Owners of horseboxes and trailers are being urged to check the flooring on their vehicles after a horse was destroyed last week following a motorway accident.

Last Thursday (5 July, ’07), a section of the M3 on the Surrey/Hampshire border was closed after a horse put its foot through the floor of a horsebox in which it was travelling. The metal and wood flooring had given way.

“The horsebox was carrying three young event horses,” said RSPCA inspector Nicky Thorne, who attended the scene. “One of the horses, a four-year-old, put its leg through the bottom of the box and it had become caught between the wheels. The horse was put down at the scene. It was just so tragic.”

The driver of the vehicle did not wish to be named, but said the horsebox had been plated a month previously and the flooring checked. He added that the box was parked indoors and never washed with a hosepipe.

“It was a fluke accident,” he said, praising the “amazing” RSPCA officer.

Ms Thorne reiterated: “We want people to be as vigilant as possible — not just making sure everything looks OK, but really testing the floor to make sure. Look carefully for any little hole, crack or discolouration — if anything looks suspicious, don’t take the chance.”

John Parker of transport firm John Parker International said it is important to keep on top of horsebox and trailer maintenance.

“When you’re travelling horses regularly, even on new lorries, there’s always upkeep and you have to keep on top of it straight away,” he said.

George Smith of Wiltshire-based George Smith Horseboxes said there was no “exact science”, but advised people to have aluminium floors where they can afford it.

“If the box or trailer has a wet-poured rubber flooring or lockers beneath, it’s also very hard to tell the condition of the vehicle,” he said. “Although the floor is an item on the Goods Vehicle test [plating], it’s possibly not tested in the appropriate way. It’s basically tested for damage, it’s not a 12-month guarantee to carry livestock.”

He added that flooring problems are more usual in trailers because people are not aware of how old these are: “Because you don’t need an MOT, they just keep on going — people don’t understand the maintenance that is essential.”

He added that his firm would be happy to check any lorry floors free of charge (www.georgesmithhorseboxes.com).

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (12 July, ’07)