The quickest and most painless way to end the life of a horse is to shoot it with a free-bullet humane slaughtering pistol or captive bolt stunner. This method is often preferred by owners as it renders the animal unconscious without the need for a vet to administer lethal injection.
This procedure is generally carried out by a veterinarian, hunt kennelman or knackerman. They have the necessary licenses to dispatch horses with a gun.
To ensure a humane kill, you need to use a high-powered centre-fire, bolt action rifle with good telescopic sights. Ideally, the barrel should be of a calibre at least as large as that used for cattle (eg.300 Magnum).
When shooting, the head should be held in an upright position with the eyes open and the head pointed slightly higher than the position for cattle (Figure 2). The muzzle of the firearm should be slightly tilted so that the shot enters the skull through the cerebral cortex to the brain stem.
Results showed that all bullets in animals shot at point blank range entered left of midline and that a well-defined circular entrance cavity was present in the skull. This caused reliable near instantaneous irrecoverable insensibility in all animals. The resulting pathophysiology of free-bullet injury was consistent with the effects observed when horses were shot at close quarters by a specialised abattoir slaughterman.
The resulting insensibility and damage to multiple brain regions confirms the effectiveness of free-bullet shooting as an effective dispatch method for horses. It also provides a valuable resource for researchers and clinicians in the field of equine brain trauma.