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Trailer Trashed

Claim:   A horse's legs are ground to stumps after the floor of the trailer it is being transported in rot away.

LEGEND

Examples:

[Healey & Glanvill, 1995]

A friend of a friend was the lad at a Devonshire racing stables where a 12-year-old horse, not exactly the Red Rum of its yard, was briefly reprieved from the knacker's to race over the jumps at a course 100 miles away.

The
sorry stallion's hard-nosed trainer had used up all his good horse-boxes for mounts with better prospects of victory and more time before they met the great pieman in the sky. So, the poor horse was lined up for an ancient box salvaged from a swampy field. It was awful inside. No windows, a decayed floor and the rancid smell of old wee - just like a student flat.

At first, the querulous quadruped wasn't keen to go, but eventually it was pushed in, reassured by the heartless trainer and locked in the dark. They lurched off down the lane, creaking and groaning.

If only the trainer had watched a little longer, an utterly awful equine tragedy may have been averted. For a few hundred yards down the road, the transporter hit a bump and the poor horse's hooves plunged through the rotten floor. Despite all the plaintive whinnying, the driver kept his foot to the floor. Gruesomely, by the time the horse-box pulled to a halt, the poor nag's legs had been worn down to stumps.
 

[Collected on the Internet, 1998]

A drunk left a bar not noticing that one of the horses', in his 2 horse trailer, legs had broken through. He drove off, with the horses legs dragging, eventually leaving 2 bloody trails on the road. The people behind him could not get him to stop, and called the police on a cell phone. When the cops got him stopped the horse had to be shot due to injuries. While the police were destroying the horse, he rode off on the other horse and got away.
 

Origins:   This animal horror story has been around since at least the 1980s. My first encounter with it came in 1993 when I discovered it in Horse trailer Humane Society file about animal cruelty. It was then presented as an old tale that had been kicking about for dogs' years, and no claims were made about its veracity.

In its most usual form, the legends deals with a couple hauling their dearly loved steed who fail to notice that something has gone horribly amiss and arrive at their destination completely unaware of the terrible fate that has befallen the creature. They are greeted by the grisly sight of a horse whose legs have been worn down to bloody stumps only at the end of their journey. Their cruelty is of the unintentional kind in that no one on the highway succeeded in alerting them to the situation as it developed, nor did they notice it themselves yet knowingly drive on.

Did something like the events described here ever take place with a real horse? We don't know. What moves this story into the category of urban legend is the number of times and number of ways it's been told: According to legend, this tragic fate has befallen one nag after another in Britain, the USA, and Canada (countries from which we've so far harvested tellings); in some versions it happened to a racehorse, in others to an old plug on its way to the glue factory, and in yet others to the beloved mount of a devoted horse lover.

Sometimes even if a basic story proves to be nothing but an apocryphal tale, significant elements of it later play out in real life. (Folklorists term this "ostension" when it happens naturally and "pseudo ostension" when someone deliberately helps things along.) In 1998, many of the key points of the legend came true on a highway near Barrie, Ontario. In July of that year, police stopped a pickup truck towing a small trailer on Highway 89 because they'd noticed it was leaving a trail of blood in its wake — the bull being hauled in the trailer had broken through the wooden floor. Investigation revealed that motorists had alerted the driver to the animal's plight at least five kilometers before the police stopped him, but he drove on anyway. The driver was charged with cruelty to animals, and the bull was put out of his misery by police at the scene.

Barbara "red bull" Mikkelson

Last updated:   3 August 2011

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Sources:

    Conroy, Pat.   "Man Charged in Grisly Road Death of Bull."
    The Toronto Star.   29 July 1998.

    Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill.   Gruesome Urban Myths.
    Bucks: Ginn and Company, 1995.   ISBN 0-602-26200-3   (pp. 116-117).