A HORSE that was about to be impounded for illegally grazing in Southampton was ridden away from the clutches of council bailiffs as they were about to move in.

The horse was released from its tether on council land at Olive Road, Coxford, by its owner who galloped off bare-back before the animal could be seized.

Council chiefs believe the preparations to impound the horse must have been spotted from a distance.

Another horse on land at Bakers Drove in Lordshill was impounded for illegal grazing and taken to a secure, undisclosed location, outside the city.

If not reclaimed by tomorrow together with a reimbursement fee for the costs of the bailiff operation, stabling and care, the council said the horse will be “responsibly re-homed”.

The council launched a crackdown on illegal horse grazing last year after a rise in the number of people being trampled on, bitten or kicked by the tethered animals.

They included a six-year-old girl who was nearly trampled on by a horse, a pensioner who was pushed to the ground and others who were bitten and kicked in the stomach.

The council has powers under Section 9 of the Hampshire Act 1983 to impound horses caught illegally grazing if there is potential for damage to property or if the horse is not being cared for properly.

The Southampton City Council operation involved specialist officers from Eastleigh Borough Council and the police.

It said horses illegally grazing on Weston Shore and at other sites in the west of the city were removed by their owners without the need for further action.

Eastleigh council last year won the RSPCA’s Innovator in Animal Welfare Award for its approach in tackling illegally tethered horses.

Southampton has teamed up with Eastleigh to reduce costs and ensure horses are not simply pushed across boundaries from one council to another.