'Worst nightmare' of horse collision
The sound of a horse galloping down a busy highway at night is one that will haunt Jenny Hennessy for life.
It was a prelude to the "absolute worst nightmare" that unfolded outside her and husband Gary's Matamata property last night.
Joy Robinson was driving home after a day's work for Cambridge horse trainer Roger James.
It was shortly after 6pm when the five-year-old gelding Here's De Consul and Robinson slammed into each other a few hundred metres from Hennessy's driveway.
Robinson continued travelling along the straight, just south of Matamata, for nearly 600 metres before veering left onto the shoulder and smashing into a fence at speed.
Because of the distance between the impact and where the car finally stopped, Hennessy had no idea Robinson was killed until about 10pm.
"We're just devastated the whole thing happened," she said today. "It's, just, absolute worst nightmare.
"It's indescribable. It was the most horrendous sound I have heard, that horse galloping down the tarseal. Because you know it's dark and there's traffic. When they're on the road, it's an absolute miracle if they don't get hit."
She felt "heartbroken" for Robinson's husband and family. "It's just not something you could ever imagine happening."
Robinson's husband Mac was at home today struggling to get his head around the death of his companion.
"She has driven that road every day for the past 15 years," he said. "It was just the wrong place at the wrong time."
He was too distraught to speak at length but he said Robinson loved horses.
The Hennessys share that passion - they train and breed the animals at their property, known as Kingston Lodge, and have been in the business for 30 years.
Jenny Hennessy said they have no idea how Here's De Consul escaped from his latched box and trotted onto the road.
"We know how unpredictable they are, how powerful they can be. We're very careful at making sure things are done properly, but we just can't explain how he got loose - it's never happened before."
Police and race course inspectors are investigating the circumstances around the escape.
Hennessy said she had been in town and arrived home about 5.40pm.
All their horses had been fed and closed into their stables so Hennessy fed the chooks.
A short time later she heard galloping on the tarseal, a sound that "sends a chill through you".
"I sprinted as fast as I could to come back up. I got to about the barn here and I heard this smash."
She turned south toward the noise unaware that Robinson was a few hundred metres north.
"When I got there the horse was still alive but so badly injured. It was just awful. It's a horrible thing when you work with animals all your life to see them go through that and there was nobody there to put it down."
She said it took up to 20 minutes for the vet to arrive and by then Here's De Consul was taking his last breaths.
"I just sat on the ground with him and held him down until someone arrived. Every now and then he'd try to get up and all we could do was hold him."
Robinson was well known in racing circles and grew up in a racing family. Her father was successful owner-breeder-trainer Ian Signal, racing website theinformant.co.nz said. Robinson was the administration manager for Cambridge trainer Roger James over the past 20 years.
James was devastated by the loss of someone he described as "the ultimate personal assistant".
"Joy was such a big part of our operation, on a personal level I feel like my whole world has been torn apart.
"She was meticulous, she took on so much responsibility dealing with accountants, bank managers and of course stable clients.
"As well as being an invaluable staff member, she became a real friend to me and many others in the organisation.
"I know it's going to hit my clients very hard as she had so much to do with them on a business and personal level and was very good friends with many of them. It's just tragic what's happened and we'll all miss her terribly."