Calls for inquiry over death of horse at Brackenhurst College

NMAc11-0699-6''Emma Taylor 's horse
NMAc11-0699-6''Emma Taylor 's horse

A FARNSFIELD woman is demanding an investigation after a university riding school put down a horse she had owned and treasured for six years.

Brackenhurst College, the prestigious equestrian centre for Nottingham Trent University at Southwell, did not tell Emma Taylor before taking the decision to destroy Dylan in October last year.

When she asked staff at the college where Dylan was, Emma was told the horse was still alive and at a science centre in Scotland.

It was not until four months after Dylan had been put down that she was informed what had happened to him - despite having a letter of first refusal if the university decided to sell him.

As Dylan was not sold but put down, university bosses insist they have done nothing wrong and because Dylan had become dangerous say they ‘took the correct decision, for the right reasons’.

Emma (33) had sold the Irish Draught X horse to the university following an accident which left her seriously injured in October 2009.

Dylan was her second horse and they enjoyed six happy years together, taking part in show-jumping, endurance riding and training rides.

But all this was shattered in October 2009 when Dylan bucked as he was released into a field and his foot caught Emma in the face.

She was airlifted to Queen’s Medical Centre and underwent eight hours of surgery.

“It was a completely freak accident which could have happened with any horse,” Emma said. “But the best thing for me and Dylan was to sell him.

“I did not want to sell him to the wrong people and Brackenhurst was looking for a new horse.”

She agreed to hand Dylan over for £500 - at least £2,500 less than he was worth - in the expectation the university’s standards of care would ensure the best possible life for him.

As part of the sale, the university’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences agreed to give Emma first refusal to buy Dylan back ‘in the unlikely event’ he was sold.

Emma claims the college did not take care of a skin condition Dylan suffered with during last summer by providing him with a fly rug, and she discovered at the end of 2010 that he was no longer at Brackenhurst.

She was initially told Dylan was at a blood bank, a science centre which provides blood for vets, in Scotland but found out in February that he had been destroyed four months earlier in October.

Emma said: “I feel let down by Nottingham Trent University because I sold them Dylan in good faith thinking he would get the best life possible.

“It was to stop him going from home to home. Then I found out he had been put down a year from the university having him.

“At the first hint it was not working out they could have rung me and I would have had him back. I would have been there the next day and taken him away.”

A former employee at Brackenhurst College said she was shocked by what had happened.

“I think morally they should at least have rung Emma and said they didn’t feel he was safe,” the employee, who asked not to be named, said.

Rainworth vet Janice Dixon, of the DB McPherson practice, who looked after Dylan when Emma owned him, said she had no reason to believe Dylan was dangerous.

“I would have had him back from Brackenhurst and there are numerous clients who would have taken him off me,” she said.

“Emma needs some closure and wants to see a full and open investigation into what happened. I would back her up on this so it does not happen again.”

A spokesman for Nottingham Trent University said: “Following an incident with the horse in which Ms Taylor regrettably lost an eye, she voluntarily sold him to the university.

“In taking the horse on, we knew that there were potential issues around his behaviour and temperament. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of our highly skilled and competent staff, the horse did not respond favourably, and its behaviour did not improve to a safe and acceptable level.

“The assertion that the horse only became dangerous during the summer of 2010 because he was not provided with a fly-rug is entirely spurious, and would be regarded as such by anyone with professional experience of managing horses.

“The university’s only obligation to Ms Taylor was to give her first refusal if we subsequently decided to sell the horse.

“We could indeed have offered to sell the horse back to her, made some income and washed our hands of the problem; to do so knowing that the horse was potentially dangerous would have been wholly inappropriate and deserving of criticism.

“So in the context of any ‘moral obligation’, our decision was taken on the basis of hard facts, supported by reasoned professional judgement of the risk that the horse would pose to anyone who might have owned it.

“The staff who worked with Dylan include British Horse Society (BHS) accredited stable instruction managers and BHS accredited examiners.

“It is entirely understandable that the decision may have caused emotional upset for Ms Taylor as the horse’s former owner, but we have no doubt that we took the correct decision, for the right reasons.”