A sanctuary that rescued more than 100 emaciated horses and donkeys in the “worst case of neglect” staff had ever seen is preparing to mark ten years since the notorious rescue with a year of commemorations.

On January 9, 2008, the animals were found living in “horrific” conditions at Spindle Farm in Hyde Heath, with many of them suffering from overgrown feet and covered in lice, by staff from Redwings Horse Sanctuary.

They had responded to an urgent call for help from the RSPCA and more than 30 carcasses of horses and donkeys who had succumbed to illness or injury before their plight was uncovered were also found.

Redwings initially took 21 of the most ill and vulnerable equines back to its horse hospital at its Norfolk headquarters for immediate treatment and over the following years, the charity offered a safe forever home to 60 horses and donkeys from Spindle Farm, as well as six foals born to rescued mares.

James Gray, the owner of Spindle Farm, was jailed for six months, plus an additional two months for later absconding from court, ordered to pay costs of £400,000 and banned from keeping horses for life – the maximum penalty available to the court for nine charges of causing unnecessary suffering to animals and two charges of failing to protect animals from pain, injury, suffering and disease.

His son, James Junior, was also convicted of identical charges - although he would later be acquitted of two charges - and was sentenced to an 18-month supervision order, while James Gray’s wife, Julie, and two daughters Jodie and Cordelia were also found guilty of two counts of failing to protect animals with each ordered to undertake 150 hours of community service.

The family was banned from keeping horses for 10 years.

Redwings is set to remember the landmark rescue and celebrate the survivors with a special series of activities and events throughout 2018, including the launch of a new fund to help care for the Amersham horses and donkeys for the next 10 years.

Lynn Cutress, Redwings’ chief executive, said: “Amersham was a momentous rescue that not only left a mark on Redwings, but the wider public too.

“I remember seeing the horses and donkeys as they arrived at Redwings and it wasn’t just their appalling physical state that shocked me, but their eerie quietness and sheer sadness. It wasn’t until weeks later when we heard the donkeys sing for their breakfast for the first time that we knew we had turned a corner in their recovery and they finally felt safe.

“It’s a testament to the hard work and love of our veterinary, rehabilitation and care teams that, despite their horrific neglect, so many of these horses and donkeys rescued from that terrible place are still enjoying happy lives 10 years on.”

The charity – which is funded entirely through donations – is now appealing for the public to donate to their Amersham 10 fund.

Supporters will be able to purchase exclusive gifts inspired by the Amersham survivors, contribute to a charitable art sale, attend a memorial service and enjoy meets and greets with some of the horses and donkeys at Redwings’ visitor centres across the country.

To contribute to the Amersham 10 fund, text ‘AMSH10 £10’ to 70070 to donate £10, call 01508 481000 or visit www.redwings.org.uk.