‘I decided to give him a few carrots at the fence, it never occurred to me that anyone else would be bothered about that’
A grandmother has been convicted of harassment for feeding a retired racehorse that she thought was being neglected.
Margaret Porter, 67, gave Nelson carrots and apples on a number of occasions because she thought he would “starve to death”.
But his owner Suzanne Cooke, 50, was concerned that he could get ill after she caught Ms Porter throwing vegetables to him in the village of Scruton, in the Yorkshire Dales, in February.
Ms Porter told the court that she was “distressed” by her thoughts of Nelson in the frozen field.
She said: “I saw him standing outside his stables and I thought he looked quite sad.
“I didn’t examine the horse but I noticed him. The fields were frozen at the time and there was snow on the ground. I passed six or seven times a day and didn’t see his owner with him once.
“He looked thin and I began speaking to people about my concerns in the hope someone would take it on board and try and get her to look after the horse properly. I was getting quite distressed about the situation.
“I decided to give him a few carrots at the fence, it never occurred to me that anyone else would be bothered about that, I just didn’t want him starving to death.”
However, there was a sign next to the field that asked people to not feed Nelson – who had raced three times in his life with the name You’redoingwell.
Ms Cooke said that she saw Ms Porter’s car parked up near her horse on 13 February, and that she was throwing food into the field.
Photos taken of the bucket Ms Porter carried show it was filled with carrot ends and apples.
Ms Cooke added: “I opened the car window and said ‘why are you feeding my horse? Do you realise what you are doing? You could poison my horse or give it colic and make it ill’.
“She replied: ‘you can ring the police, I’m not bothered’.
“I am tired of this happening and worried that she may make my horse ill, I don’t know what she is giving it.”
An RSPCA inspector also called Nelson’s owner to say that there would have to be a welfare check. But the inspector found that Nelson was fit and in good health.
Ms Cooke said Ms Porter continued complaining to villagers about Nelson’s environment and that even the parish council got involved.
Trevor Howe, who has been in Scruton’s parish council for 40 years, gave evidence to say Ms Porter called him “at least 10 times” to complain that the horse was “under-fed”.
Ms Cooke said felt she had no option but to call police on the pensioner.
After being arrested, Ms Porter appeared in court in April to deny a charge of harassment.
But on Thursday at York magistrates’ court, presiding magistrate Hilary Fairwood said: “Her conduct was not reasonable and we find her guilty of the charge.”
Ms Fairwood said it was necessary to impose a restraining order, and that Ms Porter is now banned from feeding or interfering with Nelson, approaching Ms Cooke, or visiting her home.
She was also fined £180, made to pay court costs of £310, as well as a £34 court surcharge. Ms Porter, who lives on a state pension, will pay it at £10 a month – meaning it will take nearly four and a half years to pay off.
Following the hearing, Ms Porter said it was “ridiculous” she had been convicted for feeding Nelson but added she was glad she was not given a prison sentence.