A BERKSHIRE mum has told of her terror when the horse trailer transporting her son’s prized pony was hit by another motorist and overturned on the M3.
Heather O’Connor, 43, of Wokingham said if it was not for the robust nature of her Ifor Williams Trailer and the fantastic response of the local emergency services then her son’s beloved pony Paddy may not have survived.
The mum-of-two was travelling to an area pony club show-jumping competition at Sparsholt College in Hampshire with her son Josh, 13, and her husband Brian, 46, when the accident took place. Paddy, a nine-year-old 13.2 hh grey Connemara cross, was travelling in the family’s IWT trailer behind the family’s 4x4 vehicle.
Heather, who is also mum to Reece, 20, and lives in Wokingham, said: "The other motorist was going to overtake and we are not entirely sure what happened but from what a lorry driver witness said, he drifted into us, catching the driver corner of the trailer and carried on pushing us over for some while before realising what was happening and pulling away from us.
"The impact caused us to snake along the road and thank goodness my husband was driving because he is an experienced lorry driver. Goodness knows what would have happened if I had been at the wheel.
"He tried really hard to regain control as soon as he could but we were zig zagging right across the carriageway one minute towards the central reservation and the next towards the hard shoulder.
"The trailer overturned on to its side and you could see the gouge marks in the road where it had been dragged on its side by the force of the accident.
"We ended up stationary with the 4x4 the wrong way round facing back the other way and the trailer up against the hard shoulder crash barrier.
Fortunately, the traffic behind the terrified family had realised what was happening and hung back until they came to a standstill.
Then the relief at surviving the incident with the whole family in one piece turned to panic as they realised they had no idea how Paddy had fared in the trailer behind.
Heather, an accounts assistant, said: "My son Josh was initially hysterical, we all were inside to be honest with you. I had to get him to calm down because I knew it would frighten Paddy even more if he saw Josh like that and I had no idea what we were going to find when we opened up the trailer.
"I opened up the jockey door on the side of the trailer and Paddy was just standing there shaking like a leaf.
"He had flipped over the central partition, then he had managed to get himself under the chest bar at the front of the trailer and was standing in the opposite direction with most of his weight on the doors which open at the top of side ramp.
"I was amazed at the strength of the trailer holding up. The entire structure has stood firm. If he had broken through and his hoof had come through anywhere, particularly as the trailer was being dragged along the road, then the injuries caused could have been devastating.
"I am also so relieved that we tied him up using a quick release lead rope via binder twine which had broken easily and prevented himself from basically hanging himself.
"He was also wearing good quality travelling boots, which again must have helped him.
"We were also helped enormously by Hampshire Fire and Rescue who were fantastic from start to finish and helped us all get to safety."
Paddy was left with some soft tissue damage to his back and a small cut to his front leg just above where his travel boot had been.
Andrew Reece-Jones, the Design Engineering Manager at Ifor Williams Trailers, said: "We are so sorry that Heather, her family and Paddy have had to go through this awful ordeal but feel very proud that one of our trailers helped protect Paddy from too much harm.
"Our hard-working design and manufacturing team spend time and effort producing the best possible, quality product.
"Our trailers are often transporting valuable and much-loved cargo and so safety is always at the forefront of our minds. We have an international reputation which people like Heather trust and we strive to uphold this at all times."
After a well-deserved month of rest, Heather has slowly brought him back into work and he is recovering well following his ordeal, even loading into the back of a friend’s horse box with his field companion, although his loving owners have not taken him out anywhere just yet.
For Josh, the accident was a bitter blow because this summer was to be his last on Paddy whose show name is Paddy Power. He is now too big to carry on competing him and had spent four years building his relationship with his beloved pony.
The pair were due to end their competing career together on a high by taking part in high-profile events including their first pony club qualifier at Hickstead, one of the premier equestrian venues in the whole of the world.
The driver who caused the accident was asked to complete a driver’s awareness course which has now been completed.
Heather said: "It was completely terrifying and not something I would ever want to go through again. I think other drivers need to be aware of the precious cargo which trailers and horse boxes are transporting and how we need to be given that bit of extra space and also time to react."
Despite Josh now having outgrown Paddy, he will not be sold on.
Heather said: "He has given us too much for that and we have been through so much with him now that I wouldn’t want him to move on and for people not to understand what he has been through.
"I’m only quite small anyway so can enjoy riding him and he is such a part of the family now that I don’t think we could ever part with him."
News » Berkshire mum praises trailer firm for protecting pony in M3 accident