Dozens of horses have finally been rescued from flooded fields in Wellingborough after a huge RSPCA operation today (Monday).
More than 30 RSPCA inspectors, vets, water rescue specialists and more battled horrendous weather to lead 43 horses on land just off Irthlingborough Road to safety.
By lunchtime about 20 horses had been rounded up and assessed by a vet before being transported with the remaining horses set to be rescued this afternoon.
Jim Lucas, the RSPCA's chief inspector for Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, said: "The real trigger for us that we had three horses that died in very quick succession recently.
"Because of that and because a youngster got stuck in the river as well, that was the right spur that we needed to get on and deal with these horses to prevent them being put at risk."
After specialists rounded up one herd they led them along the river bank and into a pen where they were fed hay and checked over.
Some the horses, which included adults and youngsters, were found to be "very thin" and were not used to being handled.
Those in the best health were due to be transported to World Horse Welfare in Scotland with those requiring more care due to be looked at locally.
Mr Lucas said he was hopeful all would eventually be re-homed.
He said: "It is concerning that we have got so many horses that are not being looked after properly by a caring owner."
The welfare of the horses has attracted attention from the public for many years with a recent petition to help them gaining more than 10,000 signatures. Wellingborough MP Peter Bone also added his voice to the campaign.
The RSPCA has faced criticism from some quarters and Mr Lucas said that whilst he was reassured by the concerns of the public, it was a 'fair comment' to say they could have stepped in sooner.
He said: "It's always easy to use the benefit of hindsight and say 'we could have done more, we could have done it sooner'.
"In terms of doing more we are doing what we can and what we would be expected to do.
"Could it have been done sooner? I think that is probably a fair comment."
Several of the horses were dumped at the site for unauthorised grazing and one horse owner has been identified. None of the horses were micro-chipped.
Whilst they were at the rescue the RSPCA also saved a swan found with a broken wing.
Owners now have 96 hours under the Control of Horses Act to come forward and claim their horses but would have to prove they are theirs with passports, receipts or photos.
If their horse is one that is in poor condition the RSCPA will look to take formal action and potentially put them before the courts. If not they could be returned to them.
Mr Lucas added that steps will be taken by land owners Bovis to stop people dumping horses there.