A former groom who has been unable to work and has lost her horse since her ear was bitten off at work believes “things need to change” in the industry.
The groom, whom we have chosen not to name, told H&H her “world was turned upside down” by the incident, which involved a horse kept where she worked. As she has since been unable to earn, and could not afford her livery bill, she had to rehome her horse.
“It’s taken me a long time to be able to talk about it without breaking down,” she said. “But I’ve got to try to move forward now.”
The groom said on the day in question, she was putting on the horse’s rug and nothing seemed amiss.
“He was absolutely fine,” she said. “Normally you’d get an inkling or a warning if a horse was going to do something but there was nothing, then just a bang to the side of my head.
“His teeth dragged down my head and he had hold of my ear, then he sort of dragged me towards him and flung me away.
“I couldn’t believe what was happening, then I saw what looked like a piece of carrot fly in front of me. I thought ‘That’s not carrot, it’s my ear’.
“It dawned on me that he’d bitten my ear off.”
The groom called for help, adding that she knew the situation was not good, but she tried to “hold it together”.
“I sat there while they found my ear,” she said. “My boss said ‘Shall we call 999 or 111?’ and I was thinking ‘I’ve lost an ear; 999 please’.
“I went to hospital with my ear in a plastic cup. When the woman said my friend couldn’t come in with me, my friend said ‘I’ve got her ear in this cup, would you like it?’ The woman said ‘I think you’d better come in’! All I was thinking was ‘Oh my god, my ear’s in a cup’.”
A doctor took off the vetwrap with which the groom had been bandaged, the horses’ first-aid kit being the nearest to hand at the yard, and said the injury would have to be dealt with in another hospital.
“My friend said I was hilarious,” the groom said. “I’d had so much morphine and gas and air, when he said that, I said ‘You know what they say; ear today, gone tomorrow’!”
Surgeons at the next hospital were unable to save the ear but the groom had surgery to “tidy it up”, and she is waiting to see a consultant about further surgery to rebuild it.
Doctors said the groom could not work, so she rang her employer, and was told her horse could go on full livery. But the statutory sick pay did not cover the bills.
“My boss said ‘Don’t worry, what you accumulate, you can pay off when you’re back’,” the groom said. “I was a bit taken aback. I know they’re running a business but I didn’t feel supported.”
The groom contacted her employers to ask if she could claim her lost earnings on their insurance, but says this made her bosses “unhappy” and she was given 48 hours to move her horse. With no money, she had to find her a new home.
“It almost feels like one of my kids going into care,” she said. “That’s been the hardest thing.”
The groom is now initiating legal action to try to claim from her bosses’ insurance.
“This isn’t an attack on them but I feel I haven’t been treated fairly,” she said. “I spoke to someone who runs a similar business and he was so shocked; he had an incident where a member of staff was hurt and he told her to claim as that’s what the insurance is there for. I feel badly let down.”
The groom said she believes there are equestrian employers who need to change their mindset.
“Times are changing and we need to change with them, and everyone has a part to play,” she said. “I understand running a small business is tough but you’ve got to look after your staff. If you support them, they’ll support you too.
“I hope sharing my story makes people think. You need employers’ liability insurance, and you need to treat people properly, that’s why I’m telling my story; people need to speak up rather than it being forgotten about.”
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