SICK golfing yobs have been using a pony for target practice in a Hampshire field.

Two-year-old Smudge has suffered severe cuts and bruising after being pounded by golf balls fired at him as he grazed in a field.

The pony was targeted by more than 25 golf balls - in a privately rented field.

Owners Tim and Karen Edwards arrived to find the New Forest-breed pony cowering with a swollen hind leg and numerous cuts to his underside caused by the impact of the golf balls and by a thorn bush, which he had attempted to jump in his panic.

Officers have called it a "horrible" attack on a defenceless animal and are keen to speak to anyone who may have seen people hitting golf balls in the area.

Yesterday Karen, 43, who bought Smudge when he was only two months old, described the moment she found him in his field.

"He had cuts to all his legs and his rear - his leg was so swollen he could not walk out of the field," she said.

"He was in such a state. It's sickening that anyone can do this to an animal."

Officers recovered a total of 27 balls from the field, next to Henry Cort School in Hillson Drive, which the couple has rented for the last four years.

A row of golf tees embedded in the ground was also discovered in a field over looking the paddock.

Yesterday Smudge, who has been examined by a vet and placed on a course of antibiotics and pain killers, was being cared for by Karen and Tim.

Tim, 47, from Fareham, added: "He's normally quite boisterous but he's definitely more nervous now."

Sgt Marcus Dent of Fareham police said it was a very unusual incident. He added: "Cruelty to animals is a criminal offence. This is a horrible attack."

RSPCA spokesman Lucy Harding warned that horses could be easy targets because they are kept in large open fields.

She added: "It's very sad that people feel the need to do something like this.

"The problem with horses is that they are outside and visible so we do hear of attacks on them."

Anyone with any information about the attack, which took place on Wednesday, April 14, should contact Fareham police on 0845 045 4545 or the anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555111.