A BOURNEMOUTH man who neglected his horses and left them riddled with parasites was told he had narrowly escaped a jail sentence.

John Henry Mitchell, 66, of Portman Crescent, Southbourne, admitted failing to care for and meet the needs of the horses over a period of seven months, following a case brought by the RSPCA.

He kept the horses, Oreo, Cookie, Cloud and Sky, at a location in Lavender Road, Hordle.

The offences related to the poor body condition and parasite control of all four horses, failing to provide adequate hoof care for two of the horses and failing to take steps to treat one of the horses for a painful lameness issue.

At Southampton Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, Mitchell was handed a lifetime disqualification for owning horses, which he cannot appeal for five years. He was also ordered to pay costs of £300 and a victim surcharge of £85.

RSPCA chief inspector Paul Williams said: “We had been aware of Mitchell’s horses for almost three years, offering advice to help him improve their welfare on many occasions.

"But in March this year the condition of the horses reached the point where we had no choice but to take things further, after Mitchell has failed to act on our advice so many times.

“We called a vet who examined the horses and certified that Oreo, Cookie, Cloud and Sky were suffering prolonged neglect caused by months of malnutrition.

“These horses would have been extremely uncomfortable from the excessive lice and worm burdens they were suffering with. Their feet were overgrown which would have made walking really painful, and their body conditions were just completely unacceptable.

"It is appalling that Mitchell thought it was appropriate to keep horses in this way."

Mitchell was given a community order and a curfew from 8pm and 7am for eight weeks.

Mr Williams added: “In court the District Judge said she could have sent Mitchell to prison for his offences, but in light of his guilty plea and age she handed him a community order instead."

Mitchell, who represented himself in court, told the court he had owned horses for 52 years and is of traveller background and that he sorted the horses' hooves once a year.