Owner calls for action after horse spooked by fireworks suffers horrific injuries

  • An event mare who suffered horrific wounds when she fled a nearby fireworks display and collided with a car is expected to make a full recovery.

    Willow, a 17hh Irish sports horse, jumped seven post and rail fences before escaping on to the A57 near Lincoln, where the accident occurred.

    The car was written off, while Willow suffered gaping lacerations to the upper part of her off foreleg and her chest which have required intensive treatment at Oakham veterinary hospital.

    Warning: very graphic picture.

    “She’s been good in herself and is still on antibiotics and pain relief. Some of the wounds have broken down, which the vets were disappointed about but there’s healthy tissue underneath and it’s going to look worse before it looks better,” said owner Rachel Taylor. “Her leg has no skin at the top, just exposed muscle — it’s not pleasant to look at but it should repair. The vets are hopeful she’ll be back out eventing eventually.”


    Rachel added that she had her fingers crossed the eight-year-old grey, who she has owned for three-and-a-half years, would be coming home in a few days.

    “I’ve made her bed bigger than I’ve made any bed before and she will have new pyjamas too!” she added. “It’s been emotional going to see her. It’s looked so bad at times — no animal should have to go through that and endure the injuries she’s sustained.”

    Rachel said on the night of October 29, she received a call from the livery yard owner saying fireworks had been let off nearby unexpectedly. When she went to check the horses, she could not find Willow.

    “I was at the yard within ten minutes looking for her, the fireworks had stopped by then but the bonfire was still raging — it was a case of finding out where she’d gone to,” she said.

    Believing the horse must have got on to the road, Rachel was on the phone to the police to ask them them to shut the A57 when her worst fears were realised.

    “I saw all the cars brake lights suddenly come on and I just knew…” she said. “I must have run, I don’t think I even saw the car on the way past trying to get to her.”

    Someone had managed to stop Willow but as soon as Rachel got a headcollar on her she realized the extent of the damage.

    “I could see blood dripping all over her rug and her face, I was gobsmacked when I lifted the rug and saw the wound. She was shaking from head to foot — it was a good week before her heart rate and respiration returned to normal,” she said.

    She added that the driver and passenger were very understanding and were only concerned for the horse’s wellbeing.

    “They said they weren’t worried about the car as it was just metal. It must have been a shock to suddenly have a horse on your bonnet but they were very kind and supportive. The last thing you’d want in that situation is someone being aggressive.”

    As they coaxed Willow back to the yard, Rachel called her vet, who arrived to administer pain relief before she was transported to hospital.

    “It was dreadful — they’d shut the A1 at Newark so we had to take a detour and I was just looking at my sat nav counting down the minutes,” she recalled. “Luckily, the Oakham team was fantastic. They were straight on it, everything she needed was there and it was a relief knowing she was in the best possible hands.”

    Out of character

    Rachel believes the mare’s “out of character” response was caused by a firework travelling horizontally, that either hit Willow or passed very close by.

    “She jumped seven 1m fences, ran away from all the other horses and was utterly not seeing what was around her. That’s not scared, that’s petrified,” she said.

    “After talking with the other neighbours, they saw fireworks travelling horizontally that must have fallen over. I’ll never know exactly what happened, but we found a firework in her field.”

    “If we’d have known about the fireworks we would have brought our horses in,” Rachel added. “They come in during the winter but because the weather has been so kind we thought it was nicer for them to stay out — we were prepared for bonfire weekend, but not the weekend before.”

    Rachel believes Willow only survived the crash because of her size and fitness and had the motorists been in a smaller car, they might also have been seriously hurt in the collision.

    She is now advocating a ban on fireworks to members of the public and is also calling for silent fireworks to be used.

    “This was just one incident, and the BHS had 27 reported from that weekend onwards,” she said. “Let’s keep it to the pros who know what they’re doing and not people who are going to set fireworks off in the wrong direction.

    “It’s not just about horses, there are so many other areas to look at — elderly people, those with post-traumatic stress disorder, domestic animals and wildlife. They all get frightened and every year it’s reported that an animal has been hurt because of fireworks.

    “In Willow’s case, all it would have taken was for someone to knock on the door and say ‘we’re having fireworks, you might want to bring horses in’. It’s selfish and negligent not to.”

    Rachel added that with New Year’s Eve approaching, she hopes Willow’s story might make at least one person think twice before setting them off.

    “A lot of non-horsey people have contacted me and said ‘I didn’t realise it could do this, I’ll never buy fireworks again’. Whether they’ll stick to that I don’t know but if it puts a little niggle in the back of their mind, then it’s worth talking about.”

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