Stallion is unlikely leader in Ulster cycle race
Riders competing at the inaugural North West 3 Day cycle race were given the fright of their lives after a huge white stallion bolted a fence to join them on the road.
Cyclists were halfway through a gruelling first day stage, beginning at Foyle Arena and finishing in the hilly Campsie area of the city, when the incident occurred on an unnamed road between Raphoe and St Johnston in Co Donegal.
Leading A4 class riders, both men and women competing for amateur clubs from across Northern Ireland were quite literally stopped in their tracks as the horse leaped a barrier just 10 feet ahead of the primary peloton.
Sports cameraman Jonny Collins was on hand to capture the dramatic events as they unfolded, and kept his camera rolling as the horse continued to gallop towards him and his colleagues a quarter of a mile further along the route.
"I was ahead of the pack, filming out the back of a car when the horse bolted," Collins recalled. "It was crazy. The horse was absolutely massive, the biggest I've ever seen in my life.
"Before the incident took place, we actually saw the thing running alongside the riders in the fields to their right, and watched as it jumped not one fence but two or three between fields before deciding to join the race. We were shocked. It's not something you expect to see every day."
The North West 3 Day is organised and administered by the Foyle Cycling Club (FCC) and press relations officer Thomas McLaughlin (31) was also present during the incident.
Although McLaughlin did not witness the horse escaping its enclosure, as a passenger in the lead car he observed the stallion a minute or two ahead of the lead peloton but noticed nothing unusual in its behaviour.
With the horse's owner not present, race marshals were forced to use their vehicles to coral the stallion at the side of the road.
Finally, after race officials had managed to manoeuvre the horse into a neighbouring field and lock the gate behind it, the race recommenced.
"If the horse had bolted even five seconds earlier than it did, it could have been absolute carnage out there," said McLaughlin. "It literally jumped out 10 feet ahead of the lead riders. Looking at the video footage now, it seems quite funny, but actually it could have been much more serious."