A horse which was shot twice with a cross-bow survived after four fellow steeds spent three hours taking turns – LICKING the wound clean.
Bay mare Zeta came within a whisker of death after one cross bow bolt bounced off her rib while another lodged just one inch from her lung.
Evil yobs blasted the 20-year-old bay horse in the stomach while she grazed in a field on May 7.
But four other competition horses which were also in the same field nursed Zeta by nuzzling her for three hours while taking turns to lick the wound clean.
Owner Jo Young, 39, who competes professionally, 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.
”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.”
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 the blood pouring from Zeta’s stomach.
Neighbours alerted Jo who rushed to the field and found her three of her other mares Chilly, Yani and Meg and Witness, a gelding, milling around 16.1hh Zeta.
The four horses, who have all competed in amateur riding competitions, had specs of blood on their muzzles from where they had tended the wound.
The dog walker said that the two steeds had comforted Zeta by resting their heads against hers while another two 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.
Vet John Brentnall 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.
”The superficial wounds on the surface of the skin would have been kept clean and free from potentially dangerous infections by being licked.”
Police and the RSPCA have launched an investigation to catch those responsible. Zeta is recovering in the field.
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 cross bow. 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.”