Carbon monoxide alarm saves pair sleeping in horsebox

A mother and daughter who were woken by a carbon monoxide alarm as they slept in their horsebox have urged other riders to buy them, as “it could save a life”.

Nanette Aitken and her 15-year-old daughter Anneliese, who was on the Team GB Pony Nations Cup squad in 2018, were staying in their lorry while they attended training in Perthshire on 21 January and were woken at 3am by the alarm.

Nanette told H&H: “I’ve carried the carbon monoxide alarm for a few years now after a friend recommended I get one; with Anneliese competing we’re away staying in the lorry a lot.

“The problem is when you’re travelling a lot it’s the sort of thing that can be stood on or it gets knocked and will go off so it can end up being put in a cupboard. I must have been having a tidy-up a few months ago and had put ours in the cupboard under the sink and not known how long it was in there.”

Nanette’s alarm was showing a reading of 76 parts per million (ppm). 50ppm is the safety level as specified by the HSE for a maximum of 30 minutes’ exposure.

“This beep was going off and I got up to see what was going on and found the monitor. Who knows what would have happened if the alarm hadn’t gone off at 3am, with another five hours to sleep – potentially we wouldn’t have woken up,” said Nanette.

“I phoned my husband and he said it must have been the heating, it’s the only thing he thought it could be. The heating exhaust sits out just outside the side of the lorry, and it turns out it had been damaged and we didn’t know, so the fumes must have gone straight back up when I turned the heating on. Our lorry is serviced every year and we have the gas and electrics checked, but this was something you wouldn’t have thought to check.”

Nanette and Anneliese went outside and opened the door and windows to vent the lorry.

“After we aired the lorry the monitor went down gradually, my husband told us to turn the heating off and eventually after a while it cleared down to zero and we closed everything up and left the heating off,” said Nanette.

“I didn’t go back to bed, I kept thinking what if it wasn’t the heating or what if it was something else. You’re not in a frame of mind to bed back down and get snuggled up.”

Nanette had the heating exhaust repaired and moved the carbon monoxide alarm out of the cupboard.

“It won’t be moved again – it will be there as a permanent reminder. For it to have gone off when it was in a cupboard is amazing that it worked and detected it.”



Nanette, who wants to raise awareness about having a carbon monoxide alarm, has posted on Facebook about her experience.

“I got a fright and my daughter realises its was quite an event. My daughter said we really need to get people thinking and talking about it. Some people have said they hadn’t thought about it or it’s not something they’d considered – it could save a life,” she said.

“I think its jolted a lot of people and their initial reaction is ‘that’s awful, I’m going to get one’ but then the next day passes and they haven’t done it yet. Don’t forget about it and carry this through – that’s the message we need to get to people, because it’s easy to be alarmed at the time then for it to fizzle to the back of your memory.

“It’s a great investment. They’re not expensive, you can get them from around £10 to £20 – which isn’t a lot for something that might one day be useful to you. When it’s such a small investment for the health benefits I would say it’s an absolute must.”

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