Graphic warning: Some images in this story may be upsetting.
Accusations two race horses were shot and dumped on an East Coast beach have been denied by the organisers of a Tolaga Bay racing event.
The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR) said it was not surprised to learn two horses were killed and dumped on the beach on December 28, last year while the races continued.
The Tolaga Bay Beach Races is an annual horse racing event which has been held at Kaiaua Beach since 1876.
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But its committee is facing scrutiny after photos posted to social media showed waves washing over two horses lying dead on the beach.
CPR spokesperson Frances Baker said one horse broke both its legs and the other had a heart attack while families cheered and betted on their lives”.
“After being shot in the head, those horses were not given the dignity they deserved and were left dumped on the beach without cover very close to the shore.”
Tolaga Bay Races took to social media to say false accusations” had been made without knowing the facts.
It is speculative and disrespectful to the group of volunteers who are passionate about running this community event,” the post said.
One of the horses is removed from the beach after the racing event on December 28.
The committee also denied the horses’ injuries were caused by soft sand” and races were intentionally held at low tide to avoid issues with the sand.
The entire beach area where the horses run is inspected by the head steward before and after every race.
The committee said the first horse that fell and collapsed did not break any leg. The veterinarian at the scene thoroughly inspected the horse and confirmed no leg injuries were apparent.
The horse was humanly euthanized after consultation with the race stewards and both jockey and horse owner. The second incident on the day did, however, involve a horse tripping and breaking its legs.
The committee said the accusation the horses were dumped” at the end of the beach was “misleading. They were moved and remained at the southern end of the beach away from the public until the event was over.
The northern end was the only accessible point on the beach for the horses to be carefully removed. This was done late in the evening following the event.
Two horses on the beach in Tolaga Bay after a racing event on December 28.
New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) legal, compliance and regulatory general manager James Dunne believed the horses were farm horses and not thoroughbreds racing in the event.
Nevertheless, those images certainly are distressing and, not withstanding our pretty limited role to this sort of beach racing, they’re not what we would like to see or expect to see horses treated in any circumstance.
We expect those horses in all circumstances to be treated with dignity and respect and the appropriate steps to be taken.
Dunne said it was not unusual for horses to run on sand, it was quite common and generally quite safe.
Beach racing takes place all the time all around New Zealand and in most cases very successfully, he said.
Obviously we have something to work through with the club in terms of how things might be done differently and that’s an ongoing discussion we have to have at NZTR.

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