A WOMAN has been banned from keeping horses or ponies for five years after being found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to a chestnut mare.

Rose Jay was told to find new homes for her five other horses after being sentenced to the ban along with a suspended prison sentence of 12 weeks.

Jay, of Monksfield Lane, Newlands, between Powick and Malvern, must also pay £3,150 costs, including vets' bills.

The pregnant horse, called Sunshine, was found emaciated and being kept, along with others, in a Christmas tree plantation.

The RSPCA's chief inspector for Worcestershire, Lee Hopgood, welcomed the sentence, saying: "I feel it adequately reflects the seriousness of the offence and Mrs Jay's clear inability to adequately care for horses or take advice."

Worcester Magistrates Court heard an International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH) representative visited Jay's farm in 2006 and saw the mare in poor condition in a field with some hay but no water.

She visited again a few weeks later and found the horses were without grass, hay or water.

On March 15, 2007, the woman discovered the horses had been moved to a Christmas tree plantation.

Nicholas Sutton, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said: "The mare appeared to have deteriorated.

"There was no hay or grass in the plantation but there was straw."

A few days later, the woman returned and was shocked to see the mare was emaciated, with protruding spine and ribs.

The RSPCA was contacted and a vet subsequently said the animal, which also had lice and worms, had been suffering for several weeks.

Jay, 59, representing herself, said the mare had since given birth to a healthy foal and had absorbed the weight to put into the foal.

She said she moved the horses to the plantation after an attempted theft and was £30,000 in debt.

She said her other horses were healthy and she intended to appeal against her conviction.

Magistrates suspended the prison sentence for 13 months and banned her from keeping horses and ponies for that time.

She was also banned from keeping horses and ponies for five years, suspended until June 1, to give her chance to make arrangements for her other horses.