Julia McMorrow’s 17.2hh part-bred Shire Merlin severed arteries and lost part of his hoof when a metal sheet used to mend the trailer wall came loose in transit.
Two months on, the 15-year-old gelding is recovering but faces months of rehabilitation, while Julia is left with thousands of pounds to pay in vets’ bills.
“In some ways, I’ve been lucky,” Julia told H&H. “I run holiday lets and we had a good summer; that money was supposed to go to do up my house, but without that, I’d have had to put him down.”
Julia said she booked the local transporter to take Merlin to hospital for treatment for canker in his front feet.
Having suffered two broken ribs while trying to treat the painful condition, and under stress about the trip, she did not think to check the transporter she used, whom she knew other people locally had travelled horses with.
“I assumed she was legal and it wasn’t until that night I found out she wasn’t,” Julia said.
“I went in her car as friends were picking me up and I’d told her that he always kicks the back ramp twice as you pull away and then settles. He did that and she said we’d just carry on, but what neither of us realised is that the sheet of metal on the wall had collapsed and gone under his feet. He must have been so terrified, he just froze; if we’d known and had taken him off there, he’d have died as it was rush hour and a vet couldn’t have got there in time.”
As the car and trailer pulled up at the clinic, there was a group of vets waiting.
“Someone had seen the blood pouring out of the trailer and let them know,” Julia said. “I didn’t have a clue what was going on but we took down the ramp and it was horrendous.
“I said ‘Oh my god, what the hell’s happened?’ and [the transporter] said ‘Oh my god, he’s ruined my trailer’.”
Merlin was immediately sedated, and vets got the bleeding under control. During that time, Julia’s friend had spotted something about the trailer, while her daughter took photographs.
“I could see the side wall had been bodged with these metal sheets,” Julia said. “I came round the corner crying and she said ‘Don’t worry about the trailer, I’ve got a man who does cheap repairs’. This was two sheets of metal, secured by carpet trim.”
Merlin spent a week in hospital, during which his canker was also successfully cut out, and six more weeks at a rehabilitation centre. He is now home, and vets are optimistic about his prognosis but he faces another six months of box rest.
“He’d taken a large section out of his hoof and they said at first he’d probably need reconstructive surgery but it’s growing nicely, so he doesn’t need it,” Julia said.
Julia is now in the process of taking legal action against the transporter, who charged her an average rate for the trip despite the fact she was unlicensed.
“She messaged me that evening to ask me to pay for the repairs to her trailer. I asked for her insurance details and she said she’d just done it as a favour. But I’d never even met her before,” she said.
“If she’d once asked how Merlin was or said sorry, I wouldn’t be doing this. I understand people make mistakes and I’m sure she didn’t mean to hurt my horse but when she messaged me that night, about paying for her trailer but nothing about Merlin, I thought ‘This woman’s got no heart’. That’s what upsets me the most.”
Julia is urging anyone considering booking a transporter to check potential companies thoroughly in advance, looking for those that give professional quotes and ask appropriate questions about the horse to be transported, for example, as well as being happy to provide proof of licensing, to ensure they are licensed to provide the service and so up to standard.
“I want to raise awareness of what can happen,” she said. “The impact of this has been huge; I lost my other mare too. She hadn’t been eating very well since Merlin had been away and although she perked up when he came back, she then colicked and we lost her. It was like she’d given up and I’m pretty sure she’d still be here if he hadn’t been away.
“It just shows that a simple thing like not checking in advance can have such a huge effect.”
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