A cash-strapped horse sanctuary blighted by huge bills, arson attacks and thieves has shut its stable doors for the last time.

More than 20 rescued and re-tired horses being looked after by volunteers at Rivendell Equine Defence, in Westfield Lane, Wrose, had to be found new homes when the struggling charity's funds finally ran out.

The sanctuary, which opened 15 years ago and only became a registered charity in 2004, put out a desperate plea in November for cash to help it through winter and pay its bills.

But the rising cost of feed, bedding and veterinary care made it difficult to make ends meet and volunteers had to dip into their own pockets.

The sanctuary also had to struggle on after break-ins at its stables and several arson at-tacks.

Rivendell spokesman Rita Shaw said the "responsible decision" to close had been a "difficult and upsetting one" but the struggle to keep the sanctuary open had become too much.

She said: "Every one of our horses and ponies has got a good home. We want to reassure people that all the animals are safe and happy but it was a very emotional experience seeing them go."

Out of the 51 animals cared for by Rivendell, 29 of them are now being looked after by adop-tive carers in the Bradford area and will stay where they are.

The others have been taken in by charities as far away as Norfolk and Newcastle.

Mrs Shaw said the Rivendell volunteers wanted to thank everyone who had supported them in the past and said that the sanctuary would never have survived as long as it did without their help.

"However, horses and ponies are very expensive to keep and in the end we simply couldn't get the funding we needed to carry on."

A rescue package was drawn up with help from the National Equine Welfare Council and Norfolk-based Redwings Horse Sanctuary.

Redwings took the lead to find homes for all Rivendell's horses with help from the RSPCA and the Blue Cross.

The Norfolk charity has pledged to take on responsibility for the adopted animals so they can stay out on loan and it has taken 16 of the horses and po-nies back to its own headquar-ters.

Some animals have gone to RSPCA and Blue Cross homes - but none will be put down, said Mrs Shaw.

Nicolas De Brauwere, head of welfare at Redwings, said: "This is a very sad end for everyone who worked so hard to keep Rivendell going and it just serves to demonstrate how hard it is to keep a sanctuary run-ning these days.

"Fortunately we were able to offer our help and secure a happy ending for the horses and po-nies involved."

The land and stables used by Rivendell are now being privately managed and are no longer linked with the charity which will cease when final bills and debts are paid.

A final fundraising bid to help pay off the last of those bills will be a tack sale on Saturday, February 3, from noon to 2pm at the Wrose Community Centre.

Any cash left over will be donated to Redwings, the RSPCA and Blue Cross.

To find out more about the sale call Jenny Turner on 07949 602329.

e-mail: kathie.griffiths@bradford.newsquest.co.uk