned for ages.”

The court was shown footage of a post-mortem examination done on one of the horses, which had severe dental problems, including missing and loose teeth.

Malcolm Whitehead, an equine vet who carried out the examination, said: “There was no doubt that this horse was unable to efficiently chew and it certainly would have been uncomfortable. I believe it had suffered for months.”

When asked by defence counsel, Ann-Marie Gregory, if the average horse owner would have been able to see the horse’s dental problems, he said: “It would have been difficult for them to see in its mouth. They can only go off body condition and whether it was eating. The horse’s poor body condition was extremely apparent.”

The trial continues.