Horse suffers 'tragic' death after being frightened by New Year's Eve fireworks in Sussex

Joanna Barnett found her horse Tallulah lying in the road. Credit: BPM Media

A woman is pleading with people to go to organised fireworks displays after her horse was found collapsed in the road after being terrified on New Year's Eve.

Tallulah, aged 22, was comfortable in her stables on New Year's Eve, when people let off loud fireworks near her home on the Sussex Surrey border.

Tallulah's owner Joanna Barnett, who had owned the "cheeky" and "loving" horse for the last 18 years, has shared her story, in the hope that people will think twice about setting off fireworks in rural areas or in back gardens.

She said: "I got Tallulah when I first moved out of foster care. I rescued her and she was a challenging little thing at first but she very quickly became my horse of a lifetime.

"I saw her everyday, she was the creature that I went to for a hug or to talk to (even though she never replied) and gave love to everyday for the last 18 years.

Joanna Barnett says Tallulah was quirky and loving. Credit: BPM Media

"She was quirky, she could be cheeky, but she was so loving and looked after me, we had so much fun together and I have so many happy memories.

"Her death was such a cruel way to go and she did not need to suffer like that, I would have done anything to take that away.

"She didn't do anyone any harm and she was my family, she has been there my whole adult life. We used to go out jumping and do shows years ago but mainly we just did hacking and going on local roads."

In the last two years Joanna and Tallulah had rode 300 miles together.

Joanna last took her out on Boxing Day and says she was like a "big family pet".

"My children are really upset, she was a big part of all of our lives and they saw her as one of their family," she added.

"She was always very good with fireworks, she wasn't a concern and we had checked on her and she was normal."

Joanna Barnett said she and Tallulah had done 300 miles in the last two years. Credit: BPM Media

Joanna said she knew something was wrong in the morning on New Year's Day, when she was contacted by a fellow horse person, who told her there was a grey pony on the road.

"I ran straight out at that point and she wasn't there," Joanna recalled.

"I saw the devastation that she had run straight through a solid wooden fence, which isn't like her as I'd known her almost her whole life so obviously she must have been absolutely terrified for her to do that as that's so out of character.

"I got to the scene thinking she would be upright but she was lying in the road. I am lucky the passers-by did all the right things and I dread to think if I hadn't got there before I did, the vet would have put her to sleep."

Joanna said that Tallulah got "straight up" when she saw the vet - and said there wasn't a scratch on her.

The vet started treatment when they had arrived home, including pain relief and sedation.

"We thought she was doing alright at first, we kept her moving and she had treatment and fluids, and we were really hopeful," said Joanna.

"Then about 12.00pm, I thought she doesn't look happy so I called the vets again, who were from an excellent practice in Ashdown Forest who do emergency treatment, and the vet said give more pain relief. For about half an hour she was better and then she declined so suddenly.

"I called them and they arrived 40 minutes later. She was really suffering even though she was on the most pain relief she could be given and she was falling over, sweating as if a tap was running over her and shaking.

"She was seriously unwell and when the vet arrived there was only one thing we could do, there was no next course of action. There was no coming back.

Joanna Barnett pictured with Tallulah. Credit: BPM Media

"We had to get her up as horses are big animals and so she had to be taken to a different part of my land so her body could be removed afterwards. We said goodbye and I would not want anyone else to go through that, I stroked her face the whole time.

"She didn't deserve that pain, it was unnecessary. She was such a kind pony, she never hurt anyone but she suffered because someone made bad choices.

"If one good thing can come of this, it's that people will stop and think, is it really worth it.

"Backyard fireworks can cause suffering so I just want people to consider if it's worth it, especially when people can go to organised displays, which are often run by charities, and enjoy it with family and friends there."

Although there is no direct law about setting off fireworks in gardens, The Animal Welfare Act 2006 states that it is an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to any captive or domestic animal, with Government advice being that fireworks must not be set off near livestock or horses in fields or close to buildings housing livestock.

The current penalty is a £20,000 fine and/or a prison term of up to six months.

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