A horsebox builder in Gloucestershire is facing an investigation by Trading Standards following a string of complaints from customers.

Nick Hobson of Cotswold Horseboxes in Moreton Valence has taken tens of thousands of pounds from clients to build horseboxes he has then neglected and left partly built. He was made bankrupt in 2000, but has since resumed business activities.

H&H has spoken to four of his clients who, between January 2005 and January 2006, paid him a total £75,000 for horseboxes promised for delivery in 2-8 months. The vehicles are now either in a basic build condition at Mr Hobson’s premises or have been delivered unfit for the road and require thousands of pounds to repair.

“He’s wrecked my dreams,” said Paralympic show jumper Louise Hacker, who ordered an HGV horsebox from Mr Hobson last May for it to be ready in August. When she visited Cotswold Horseboxes in December, her part-built lorry was sitting outside in the rain, with the frame sodden.

Another client dealt with Mr Hobson’s company Gloucester Fabrications, which he ran with his brother, Paul, before he set up as a sole trader as Cotswold Horseboxes. She ordered a three-horse horsebox in January 2005, to be ready in time for the show season.

When work stalled in May, despite having paid £20,000, Debbie Kedward’s horsebox was nowhere near completion. When her lorry did finally appeared, it was so unroadworthy that it had to be scrapped.

When contacted by H&H, Nick Hobson said “nothing underhand has been done” and said the lorries “would materialise”.

“I’ve spent a lot of time working at my pub over the past 12 months and have let things slip, it’s been a nightmare,” he said. “I’m half to two-thirds of the way through the vehicles, and as far as I know everyone is happy.”

Thinking of buying a horsebox?

  • Check the company out, says Claire Williams from the British Equestrian Trade Association. Look it up at Companies House (www.companieshouse.gov.uk). Is it listed in the phone book? Ask to speak to previous customers
  • Use a personally recommended horsebox trader if at all possible, someone a friend or relative has previously dealt with, says legal advisor Gerald Taylor
  • If you are asked for a deposit, bank manager Andy Procter suggests asking the manufacturer whether its bank will issue an advance payment and/or progress payment guarantee
  • Before you leave a deposit, John Morecroft of trade association Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association (VBRA) advises you ask for a signed order explaining what you are purchasing, and in the event of the company going out of business, how the deposit is protected. Also, get a copy of the build details and ask the company to explain how to use the vehicle
  • The Office of Fair Trading says “if you leave a deposit, get a receipt showing the company’s name and address”

Read this news report in full in today’s Horse & Hound (1 February, ’07)