A 9-year-boy who died when a horse bolted had tied himself to the animal with a rope around his waist, police say.
Tareha Wetoa Rehua Kopa-Taylor, of Waiomio in the Far North, died after he was dragged for some distance behind the horse when it was spooked on Saturday evening.
Kerikeri Acting Sergeant Mark Roberts said initial interviews with witnesses and family members had revealed Tareha had tied a rope around his waist and attached it to the horse's neck as a bridle while riding in a paddock.
"Unfortunately, somebody has turned the flashlight on as it was going dark and it's spooked the horse... which has bolted and dragged him along," Mr Roberts said.
"Although, he was only 9 years old, he was an experienced horse handler. He'd been around horses all his life," he said.
Mr Roberts said the boy's family was devastated.
A family member in Kawakawa said yesterday they did not want to comment.
Tareha's cousin Wiremu Mahanga earlier said the boy loved horses and was not afraid to break in wild ones.
"In the summer, when the grass was high, you'd see these little heads pop up and he was one of those kids. The horses would be running around them," he said.
He said Tareha's grandmother had been his caregiver when the parents were away for work.
"His grandmother stays just down the road. I saw some lights outside my front gate and it was the ambulance.
"The horse had dragged my little cousin through about two fences and stopped at my driveway," Mr Mahanga told the Herald on Sunday.