Safety warning after horse smashes through trailer window on motorway

  • The owner of a horse who smashed through her trailer window and became stuck under the breast bar while travelling on a motorway wants others to be aware of the risks.

    Hetty King was travelling two former racehorses, whom she had just picked up from their former trainers, on the M11 en route to her home in Essex on Wednesday (25 September).

    Hetty told H&H both Mayson, a 16.2hh gelding, and 15.2hh mare River had been travelling well by the time she stopped at services for something to eat.

    “I went in to check them and could see the mare couldn’t quite reach the haynet, which was hanging in front of the window,” she said.

    “I thought, poor girl, moved it so they could both reach it, and set off.

    “The next thing, I felt the trailer shake violently, and thought ‘What the hell’s going on?’ I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw her face smash through the window of the trailer.”

    Hetty, who was on her own with the two horses, pulled over on to the hard shoulder. She found River had collapsed, and was stuck under the breast bar.

    “She just kept trying to come through the window,” Hetty said. “She was trying to get up. I was on the phone to the police, covered in blood from reaching through the broken window, desperately trying to keep her in because I thought if she bursts out on to the road, she’ll kill herself or someone else.”

    Emergency services arrived and the motorway was closed for about two hours. Hetty lowered the side ramp and managed to release the breast bar so River was no longer stuck and could stand, after which she got her whole head and neck out through the window.

    Vets arrived, the mare was sedated and Mayson was backed out of the trailer so River, who had become wedged in front of Mayson, could also be brought out. The window was secured and, with the horses loaded in opposite sides of the trailer, Hetty drove “at about 10mph” to services where they were loaded into a horsebox and taken home.

    “Both the horses were out in a little paddock the next day and they’re fine, thank god,” Hetty said.

    “The mare’s got a swollen knee and cannon bone, and some swollen lumps on her back but she’s been trotting round sound as a bell.

    “It was the most traumatic experience – I was on my own in such a dangerous situation – the firefighters were at one point talking about cutting her out of the trailer and I was so worried about her getting out – you never think something like this will happen to you but when it does, it’s catastrophic.”

    Hetty, who travels regularly as she takes on former racehorses for rehoming, wants to warn others to cover trailer windows or take other measures to ensure a similar incident cannot happen.

    “If she’d been a 12hh pony, she could have got out,” she said. “If the window hadn’t been there, she’d have got stuck but there wouldn’t have been the risk to other people, and I’ve since had messages from people saying this wasn’t the first time horses have panicked and gone through trailer windows.

    “I bought a trailer because I thought with the money I had, I’d get a better trailer than a lorry. It was well looked after, it had been serviced in June, and this still happened.

    “We put our horses in these steel boxes and they’re so good but it’s so terrible when things go wrong.”

    A spokesperson for Ifor Williams, which made Hetty’s trailer, said: “We work extremely hard to ensure that our horseboxes set the benchmark in terms of safety and animal welfare – and this design is no exception.

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    “The material used to make the front panel on this particular model was changed from GRP to aluminium and the design was adjusted slightly to accommodate a different manufacturing method but that has not affected the safety of the trailer in any way. Other trailers in our range, as well as many other horsebox manufacturers, continue to use GRP as a standard material for the front panel.

    “The automotive glass we use is certified and fully complies with all European regulatory safety requirements. Our trailers also fully comply with both UK and European legislation covering the welfare of horses in transit.

    “All our horseboxes are subjected to rigorous testing because the safety and comfort of the horses is always our paramount consideration.”

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