Horses gave first aid to pal
By ANDREW PARKER
A HORSE shot twice with a crossbow by callous yobs survived after four fellow steeds spent three hours taking turns — to LICK the wound clean.
Mare Zeta came within a whisker of death after one of the bolts bounced off her rib while another lodged an inch from her lung.
Evil louts blasted the 20-year-old — a competitor in show-jumping and dressage events across the UK — in the stomach as she grazed in a field.
But four other competition horses in the same field "nursed" Zeta by nuzzling her for three-and-a-half hours while taking turns to lick the wound.
Owner Jo Young, 39, said the four horses saved Zeta's life.
The mum-of-two said: "It was really touching that when she was found the other horses in the field were nuzzling her for comfort and licking the wound.
"They kept the wound clean which would have prevented it from being infected by bacteria. It also helped to stem the blood flow.
"There was definitely a herd instinct kicking in among the horses. They knew Zeta was in need and they rallied round to save her.
"I received a call saying one of my horses was hurt. I rushed to the field and saw Zeta with a bloody gash in her side.
"The other horses were standing right next to Zeta and they all had flecks of blood on their muzzles.
"They licked the wound clean keeping it sterile and free from infection and in my mind they saved her life."
Jo, a professional horse rider, fed the horses the night before and was planning to return at lunchtime the next day.
But a passing dog-walker spotted the four horses acting strangely in the morning and noticed blood pouring from Zeta's stomach and called Jo.
She rushed to the field and found three of her other mares Chilly, Yani and Meg, and Witness, a gelding, standing next to Zeta.
Jo added: "Zeta's a tough old girl and I'm really proud of her for pulling through. But I'm just horrified at what happened.
"How somebody could do that to anyone or anything is completely beyond me. Everyone I have spoken to is appalled by it."
The dog walker said they saw Chilly and Yani comforting Zeta by resting their heads against hers while Meg and Witness licked the gash.
Vet John Brentnall arrived 30 minutes later to remove the bolt and stitch the wound.
He said that Zeta may not have survived the three-and-a-half hour ordeal without help from her pals.
John said: "The crossbow bolt came within a whisker of doings some very serious damage indeed.
"The biggest risk of serious injury was from internal wounds which the other horses wouldn't have been able to do anything about.
"But the superficial wounds on the surface of the skin would have been kept clean and free from potentially dangerous infections by being licked.
"Infections can be lethal to horses but Zeta was extremely lucky to have such good support from the other horses."
Witnesses described seeing a group of teenage boys running away from the field at the time of the attack.
The police and RSPCA have launched an investigation into the shooting.
RSPCA inspector Dave McCartney said: "This involved horrendous cruelty to the horse.
"There are some serious welfare concerns to the animal. There's a clear danger when somebody is using a crossbow. It's worrying to think what they could target next.
"It was a lucky escape. The horse could have been killed.
"It would appear that the healing instinct of the other horses has played a big part in that."