Keriana Te Paa had no idea who would shoot a much-loved horse in its paddock at Ahipara, or why, but of one thing she had no doubt.

"Someone will know who did this," she said.

"Whoever did it will talk about it. And we want to know who that person is."

Six-year-old Blue, originally from Spirits Bay, had been a beautiful, much-loved horse, Ms Te Paa said. He had had no vices and had been popular with children, but had been wary of strangers, so would not have been approachable by anyone he didn't know.

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He was felled some time on Friday morning - a nearby resident who was awake until 1am had not seen or heard anything suspicious before that time - with one bullet to the heart. Police, who had told the family that there had been no other reports of violence against animals, suspected that weapon used was a .22 rifle.

Whoever was responsible, she said, had obviously known what they were doing, the shot having been expertly aimed.

The family had had horses in that roadside paddock, just over the bridge on Foreshore Rd, for 15 or 20 years, Ms Te Paa said, with no trouble apart from the occasional dog problem. Blue, named for his two blue eyes, had just been moved there, and the first thing the family did after discovering what had happened was to move the others well out of harm's way.

"I'm absolutely gutted," she said.

"I just can't believe it. I was hoping, when I heard that he had been shot, that he was just lying down, but he wasn't.

"Everyone is worried now. If someone could do this to Blue, how are they going to protect their horses? But someone will know who did this, and we really want to know who that person is."