A JUDGE said a stable owner who left horses starving should not be banned from keeping animals as it would be a breach of her human rights.

Kate Greenhalgh admitted four counts of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal in Sussex.

The 30-year-old equestrian had kept the animals in such a poor state that one horse had to be put down.

Another was lame from an untreated infection in its leg.

The four horses were “obviously” in a poor condition, looking emaciated with their bones exposed through their bodies.

But Greenhalgh was not sent to prison and was instead ordered to pay compensation and complete unpaid work after appearing before Brighton Magistrates’ Court for sentence.

The Argus: Kate Greenhalgh kept the horses in a sorry conditionKate Greenhalgh kept the horses in a sorry condition

The court heard how she had kept horses at a farm near Fernhurst, Sussex as part of her company KG Equestrian between October 2019 and March 2020.

RSPCA inspectors were called in when the public raised the alarm.

Two of Greenhalgh’s customers were Team GB Olympic event rider Gemma Tattersall and horse lover Nikki Cochran.

Ms Tattersall said: “I had told her she could contact me if anything was wrong. Although my horses were valuable, whatever the value a horse should be fed.

“As horse owners, we are all aware that they can pick up injuries, but these should be dealt with.

“When I saw the photos I was completely shocked. The horse’s condition looked so poor, I couldn’t believe they were still alive.

“I have simply never seen a horse in that state before.”

The Argus: The horses were starvingThe horses were starving

Between December 2019 and February 2020, the condition of the horses dropped markedly as they were starving.

Ms Cochran said her horse Kai cost her family £3,000 and was their dream. He was bred and unique, and the impact of him dying has been shattering.

She said: “I was proud to have bought a foal with such special breeding. So standing in that field, watching my dream horse die was almost too difficult for words. I have been severely traumatised by what I witnessed.”

Ms Cochran said it has left her in anguish and struggling to trust people because of Greenhalgh, adding: “She turned our dream into our nightmare.”

At Brighton Magistrates’ Court district judge Amanda Kelly imposed a three-month suspended prison sentence.

Greenhalgh, of Spinney North, Pulborough, was told to complete 120 hours of unpaid work in the community alongside ten rehabilitation sessions with the probation service.

The Argus: Stable owner Kate GreenhalghStable owner Kate Greenhalgh

She was ordered to pay £750 court costs and a £128 surcharge. She must also pay a compensation order, understood to be to Ms Cochran, worth £3,650.

District judge Kelly did not impose an order for the deprivation of animals to stop Greenhalgh working with horses.

The judge said Greenhalgh has a “long history of working and riding horses and there have been no concerns over her care of horses before or since”.

She said the equestrian had “many glowing references” from other customers who “spoke highly of her ability to care for horses”.

The offences of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal were out of recklessness not malice, the judge said.

Greenhalgh has no previous convictions and has said she will not offer a winter livery service again and the judge said her remorse was genuine.

“I found that the experience of being the subject of these criminal proceedings and all the adverse publicity and social media interest that she has received will act as a deterrent to this happening again,” the judge said.

The judge said the purpose of a deprivation order is to protect animals, rather than to punish people and said: “I found that to disqualify Ms Greenhalgh from keeping horses would amount to a disproportionate interference with her Article 8 rights as horses are her livelihood and a major part of her private life.”

The Argus: This was the condition of one horse kept in Kate Greenhalgh's care at a Sussex stableThis was the condition of one horse kept in Kate Greenhalgh's care at a Sussex stable

The judge said the risk of any further crimes by Greenhalgh was low.

But the business owner agreed not to offer winter livery for horses for ten years, which excludes her offering stable from November 1 to March 31 each year.

The RSPCA could take her to court if she breaches the rules, and any breaches will be reserved to be heard before district judge Amanda Kelly.