Shani Hughes-Keighley says the family is devastated after losing their six-year-old purebred horse Pearl to poisoning.

Pearl was one of Hughes-Keighley purebred Gypsy Cobs, living at Parkhill Stables, a Gypsy Cob horse stud in Haumoana, in the Hawke's Bay.

The owners suspect Pearl ate either an Acer or Maple tree branch over the weekend. Both those types of tree branches are deadly to horses.

Hughes-Keighley told the Herald she found Pearl "lethargic and sluggish" when she went to see her out in the paddock. She took her up to the house to monitor her and called the vet out to see her but there was nothing that could be done.

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"She went downhill pretty quickly," he said.

The owner says the family is heartbroken to lose Pearl and is pleading with people not to throw food to horses as a lot of people are not aware of what can be toxic or even lethal to the animals.

Hughes-Keighley suspects someone threw the branches over the fence thinking they'd be helping by giving the horses something to eat.

"It's no different to giving a dog a heap of chocolate," she said. "Horses can't just eat anything, and people aren't aware."

The family is devastated after Pearl's death. Photo / Supplied
The family is devastated after Pearl's death. Photo / Supplied

This is not the first time the family loses one of their beloved animals due to other people's actions.

In 2008, they lost Diesel, another one of their horses that was found dead in a ditch next to his paddock.

At the time, they were having trouble with "boy racers" in the area and suspect someone either did something to Diesel or he had been spooked by the noise of boy racers and run through the shed and fence.

The family says there have been "all sorts of dramas" since the council built a walking and cycling track that goes past their land.

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According to Hughes-Keighley, people throw all sorts of items over her fence and she has to do regular walk-throughs to clean up.

She says she often finds food such as cabbage, onions, tomatoes and egg shells but also grass clippings and sawn-off branches.

"People either don't want to go to the tip or they think they're helping [by throwing the branches over the fence]," she says.

"It's really important that you never ever feed other peoples stock without asking the owner's permission."

The family has the property on the market and are hoping to move further away from public access roads.

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In the meantime, they will move their other Gypsy Cob horses to a paddock they rent past the village, which is on private property and with no public access.

"These are very special animals to us. Gypsy Cobs were only introduced to New Zealand in 2006. It takes many years to build up a really good quality herd. They are very expensive as well," the owner says, adding that Pearl was worth $15,000.

The heartbroken family buried Pearl this morning, right next to Diesel.

Hughes-Keighley hopes Pearl's death highlights the dangers of feeding people's animals, when you don't know what can hurt them. "Even if you think you're helping, don't do it."