Warning: Images and content that some may find distressing
Horrified racegoers were left in tears after a horse became distressed and broke his leg while in the starting stalls at a racecourse.
Graphic footage has been released showing the incident, which resulted in five-year-old Mukaynis being “shot in the head” on the racecourse at Doncaster.
Saturday’s shocking incident has sparked calls by animal rights organisations for the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to eliminate the use of starting stalls.
But the BHA said the tragedy was “exceptionally rare”.
Mukaynis was one of 21 horses loaded into the starting stalls ahead of the 2.35pm Ladbrokes Portland Handicap, Animal Aid said.
Footage shows Mukaynis was suddenly startled and became distressed, breaking his left foreleg after getting it caught in the stall gates.
Witnesses said Mukaynis’ leg was “hanging and swinging, held by mere skin and with the bone exposed”.
Dene Stansall, Animal Aid’s horseracing consultant, said his daughter was left in tears at the distressing sight.
Stansall told the Huffington Post UK: “This poor horse really suffered in the final moments of his life - it was heartwrenching.
“I have never ever seen anything as bad as this on a racecourse. He was trembling with fear when he came out of the stalls, awful.
“My daughter broke down in tears - the bone was just sticking out of his leg.”
The BHA said Mukaynis received “instant attention” from several vets on the course at the time, but that the animal could not be saved.
Stansall saw the sad events unfold.
He said: “When the vet came to kill him with a needle, the poor horse tried to get away but pitifully hobbled on what was now a stump - the raw bone repeatedly going into the turf.
“They couldn’t get the needle in, so they got him behind some screens and got out a silenced hand pistol and shot him in the head - but you still heard the bang of the gun. I saw him fall to the ground.
“He was then loaded onto a long trailer and taken away out of sight. People around were just stunned and upset - strangers gathered together in tears.”
Many other witnesses were left shocked at the “dreadful” and “horrible” incident.
Animal Aid has criticised the industry’s regulatory body for the way it announced that Mukaynis was no longer in the race.
The BHA posted on its website: “Mukaynis was withdrawn after being unruly in the stalls.”
Andrew Tyler, Animal Aid’s Director, said: “Animal Aid is outraged by this utterly cynical remark.”
Tyler lambasted the industry’s “failure to provide adequate protection for the horses”.
Animal Aid, which campaigns for an end to the racing industry, said that, while the sport exists, changes need to be made to the design of starting stalls.
Stansall said: “Starting stalls present particular dangers. Each year injuries are suffered, some of them fatal.
“Animal Aid argues for an end to their use. But, for as long as they do remain, a number of minimal improvements in their design and deployment are essential.”
Extra stall padding, sufficient clearance above the horse’s head, a quick-release system at the front of the stall and no wheels or other obstacles below the canon bone level of a horse are among the recommendations Animal Aid is proposing.
The BHA said in a statement: “The incident involving Mukaynis was a very sad, but exceptionally rare occurrence.
“The horse received instant attention from one of the several vets on-course at the time, but the nature of the injury meant that the horse could not be saved.
“Horses are at risk whatever activity they are involved in. British racing is amongst the world’s best regulated animal activities but, as in any sport, it is impossible to eliminate risk entirely.
“There are risks involved whether horses are taking part in activity on racecourses – where stringent safety criteria are in place – or at home exercising, or turned out in a field.”