A ROW broke out over the rescue of horses from a flooded field in Christchurch.

The RSPCA is urging members of the public to stay away as it attempts to protect horses on land off Stony Lane.

Crowds gathered in Burton on Saturday after concerns grew for the safety of the horses in rising flood water.

Members of the public claimed RSPCA inspectors were making the situation worse and one, Joanne Gaffikin, said: “The RSPCA were not experienced enough and we were hand-feeding the horses apples and hay until they turned up and frightened them.”

But the charity hit back saying: “This is a very dangerous situation and one of the hardest type of rescues the RSPCA undertake. The horses are wild and uncooperative, there is a fast flowing river next to the field and the field is flooded.”

The spokesman said an 11-strong team of specially-trained water rescuers was on the scene and added: “We understand and share people’s passion in wanting to protect these horses and would like to assure people once again that we are doing all we can to help. We would urge the public to stay away from the site, as conditions are very dangerous and could spook the horses.”

Chris Skone-Roberts, who originally raised concerns about the horses on Facebook, said yesterday afternoon that all parties had now formed a “calm alliance” to help the 19 animals.

He urged people to now stay away from the scene.

And he called on people to stop “any negative activity” against Linda Laidlaw, the owner of some of the horses.

“Initially I misjudged this lady as did many of us but she is terrified and asking us for help,” he said.

He added: “The RSPCA are dealing with Mrs Laidlaw many times each day and we need to stay away and let them do their job.”

Ms Laidlaw said: “The horses are in very good condition. I have had so much support from people who want to help and the RSPCA have been tremendous.”