Foal scared to death by fireworks

22:30, Dec 18 2012
Distressed: Graham Neill’s mare, Black Onyx, who has been acting as if distraught since her 3-month-old filly broke her neck and died after fireworks exploded early Sunday morning.

A three-month-old foal worth tens of thousands of dollars was found dead with a broken neck in a Blenheim paddock apparently after it was frightened by fireworks exploding in the middle of the night.

Blenheim woman Honora Undrill woke up when a noise that sounded like an "intense boom" was heard between 12am and 1am on Sunday.

Mrs Undrill and her partner, Graham Neill, breed horses on their Spring Creek property.

She thought it may have been an explosion at the railway yard close by, but realised it was fireworks when a series of popping noises followed.

After hearing their mare calling out for her foal, Mrs Undrill went to make sure the animals were okay.

Mr Neill, a horse trainer at Waterlea Racecourse, was in Palmerston North on business.


She thought the three-month-old standardbred trotting filly, unofficially named Sunny because it was born on a sunny day, may have run off and jumped a fence.

After turning off the electric fence, she searched the fenceline for about 45 minutes before checking the paddock.

"And there she was, dead, with her neck broken," Mrs Undrill said. "It was devastating."

Black Onyx, the foal's mother, was visibly upset and would not leave its side. She stayed near it until a digger came to bury it yesterday afternoon.

"She's still standing by her foal. It's heartbreaking," Mrs Undrill said.

She and Mr Neill believe the loud explosion from the fireworks frightened the foal, causing it to crash into or jump over the fence, breaking its neck.

"You could tell she was dead, her head was right under her shoulder," Mrs Undrill said.

Mr Neill said there was no other reason for the foal to run around.

"She hadn't done it in three months so there had to be a reason for it," he said.

The foal, which was not insured, was to have raced and been sold in about three years' time.

Its half-sister, Millicent, sold for $50,000 last year.

Mr Neill had already spent more than $6000 on the foal, including the stud fee, grazing costs, and vet fees.

He is 76, and it was to be the last foal he would breed.

Community constable Russ Smith, of Blenheim, said the fireworks were heard by people in at least six other houses in the Spring Creek area.

A bundle of fireworks that had been set together were found on the side of the road in March St, less than 500 metres from Mr Neill and Mrs Undrill's property.

The couple said they were not against fireworks and people having fun, but there was a time and a place for them.

"You expect it at Guy Fawkes or New Year, when you can prepare for it," Mrs Undrill said.

"It was so unnecessary. People need to think of the consequences of their actions."

Police want to hear from anyone with information.

Call 03 578 5279 or anonymously at Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

The Marlborough Express