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Spindles Farm survivor triumphs at local show

A gelding who survived one of the worst animal cruelty cases the UK has ever seen this week won his first ever dressage competition at a local horse show.

Duke, a Thoroughbred gelding, was rescued from the horrors of Spindles Farm, Amersham in 2008.

More than 100 horses, ponies and donkeys were found in the most appalling conditions, 34 horses were already dead. The animals were found barely alive, crammed in foul, stinking stables and standing on the dead bodies of their companions. In total 115 animals were rescued in an eight-day joint operation mounted by UK welfare charities.

Duke, a 16hh black gelding, arrived at The Horse Trust, a Buckinghamshire based horse charity, in January 2008 along with 13 of the sickest horses, ponies and donkeys rescued that day. He was only two years old and like most of the animals rescued Duke was very sick, emaciated and suffering from life-threatening infections.

After intensive veterinary treatment and care Duke slowly began to recover, but sadly his troubles were far from over. Duke developed sarcoids on his left eye and had to travel to the University of Liverpool's Equine Hospital to undergo specialist treatment to remove the tumours. Thankfully Duke's treatment was successful but he went on to suffer recurring bouts of colic and had to undergo life-saving surgery at The Royal Veterinary College.

Duke is now six years old and a happy, healthy horse and has now been backed and is living life to the full. This week Duke took part in his first ever show jumping and dressage competitions at Widmer Equestrian Centre in Lacey Green, Buckinghamshire, winning the dressage competition with a score of 59%. Not only was it his first dressage test but also his first time in an indoor school! Duke also took part in the clear round jumping. The Horse Trust only have three jumps with rustic poles, so Duke had never seen a coloured pole or jumped a course of jumps. However, brave Duke rose to the challenge and with the encouragement of his rider, The Horse Trust's resident trainer Jane Calvert, he popped over all of the jumps beautifully.

Jeanette Allen, chief executive of The Horse Trust said: "We are so proud of all that Duke has achieved despite tough start in life. We hope that this will be the start of a promising career for Duke and that he will go on to represent The Horse trust as many more shows in future. Duke's health problems mean that he can't be rehomed, but we guarantee that he will have a happy and secure home at The Horse Trust for the rest of his life."

The Horse Trust relies on donations from the general public to help care for horses like Duke. To find out how you can support website The Horse Trust visit www.horsetrust.org.uk or call 01494 488464.