Troopers said they believe three horses broke out of a local pasture.
One of the horses was hit by a vehicle on the highway west of Wake Forest around 6 a.m.
Two other vehicles hit the horse before first-responders could close the road.
The accidents closed a lane for part of the morning.
The State Highway Patrol said it took about two hours to clear the scene.
The two other horses were found and returned to their owners.
Officials said the dead horse was buried on its owners' property.
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