HAMPSHIRE is the worst place in the country for horse cruelty it has been revealed.

Animal welfare charity the RSPCA is warning of a horse crisis in the county after rescues of abused and neglected equines soared by nearly 300 per cent in the last 12 months.

The shocking statistics reveal that 163 horses, ponies and donkeys had to be saved last year – more than anywhere else in the country.

This compares to just 41 in 2012 and is 100 more than in Cornwall, which had just 65 recues carried out in the last year.

Hampshire also came top in the south-west for the most calls complaining about horse welfare in 2013, with 1,005 calls.

This is nearly 400 more than the county in second place, Somerset, with 615 calls and 100 more than last year.

It was also revealed that the county witnessed the fourth biggest increase in equines needing rescue across the south-west in the last five years – a whopping 426 per cent increase.

The shocking figures were revealed as the RSPCA launched a campaign to find homes for the record numbers of abused, neglected and abandoned horses and ponies, which has been called ‘Homes for Horses’.

It says that it has seen a significant increase in calls across the country and blames the “equine crisis” on falling horse prices over the past five years, combined with the fact that feed and care costs are rising.

This, it says, has led to thousands of horses being neglected, dumped and, in some cases, left to starve to death.

The RSPCA reports that numbers of neglected horses rescued by RSPCA inspectors nationally has almost tripled and the charity’s convictions relating to equines have more than doubled in the last five years.

It says that for every horse waiting in one of its centres there are a further seven waiting to take their place.

The good news is that the rehoming rate has doubled but the RSPCA is still caring for 900 neglected, abused and abandoned horses across England and Wales.

RSPCA chief inspector Cathy Hyde, who heads a team of equine officers, described the increase as “very worrying” and that the disturbing trend seemed to be affecting horses more than any other animal that the RSPCA deals with.

Abigail Moon, the RSPCA’s rehoming operations manager, said: “Even though we are rehoming record numbers of horses and ponies we are rescuing more and more each day and still have hundreds looking for fantastic new owners.

“We really need the horse community to help us tackle the equine crisis.”

To find out more about the campaign and how you can get involved log on to the website rspca.org/ homesforhorses.

You can also show your support by making a small donation. Just text the word HORSE to 70111 to give £3.