EIGHT abandoned horses riddled with worms and lice have been rescued after they were found in a muddy field.

Five mares and three geldings were transported to Burnley-based HAPPA (Horses and Ponies Protection Association) after a mammoth operation which took several hours.

The horses, who were abandoned in Selby, North Yorkshire, were in desperate need of medical attention. Staff also believe a number of the animals had previously been racehorses, while several had never experienced human interaction.

The joint rescue mission was carried out between HAPPA, equine welfare charity Bransby Horses and the Retraining of Racehorses Association.

Amanda Berry, HAPPA’s head of equine operations, said: “The horses were in fight-or-flight mode and didn’t understand what was expected of them.

“The staff were incredible and I applaud their efforts, patience and determination which paid off in the end and the horses responded calmly.”

Lincoln-based Bransby Horses were called in after the need for their assistance in the form of a specialist rescue pen system.

Ryan Rouse, Head of external welfare at Bransby Horses, said: “Bransby Horses have a long standing relationship with HAPPA that our founder Peter Hunt implemented many years ago.

“I am sure he would be proud to see how both charities have developed to tackle the growing national equine welfare crisis.

“On this occasion, a group of thoroughbreds have the chance of a bright future because of the recent collaborative operation to safely round up and remove the mixed aged herd.”

The thoroughbreds will now be rehabilitated at HAPPA’s Shores Hey Farm, receiving treatment from the equine care team. It is hoped that they will then be placed in new homes through the charity’s loan scheme.

A spokesman said: “They will now be given a lifetime of love and happiness, safe in the charity’s care. We will never relinquish ownership throughout the remainder of their lives.”

As HAPPA were alerted to the presence of the animals on Valentine’s Day, the charity has chosen a selection of romance-themed names for all the rescues, including Romeo, Apollo, Valentine and Rose.

It costs around £19,000 a week for HAPPA to rehabilitate and care for the equines they have at Shores Hey Farm at any one time.

For more information on how you could help, visit happa.org.uk