The dangers of handling other people’s horseboxes without their knowledge have been highlighted by a recent accident.

Showjumping course-designer and owner Brian Lear broke his back when his hydraulic horsebox ramp landed on him in the lorry park at the Royal International Horse Show on 30 July (news 4 August).

He was taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and transferred to a specialist unit for surgery. He is still in hospital and is unable to move from the waist down.

He left the ramp down, because he had a horse inside the horsebox. But it seems that in Mr Lear’s absence someone manually lifted the ramp so that they could move their own box past, breaking the hydraulic mechanism.

When Mr Lear later lowered the ramp it fell on him.

Mr Lear’s wife, Jan, said: “We can only assume someone moved it. I’d urge people not to touch anyone’s lorry — if it is a hydraulic ramp this will happen again. He’s lucky to be alive.”

She added that Mr Lear’s phone number was in the front of the lorry, so he could have been contacted.

Chris Twemlow of Twemlow Horsebox Services is a friend of Mr Lear. He helped build Mr Lear’s horsebox while at another company.

“I checked the lorry recently — there was nothing wrong with it,” he said. “But I won’t fit hydraulic ramps in the future — it’s dangerous if people interfere with them. If you manually lift the ramp it messes with the hydraulics. Brian may never walk again — this is a life-changing accident that could have been avoided.”

And H&H reader Gill Wood told of a similar accident.

“I know someone whose electric ramp was forcibly closed in her absence and when she returned and released it, it fell on her,” she said. “She and her horse managed to jump out of the way, though she suffered concussion and her horse had cuts and bruises.”

Some riders feel stewards feed the problem by parking lorries too closely together. One eventer commented: “Sometimes at shows they pack you in like sardines.”

Jula Richards’ 19-year-old daughter Anna is in hospital with multiple head fractures after their hydraulic ramp malfunctioned three weeks ago.

“I’m keen to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. It took two of us to lift it while my husband dragged her out,” she said.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (11 August, 2011)