A horse rescue charity based in the district has issued a crisis warning after record numbers of horses were abandoned in the area.
The Horses Voice founder Pat Dargue said she knew of at least ten abandoned horses locally that she could not accommodate at her Husbands Bosworth stables.
And she said: “Until recently, surplus horses went abroad because of the horsemeat trade.
“Now there’s been a crackdown – and that’s quite right, I don’t agree with horses going into the food chain – but it means there’s no outlet so these poor animals are just being abandoned.”
The Horse’s Voice was founded by Mrs Dargue in 1986 as a support group, established a centre in 1990, and became a registered charity in 2000.
She said: “I did it because horses are the most abused animals on the planet.
“They have done everything for us, from fighting wars to ploughing fields, and this is how we repay them.”
The charity has 20 acres of land at Husbands Bosworth, and accommodates 19 horses there and at other locations in south Leicestershire.
But Mrs Dargue said: “I’ve never known the situation for abandoned and neglected horses to be as bad as this.
“They’re coming out of the woodwork everywhere, just tied up on tethers and left across the countryside.
“And the problem is we can’t take any more horses here.
“We’re full, and we’re not getting enough people offering our horses a new home.
“We just can’t carry on like this.”
Mrs Dargue said the charity was “desperate for extra funding, desperate for more people to help with the charity’s work, and desperate for homes for recovered horses”.
“If a pony is sick it’s a 24/7 job; you have to hand-feed them every hour or so,” she explained.
“But at the moment we haven’t the funds or the manpower to look after the horses we’re hearing about.”
Britain is home to about 1.35 million horses, of which an estimated 27,000 are tethered – a practice Mrs Dargue abhors.
She said: “You wouldn’t be able to keep a dog like that – or a cow or a sheep.”
More information about the charity is available on its website at www.thehorsesvoice.org.uk