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'Beautiful gentle giant' - Lower Hutt horse remembered by grieving former owner after fatal mistreatment

A former owner of Zorro the horse, euthanised after severe neglect by his current owner, wants him to be remembered as a beautiful gentle giant, instead of the skin and bones creature who died from mistreatment.

Zorro the horse in his prime. Source: Supplied

Tania Harrison was yesterday convicted and sentenced on one charge of reckless ill-treatment of an animal, barred from owning horses for the next 10 years and ordered to pay $737 in reparations and legal fees.

But several years before he was in Harrison's care, Zorro was owned by Chloe Young. 

"He was a big, beautiful, gentle giant who just wanted to be loved, just like any horse," Young told 1 NEWS today.

"It's important that people know he was really loved, he didn't deserve it. He had family that loved him and so many people that loved him before that happened."

She's devastated by Zorro's mistreatment and death, wanting people to know what he was like in his prime rather than as he died from mistreatment.

In images released by the SPCA in the case against Harrison, Zorro is skin and bone with an injury to his hind leg, found tied to a tree and left weeks without adequate food or water. He was so weak, an SPCA inspector couldn't even walk him off the property.

Zorro the horse was left weeks without adequate food or water. Source: 1 NEWS

On the day Zorro was euthanised, the SPCA had called Young for help. Neither realised it was her old horse at the time.

"It was awful, putting two and two together and realised it used to be my old horse," Young says.

She supports the decision to euthanise him as Zorro was in a "very bad state". 

"There was no way he could've survived. They can't come back from that," Young says.

In images shared by Young, from when she owned him, Zorro is strong and well-muscled, with a glossy bay coat.

She remembers her first ride with him, all those years ago, on a challenging track.

Zorro the horse in his prime. Source: Supplied

"It was the second day that I had owned him and he just looked after me, like he knew he had a job to do and that was to get around the property safely," Young says.

"He just enjoyed going out and seeing life. That first ride on him, I'll never forget."

Another memorable ride for Young was when Zorro let his character shine through.

While crossing some swampy water, the horse decided he'd had enough and stopped still.

"He wasn't stuck or anything like that... He made me get off him and actually walk through the knee-deep swampy part! 

"That was definitely a moment that we won't forget because it was quite funny, him making me get off and walk through the muddy parts before he'd follow me."

Young wishes Harrison reached out for support instead of letting Zorro waste away.

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SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen says the situation was entirely avoidable and there was no excuse for his mistreatment.

"Zorro would have suffered not only physically, but psychologically as well," she says. 

"It’s difficult to imagine the suffering Zorro would have experienced in the last weeks of his life, where he was isolated, starving, and in pain."

SPCA inspectors found Zorro at Harrison's property on March 23 last year, after being alerted to his poor condition. 

The SPCA says there was no grass, viable feed or faeces near him, with his spine, ribs and pelvis prominent.

In court, Harrison admitted she'd tied him up for up to a month earlier because he kept escaping.

She only gave him water once and no food because she had no money, the SPCA says, and she was "going through significant personal issues herself".

An assessing vet says he would have experienced "significant, unnecessary, and unreasonable distress" before he was humanely euthanised.

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