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Tragedy as horse dies and others injured after being ‘spooked by poachers’

A retired racehorse has died and a number of yearlings have been seriously injured after, it is believed, they were spooked by poachers in their field.

The owner, trainer Mick Easterby, is urging the public to report poaching and any suspicious behaviour to police to help improve the safety of everyone in the countryside and stop others from going through similar tragedies.

“Last night at Mill House Farm, Bulmer, a herd of yearlings and their nanny horse, my wonderful 21-year-old ex-racehorse Blue Spinnaker, forced their way out of a large field last night [or] this morning by pushing over a hung metal gate,” said Mr Easterby.

“Blue Spinnaker suffered horrific fatal injuries and a number of yearlings have been badly wounded. The horses were reported on the road this morning in a state of shock.

“There are vehicle tracks in the field not belonging to us. Herds of horses generally do not panic in this way unless they feel threatened.”

He added he has reported the incident to North Yorkshire Police — and urges anyone who witnesses poaching or sees suspicious behaviour to do the same.

“Poaching is a priority offence meaning you call 999 to report if you witness it in action. The more they are reported the better response we will get; regular evening patrols,” he said.

“Poachers are unsavoury characters and can also be interested in farm contents (quad bikes/tools etc) so the more deterred they feel the better for everyone.

“If you do see or suspect anything would you please report it.”

The gelding joined Mr Easterby’s yard in 2002 after he was bought for £2,000 at Newmarket sales.

He overcame leg issues to enjoy a stellar career, with highlights including wins in the Thirsk Hunt Cup, the Zetland Gold Cup and a total of nine wins from 92 starts, earning a total of £160,000 prize money.

He retired in 2011 and remained at the yard, enjoying his post-racing career as babysitter. Mr Easterby said Blue Spinnaker was his “favourite horse”.

“I thought this was the safest paddock in England,” he said. “He was the best horse for looking after foals when they were weaned and as yearlings. He was the most wonderful master, he just thought the world of them.”

North Yorkshire Police echoed Mr Easterby’s call for the public to report any suspicions of poaching.

A spokesman said enquiries into last night’s incident are ongoing and officers will be speaking to Mr Easterby as soon as possible.

“It’s clear that poachers have absolutely no regard for the senseless damage they inflict on animals, property, farmers and landowners,” a police spokesman told H&H.

“This awful incident would be another demonstration of the terrible impact hare coursing can have in rural communities – which is why we treat all reports of this illegal activity in North Yorkshire so seriously.

“Anyone caught poaching in our area can expect to be summoned to court, while those stopped in suspicious circumstances may be issued with a community protection notice – breaches of which will be prosecuted.

“We echo Mr Easterby’s call for all incidents to be reported. It’s important to emphasise that if poaching is taking place, that means a crime is in progress, and witnesses should call the police on 999 to report it.

“To report suspicious circumstances, or information about suspected poachers, when it’s not urgent, call 101.”

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