They were crammed into tiny, stinking pens with barely room to move.
Eighty-four horses, ponies and donkeys were standing on the rotting remains and skeletons of animals which had starved to death. Scroll down for more...
Starving and bedraggled: A horse that survived the farm hell
And the reason for their suffering? A farmer who had paid just £1 apiece for them was planning to sell them on the Continent for food.
The abuse of animals including the bedraggled horse pictured here is one of the worst cases of animal cruelty ever seen in Britain, and there were demands for meat trader Jamie Gray to face a long prison sentence.
Gray, 44, from a travelling family, had previously faced prosecution for failing to provide adequate food and water but was cleared.
The horrific scene at Spindles Farm, in the Buckinghamshire village of Hyde Heath, was discovered after a member of the public reported having seen a dead horse next to a water trough. Scroll down for more...
Round-up: Some of the surviving horses are led away to a new life free from hunger
Officers from the RSPCA and the International League for the Protection of Horses arrived at the farm on Friday accompanied by vets, and officers from Thames Valley Police.
One RSPCA man with more than 30 years' experience described it as the worst sight of his life.
Three of the pitiful creatures had to be destroyed on the spot.
It is alleged that Gray assaulted one of the officers as they tried to remove his prized thoroughbred - the only animal of any monetary value.
He was arrested and questioned on suspicion of assault and criminal damage, and bailed until Monday.
"All the animals were grossly emaciated and very, very scared," said Susan Lewis of the Horse Trust in Speen, Buckinghamshire, which has taken on the care of 14 animals. Scroll down for more...
The lucky ones: Three of the donkeys with a Horse Trust volunteer
"They were in a disgusting condition, quite unbelievable.
"We have a donkey that does not have the strength to stand up and a blind, deaf mare who is just terrified.
"Thank goodness we have got these animals in our care and you can rest assured we are doing everything humanly possible for them.
"We are giving them good nutrition, lots and lots of tender loving care and the best medical treatment possible.
"I'm glad to say they are responding but we expect it to take a year before they are fully recovered."
Mrs Lewis added: "We would certainly call for whoever is responsible for the condition of these animals to be sent to prison for a long time.
"Everybody is truly shocked."
Following a huge rescue operation, other charities caring for the horses include the Redwings Horse Sanctuary and the Blue Cross.
Villagers were unaware of the sick trade in which Gray was involved. Scroll down for more...
Survivors: Two more saved from squalor
He was dealing in unwanted horses, ponies and donkeys at the bottom end of the market bought for £1 a time from farms and private homes.
Whereas some animals for the meat trade can fetch up to £300 a time, he was believed to be selling his stock at £5 each.
Wendy Ward, 32, a housewife who has lived in the village for more than six years, said she had called the RSPCA three times over the past year expressing her concern over the horses at Spindles Farm.
"I could see terrible cuts and gashes on them when I looked at them from the edge of the fields. Heaven knows what their injuries looked like close up.
"I've called the RSPCA three times - and not just about the horses.
"I've found dogs owned by Gray's family in my back garden clearly suffering malnourishment and terrible leg injuries whimpering in my garden."
"He would come to my house to pick them up at two in the morning screaming abuse at the dogs.
"Once I saw his son-in-law whipping a pony while riding on the trap. Scroll down for more...
Bony: A skinny, weak horse is tended by a member of the RSPCA
"I screamed that he was going to kill that horse if he whipped him again. All I got was a mouthful of abuse in reply."
Another villager, in her 30s, said she met Gray four years ago when he moved in.
She said she became concerned after she started seeing scores of horses arriving overnight in overcrowded battered blue horse boxes.
"Last summer horses in a field were simply starving to death and you could see all their ribs.
"They were skin and bones, nothing more. I brought them hay because I couldn't bear to watch it."
The woman, who said she had called the RSPCA on a number of occasions, described the animals' condition as "horrific".
"All of them looked like they had not been fed for ages."
Jamie Rutland, 16, said: "We hope that this farm is going to be closed down. It wasn't a huge surprise to find out about this, it is a surprise it took this long."
Kirsty Hampton, the RSPCA inspector in charge of the investigation said it was the worst case she has faced.
"The most noticeable thing was the dead horses. One horse was collapsed.
"I've been an inspector for seven years and this is the worst case I have ever seen."
If charged and found guilty Gray could face a six month prison sentence or a £20,000 fine.
It is not illegal to eat horse meat in the UK but it is not sold in any restaurants or shops.
Demand for horse meat is highest in Italy, which accounts for 84 per cent of horses destined for slaughter. The remainder are divided mainly between France and Belgium, although small numbers are eaten in Spain, Portugal, Holland and Romania.
Scores of horses found dead and dying at shocking farm producing meat for France | the Daily Mail