Horse's road escape a 'freak accident'

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 22/02/2013

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Improved safety measures at Awapuni Racecourse after an escaped horse caused a death have failed to stop another horse from fleeing the racetrack and bolting down a Palmerston North highway.

Awapuni Racecourse is reviewing its safety measures after a horse escaped the racetrack and galloped along Pioneer Highway about 6am yesterday.

The latest escape has baffled racecourse staff, with track manager Brent Wall calling it a "freak accident".

The track boosted safety measures after two horses escaped their minders onto the same highway in 2007, killing Feilding man Chris Nicols when one ploughed through his windscreen.

In yesterday's incident, the horse escaped from the tie-up area of the racecourse as a rider was preparing to mount.

The horse jumped a gate before disappearing into the morning fog.

At least 10 people immediately took off after it, Mr Wall said.

Donna Olsen said she was driving to work on SH56 when she almost hit the horse as it appeared out of the fog in front of her, stirrups flapping as it galloped.

"I just saw this big black thing coming out of the fog towards me.

"As soon as I became aware of what it was I slammed on the brakes and veered right."

Mrs Olsen said she had a delayed reaction, and started shaking when she arrived at work.

Mr Wall said the racecourse was unsure how the horse got to the highway, which is some distance away from the course itself.

They were conducting an investigation.

"We are always trying to improve safety, and doing anything that we can," Mr Wall said.

After the death of Mr Nicols, the racecourse installed extra security measures to prevent horses from bolting and escaping on to the road again.

In that instance, the horses had escaped while walking to the track, a route now bound by high fences. Yesterday's escaped horse bolted from another area.

The horse was found about an hour later more than 8 kilometres away at the intersection of Jackeytown Rd and State Highway 3.

The horse had lost some skin off his shoulder and his feet were likely to be sore, but he appeared to be fine, Mr Wall said.

He was the first to escape out to the road since Mr Nicols died.

The track saw about 300 horses a month, training six days a week.

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- Manawatu Standard

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