A man who beat his pony with a stick to mount a swift getaway with a stolen flower cart has pleaded guilty to animal cruelty.

George Smith, 36, pleaded guilty to two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal at Croydon Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

Smith of Canal Walk, Croydon, was caught by police in broad daylight after he had attached a cart belonging to flower seller Chris Tucker to his chestnut mare.

The court was shown CCTV footage of Smith repeatedly beating the one-year-old pony as it struggled to pull the haul over a speed bump in the car park of the Co-op in Rosehill.

In the clip, stunned onlookers could be seen watching the pony struggle to move the stall from its usual position in front of the shop.

Vet Robin Stevens told the court Smith's actions were "completely inappropriate."

Miss Stevens told magistrates: "The pony's legs were bucking, it physically couldn't carry it over the bump, hitting it with a stick was not making any difference, she couldn't do it."

Smith had pleaded guilty to theft by finding in August, but denied animal cruelty, however at the trial on Wednesday he changed his plea.

Miss Stevens told the court the pony was in "Quite poor condition, she had not been looked after. On her rump where she was being hit the skin was dying off as a result of her being hit."

The pony now belongs to the RSPCA after being taken off Smith. He will be sentenced on January 29.

Anyone wanting to re home the pony should contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234999.