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An Ikamatua couple were left distraught and thousands of dollars out of pocket when their racehorse was severely injured in an incident on what they say is the poorly maintained Mawheraiti bridge.
Well-known West Coast trainer Karla Dense was taking thoroughbred Stag to the Reefton racetrack for a practice gallop, when disaster struck on the old State highway 7 bridge at Mawheraiti.
"We were going very slow, around 10kph, and the bridge is that jolly rickety -- it's worse than a gravel riverbed. The float window rattled loose and Stag spooked, and fell on to his knees, hanging himself on the front rail, while his hind leg went out the side and punctured the tyre," Ms Dense said.
"It could have been so much worse, but he had his floating-boots and bandages on.
"My partner (Phil Hall) raced out and jacked the float up and removed the tyre off Stag's leg, while I got his neck off the railing and propped his legs back under him.
He's got a huge haematoma on his chest and garks on his back from having to exit via the front float door."
Stag is a five-year-old grey thoroughbred gelding that races under the name Not Usual Litening. Ms Dense has owned the horse a year and had high hopes for his racing career. The horse is North Island-bred and sold at the Karaka ready-to-run yearling sales for $100,000, being syndicated with friends of Ms Dense.
"He's just a relaxed, cruisy guy, he's my baby and I'm with him every day. His leg is a mess. he may or may not ever race again. It's pretty tough.
"He just had so much to give, so much promise. Now that this has happened all for the sake of a screwed up bridge. It's been 30kph for over a year and nothing has been done -- not one hole filled, not one board replaced.
"There was an Atarau family heading to Reefton with their horse for a lesson and they stopped and helped us get back home. The horsey world is full of good people (but) the vet bills are going to be reasonably astronomical."
Mr Hall said his partner was heartbroken.
"Insurance doesn't cover this, and we've put thousands in. We were going to race him first at Reefton and then at either Greymouth or Kumara depending on how he went."
The New Zealand Transport Agency was yesterday ascertaining the location of the incident when approached for comment.
-- by Meg Fulford