Vets campaign to improve horsebox floor safety

Posters stressing the importance of making regular checks of your horsebox or trailer’s floor are being sent to vets’ waiting rooms nationwide as part of a campaign by the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA).

BEVA member Derek Landwehr, a vet in Surrey, was called to a horrific incident last year where a young event horse fell through the floor of a transporter that was travelling on the M4 (news, 12 July 2007).

Mr Landwehr said: “The horse’s right hindlimb had fallen through the floor above the rear double wheels.

“This dislocated the hock and fetlock with catastrophic injuries to the front of the whole limb, as if the leg had been put into an electric pencil sharpener.” The horse was destroyed at the scene.

In a similar incident on the M3 last September, a horse’s leg dropped through the floor of a horsebox, becoming entangled in the propshaft.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue was called to the accident in Marlborough, Wiltshire.

Spokesman Jim Green said: “It seems to be a case of an expensive and well-loved animal being transported in a poor quality or poorly maintained box, which seems crazy to me.”

From 1999, trailer manufacturer Ifor Williams has used aluminium floors as standard in all its trailers because of users’ failure to maintain wooden floors.

The company suggests that anyone owning one of its older trailers with a wooden floor has it replaced with aluminium.

“Wood is still a standard for most manufacturers but we found that people do not maintain their trailers,” said spokesman Sian Williams.

Ifor Williams suggests all wooden-floored trailers be checked two or three times a year by the service department of a trailer distributor and that users lift the rubber matting if the trailer is to be left unused for any length of time.

The Highways Agency said it suggests users check their floor thoroughly each time they load their horse, and that the floor is checked as part of the MOT.

In Australia, all livestock trailers must be certified as roadworthy before they are allowed on the road. And Hampshire Fire and Rescue would like to see a similar scheme here.

The Vehicle and Operator Standards Agency (VOSA) said it has no plans to make trailer testing compulsory, but welcomed an improvement in maintenance standards.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (29 May, ’08)