A professional groom from St Albans who caused "unimaginable suffering" to a two-month-old foal has been banned from keeping horses for three years.
Pascale Musk, 35, admitted causing unnecessary suffering to her dun coloured foal named Star between June 8 and August 15 last year.
RSPCA officials brought charges after finding the foal’s head collar had embedded so far into his nose and poll area that his skin and hair had grown over the leather head collar and the nasal bone had been damaged. As Star grew, the head collar had cut further and further into his face.
Musk, who kept her horses at Lower Woodside Farm in Hatfield, pleaded guilty to the charges on Monday at St Albans Magistrates Court, after originally pleading not-guilty in January.
The court heard how RSPCA officials, a vet and Nicholas White from World Horse Welfare went to the farm last August to assist with the catching Star and her mother - a 16-year-old bay mare named Ivy.
Collectively they noted that Star had a large weeping wound on his face, and noted a strong smell of rotting flesh. On later inspection, maggots were found in the wounds.
Due to the extent of Star’s injuries from the collar, and the fact that he was still suckling, both mare and foal were taken possession of and transported to the vet for urgent surgery to remove Star’s head collar and treat his injuries.
RSPCA staff also noticed there was no provision for fresh water, various hazards in the field and various of the animals hooves were overgrown.
The prosecution said that due to the severity of what was going, urgent and immediate action was needed.
David Matthew, prosecuting, said the foal had been suffering for at least two weeks.
Nigel Weller, defending, said his client was "deeply sorry" for the pain she had caused Star. He said Musk was aware of a problem but did not realise how tight the collar was.
He said that Musk was making daily attempts to try and catch Star, and was going to ask for help before the RSPCA arrived.
Musk, who has been a groom since the age of 16, was ordered to pay £500 costs and pay a £60 victim surcharge.
She will not be able to continue her freelance work as a groom and is to have no involvement with horses in any capacity until the end of her ban.
District Judge Inyundo also ordered Musk, who was visibly upset throughout the trial, to perform 100 hours unpaid work within 12 months.
He said: "Ms Musk had significant experience which caused difficulty in the defence submission. In this case, she ought to have been able to, and should have, acted more quickly."
After the sentencing, RSPCA inspector Tina Ward said: "This was an experienced horse owner who knew that there was a problem but did nothing about it.
"The foal could have been prevented from suffering and trauma if the defendant had simply sought help or advice and loosened the collar."
Star has been nursed back to health by the charity World Horse Welfare. He will be left with permanent scarring and damage to his facial bones, but will soon be ready for rehoming.
Claire Phillips, farm manager at one of the charity’s four rescue and rehoming centres across the UK, said how much Star has changed since receiving around-the-clock care from the charity.
She said: “Star was brought to us following the surgical removal of his head collar. He had been in a lot of pain and had never been handled so was fearful of humans when he first came in.
“In a matter of days though he became more confident and allowed us to clean his wounds with minimal fuss. Sadly, he will be left with permanent scarring and damage to his facial bones, but this will not prevent him from leading a normal life in the future.”