By Becca Husselbee
A family who claims their prized horse was MURDERED when he fell through the floor of a faulty £65,000 lorry have received a five-figure payout.
Carole Mutch was transporting eventer Gorsehill Echo to a friend’s farm in March 2015 when he fell through the 1.8cm plywood flooring and became trapped between the double wheels – breaking his leg and severing his hoof.
The animal, thought to be worth £35,000, had to be put to sleep while still stuck inside the horsebox and Carole claims Alexanders Horseboxes, who built the lorry, had cut corners when fitting the 18mm wooden flooring without the correct support.
Carole, whose son Harry is a professional event rider, is now warning other horses owner to check the flooring when purchasing a horsebox and has called for laws to be changed so all vehicles sturdy aluminum floors.
Alexanders Horseboxes initially tried to claim that the lorry had not been carefully cleaned and looked after, causing the wooden floor to disintegrate but this was disputed by the family.
Carole, from Whitley Bay, Northumberland, said: “They murdered my horse.
“The day was lost Echo I saw something I never ever thought I would see.
“When I could see that his tail was touching the ground I knew how bad it was.
“The fire service that attended that day had to use 400 gallons of water to clean the blood from the back of the lorry.
“My son and Echo had a very special bond and they had a very promising future ahead of them. We were all so devastated and even now we miss him so much.
“He was a horse of a lifetime when he had finished his job with Harry he would never have been sold he would have stayed with our family. He was a horse on a million.
“I struggled for a long time afterwards and couldn’t leave the house or sleep. Even crossing the road sent me into a panic.
“They cut corners putting a plywood floor in. Why plywood was ever on the floor is beyond me, the advert the horsebox was built from states alloy plank flooring as a standard feature.
“My horse trusted me with his life and I thought I was doing the right thing by spending so much money on the lorry.
“I loaded Echo and another horse onto that death trap that morning. I really had no idea there was only 1.8cm between them and the road.”
Carole had been taking her son’s two horses to her friend’s farm in Jedburgh, near Scottish Border, so they could be exercised when she felt a bang and thought the lorry had blown a tyre.
She was quickly flagged down by a passerby, who informed her she could see the horse’s tail lying on the ground and it looked like he had fallen through the floor.
Due to the wooden flooring the beams below being spaced too far apart, Echo was not supported, and his hind leg fell down between the double wheels.
This causing a fracture above the hock, his hoof to become dislodged and extensive bleeding.
A friend and a local farmer who was close by had to put the nine-year-old event horse down after it became clear he would not recover and was suffering and in pain.
Carole, who helps son Harry run his own yard, based in Whitley Bay, Northumberland, said: “We had nothing but problems with the box since it was delivered in September 2012, it came with six different tyres.
“Five months in it was off the road, it was disgustingly built, it was hardly used in the two and a half years we had it and six weeks before the accident it was off the road due to a mechanical fault.
“After the accident, I called the owner straight away to tell him he had murdered my horse, they tried to tell me that to was actually a blowout which had killed Echo.
“The beams supporting the floor should be 13 to 16 millimeters apart, by law, but the gap that Echo fell through was 24 inches.
“If the box had been used more than the accident would have happened in the first 18 months. We were lucky that we had not been travelling on the motorway as it could have killed us or another road user.
“It should never have happened.”
After the loss of their beloved horse, the Mutch family received a five-figure out of court settlement.
Alexanders Horseboxes alleged that the horsebox was kept in a poor condition and accepted no liability for the tragedy but horse owner, Carole, claimed that the floor was tested for traces of urine that could have caused the floor to rot, and none were found.
Son, Harry, who is now 21, is competing professionally at three-star level with his horse, HD Bronze, who was also travelling on the lorry at the time of the accident.
Carole is warning others of the dangers of inadequate flooring in horseboxes and is urging horse owners to check before purchasing.
She said: “Floors should be checked at plating to make sure they are fit for purpose.
“They should be checked at MOT as standard, because the horsebox was a brand new build I would not have thought about checking the floor for at least three years but probably more like five years.
“A lot of people I have spoken to have also said the same. Had the floor been checked at its first MOT by someone independent of Alexander’s it would have been picked up and taken off the road immediately.”
A spokesman for Alexanders Horseboxes said: “Despite the very poor condition the vehicle had been kept in, the claimant sought damages and, after due legal process, a commercial decision was made by our insurers to make an out-of-court award of less than 20 percent of the original claim.
“The horsebox was manufactured by another company, with whom we no longer work, and Alexanders Horseboxes acted only as the distributor in this case.
“While we have made absolutely no admission of any liability, all parties have accepted the judgment.
“We take safety very seriously – it is the very reason we started the business back in 2005 – and as horse lovers we were extremely distressed by this case.
“It is a reminder that proper maintenance of your horsebox is part and parcel of owning a horse and that extreme neglect can have very tragic consequences.”