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“A horse walks into a bar” is usually a set-up for jokes.

For Christchurch residents, however, it has become a reality, with Beautifoal the horse now a regular at local bars and cafes.

The horse and her owner Richard Hayden are of no fixed abode, but have become a fixture on city streets since they moved from Blenheim to Christchurch.

C1 Espresso owner Sam Crofskey said staff first noticed a horse walking past the inner city cafe months ago.

Since then, Beautifoal has become a regular, stopping by to use the drinking fountain and graze the parsley patch. Occasionally, she’s even been welcomed through the cafe doors to mingle with customers.

Crofskey said Hayden and Beautifoal seemed to share a close bond. “I don’t know much about human-equine relationships but they really seem to be best buddies.”

He said the pair were a great addition to the town centre.

“The horse adds colour to the city. The city is a different place now, and if there was ever a time for Christchurch to have a colourful character and his horse friend, now is surely the time.”

Beautifoal has also become something of a regular at the local pub.

Hannah Storey, of the Miller Bar on Lincoln Rd, said Hayden and Beautifoal would pop by for a drink from time to time, and occasionally offered the customers rides down the street.

“It’s definitely not something you see every day, a horse wandering up and down Lincoln Rd,” she said. “It sends our customers into hysterics.”

Crofskey said Hayden was always “polite, smart and funny”, and rejected claims from critics that he should not have the horse in the city.

Christchurch vet Kate Archbold said she stopped to examine the horse when she spotted her in the Moorehouse Ave Shell station.

Archbold said concerns about the horse’s welfare were unfounded, and Beautifoal was in “excellent condition”.

“She’s the most amazing horse, so calm, with a great disposition.” Archbold said Hayden had taken good care of Beautifoal, and the pair “definitely have a very strong bond”.

The pair have recently been joined by two dogs, who sleep in Beautifoal’s saddle bags.

Hayden and his horse have made headlines before, after interrupting a cricket match in Blenheim last year.

SPCA chief executive Barry Helem said the organisation had not had complaints about Beautifoal, and there was “no welfare issue that we’re aware of”‘.

_Tess McClure reporting for The Press