A RIDING school has been left heartbroken after a missing pony was found dead.

Owners and management at Westhoughton Equestrian Centre confirmed that Rosie, the 12-year-old Welsh pony, was found yesterday morning.

Rosie had gone missing, presumed stolen, on the night of Tuesday, May 22 and the centre launched a search for the bay-coloured pony that week.

Charlie Munro, manager of the centre, said everyone was devastated.

She said: "We are obviously very upset. We did all we could and searched everywhere.

"We want to thank the community for their support. We had people collecting posters and putting them up everywhere."

It was believed that the Pony had been stolen from a secluded field in Dobb Brow, Westhoughton, where she had been grazing with 22-year-old stablemate Finch.

Riding school children joined in the quest to find the beloved pony by drawing pictures and creating "missing" posters, while hundreds of people shared the appeal on social media.

Rosie was bought by the school, in Wigan Road, eight years ago and has been dubbed the "schoolmistress" because she has taught hundreds of new learners to ride.

After she went missing, owner Karen Broadhurst said: "She means the world to me.

"I absolutely feel like someone has ripped my heart out. I feel like I'm grieving.

"It would be easier if she had injured herself because at least we would know where she was.

"You just worry that someone won't look after her.

"We bought Rosie and Finch just days apart, and they have lived together for eight years. They were in the field together when she was taken. He is a mess."

The pony was thought to be worth around £400 but staff described her as "priceless" to the children.

Staff said that police were investigating what had happened.

Anyone who has any information should call Westhoughton Equestrian Centre on 01942 813707.