Levin Racing Club has made a costly decision to build a new stabling facility amid fears for the safety of jockey, animal and motorist alike.
The move was set to cost the Levin Track Trust, a subsidiary of the racing club, the best part of $700,000.
It involved the construction of 120 new tie-up stalls adjacent to the Mako Mako Rd racecourse, with new hosing bays, truck parking and loading ramps. Work was expected to be completed by the end of March this year.
Levin Track Trust chairman Bruce McCarrison said health and safety was the primary factor in its decision to build the new stalls, and the club had to be proactive in their decision, he said.
McCarrison said not all motorists had horse sense. Horses could by nature be unpredictable, and there were occasions when cars were racing each other down the road past horse and rider at speed.
"There have been incidents of near misses and it is only a matter of time before somebody is seriously injured," he said.
"It is a decision that had to made in the interests of health and safety."
McCarrison said the nature of a horse versus vehicle collision meant drivers did not fare well, as the centre of gravity of the horse meant it rolled onto the bonnet and through the front window screen on impact.
"A horse can weigh almost 500 kilograms," he said.
The Levin Racecourse, solely a training facility since its race meetings were moved to Ōtaki in the 1990s, had the racecourse on one side of Mako Mako Rd, and horses tied up on the other.
For more than 100 years horses had crossed the road from the existing stalls to the track early each morning. Mako Mako Rd was originally a dead-end street, but was now a thoroughfare for an increasing number of factory workers and heavy traffic.
The club had long campaigned for action, and years ago had approached Horowhenua District Council and transport authorities with the view of constructing speed humps either side of the track entrance.
Last year NZ Transport Agency lowered the speed limit on the road outside the track from 70km/h to 50km/h.
McCarrison said it was fortunate the club were in a position financially to do the work, and credited the late Robbie Ker for his vision in earmarking unused land owned by the club for development.
He said thanks to Ker's vision, and hard work from the LRC committee, both the club and the trust were in sound financial health, enabling the improvements to go ahead.
"He had the foresight to see that funds raised from the development of an old carpark could be reinvested. That has ensured our survival," he said.
The training centre had also upgraded track facilities allowing them to hold fortnightly jump-out trials which were proving hugely popular with horse trainers in the lower North Island.
McCarrison said the trust had spent a lot of money upgrading the irrigation system to ensure horses in early stages of preparation did not jar up and connections could have confidence in the track.
Jumpouts trials at Levin regularly attract more than 100 horses - more than attend the average raceday meeting - as connections use the trials to ready their horses for either raceday or potential sale.
There were 120 horses at the jumpouts in Levin this week, a majority of which coming from Awapuni, Ōtaki and Wanganui.
Te Horo horse Wyndspelle, a recent Group One winner, contested an open event, while promising 2-year-old colt Piaggio lined up in an earlier heat to ready himself for some rich assignments.
The track was used by more than 40 local horses in training each morning.