A CHARITY is trying to trace the owner of a pony that had to be put down after being found with "horrific" injuries.

World Horse Welfare (WHW) is anxious to hear from anyone who saw a man leading the emaciated animal along a road on the edge of the New Forest.

It was later found abandoned with much of the skin missing from the lower part of its face.

Described as almost too weak to stand up, the pony had been left to fend for itself beside Forest Road, near Morgan's Vale.

It comes after the RSPCA warned that Hampshire was one of the counties facing a horse welfare "crisis".

Almost 370 horses in distress were reported to the charity last year, resulting in it having to carry out almost twice as many rescues as it did in 2016.

Only two other counties - Kent and Durham - saw more rescues than Hampshire.

The animal found near Morgan's Vale had not been microchipped, making it impossible to trace the owner.

WHW welfare officer Penny Baker said: “Members of the public stopped to help this poor young pony and working with a vet and an agister organised transport for him, but unfortunately he was too weak and had to be put to sleep.

“Leaving a horse or pony to suffer in this way is completely unacceptable.

"We specifically want to hear from anyone who saw a man walking a pony along the road or any business or property in the area that has CCTV."

Anyone with information should call the charity's UK welfare line on 08000 480 180.

As reported in the Daily Echo, five horses were rescued by the RSPCA after being abandoned in a field at Hordle earlier this month

Nationally nearly 1,000 horses were saved by the charity from cruelty, neglect and suffering in 2017.

Equine co-ordinator Christine McNeil said: “We’ve been talking about the horse crisis for several years but the situation is just as severe today as when it started.

“In 2017 we took in more horses than we have in the past four years, and with our inspectors being called to rescue more and more every week we're stretched to the limit.”

The charity's 24-hour emergency line received about 80 calls a day in 2017.