Kevin Parker Horseboxes are unlike any other on the market. Their reputation has been built on 100% customer satisfaction, quality and most importantly, innovation.
With a diverse range of skills, disciplines and experience, the team are dedicated to providing a service that is defined by the quality of their design, build and customer care.
One customer, Jo Wright, was so pleased with the service they provided, she has shared her heart warming story with us.
Jo first rode a horse when she was 2 years old.
She spent most of her teenage years on her beloved pony, Zora, at home in Kenya. Back in the UK for university, and then during her busy life as a mother with a full time job, horses played no part in her life. Until, 9 years ago when she bought a 16.3 hh liver chestnut gelding, called Spokesman, aka Pokey. The whole family (her husband, 2 daughters and son) fell in love with this gentle giant, and he and Jo established a wonderful bond where she pretended to be in charge and he dug them out of trouble she’d got them into. They were mostly happy hackers, but also did sponsored rides and some unaffiliated show jumping. On the way, Pokey had inspired her younger daughter and it was on him that she learned to ride, later migrating to a more suitable 13.2hh New Forest. To enable her to compete, they acquired a very aged 7.5t horsebox that was ok to drive, dreadfully uncomfortable to sleep in, but did its job, taking them around so they could have fun with their horses.
In September 2011 life took an unexpected and unwelcome turn.
Jo contracted a very rare infection in her spinal column which permanently damaged her spinal cord. After 7 months in hospital, she was discharged to start her new life in a wheelchair with a disabled classification of “T11 incomplete paraplegia”. It was a shattering and life changing time. Jo couldn’t return to work, was dependent on others for most things, and had lost the ability to do so much of what she had previously loved. Working with a specialist Physio for many hours a week she built a list of goals, the most important was to re-establish her relationship and role as an active mother for her gorgeous children.
A crucial part of this was once again to be able to be the (secretly happy) moaning unpaid groom to her teenage daughter, rising at ungodly hours in the freezing cold to go to shows, staying away, imbibing too much wine with friends as they dissected the day’s successes and disasters with equal mirth!
They went to our first stay away show: friends took my daughter and her horse. Jo had to stay at a specialist accessible hotel 20 miles away with her (non horsey) husband, who took care of her. They went to the show late, and left early because the toilets weren’t suitable for her. Jo felt like an observer, it reinforced her frustration and isolation at disability, which did nothing to restore her bond with her daughter.
So, she started to dream…
“I set the bar high; I wanted to once again drive my daughter to shows. I wanted to stay with her, look after her, mix with my friends and feel a part of the horsey world I loved.”
To achieve this was a tall order with a long list of issues to overcome:
- As her leg function is profoundly compromised, she drove with hand controls which can only be fitted to an automatic vehicle. There are very few automatic Horseboxes available.
- Jo needed to be able to get into the cab and living of a lorry… it was hard enough when Ishe was able bodied.
- The terrain at a show ground is usually grassy/rutted/wet/muddy and hopelessly ill suited for a manual wheelchair. She needed to be able to take her power wheelchair, and charge it when the batteries went flat.
- She needed to have access to a toilet and shower that she could get into.
- She needed a bed she could sleep in… no more Luton ladders!
The cost of such a wish list was bad enough, but even if money didn’t matter, which it did, she couldn’t find the solution. She spent a whole 2 years googling “automatic horsebox” which almost always drew a blank. From structurally unsound to uninterested sellers, Jo was disappointed and disheartened. Until she stumbled onto Kevin Parker Horseboxes.
“My first telephone conversation with Kevin was a revelation. He’d done something vaguely similar before so had already ‘admired the problem’ and had views on some of the answers. I thought I knew what the answers were, and he explained that there was a better and lighter way to fix the problem. Refreshingly, Kevin never lost sight of the need to be weight conscious (his lorries are famously light… and legal… yet strong) and was also constantly reminding me how important it was to build a lorry that met my needs but not to create an unsalable “disabled” lorry. I didn’t want one and sure as hell no one else would. This was a big investment and Kevin was terrific at helping us keep the design desirable from a resale perspective. The end result is stunning and I think more desirable than other 7.5t lorries.”
- We extended the chassis so the living is a little bigger than usual… The “downstairs” bed is 6ft 3 by 5ft… a proper double bed.
- The groom’s door and door from horse to living are wider than usual to accommodate a wheelchair.
- The groom door steps have more treads and are wide and even, a standard 8 inches between them.
- Air suspension in the rear axle means the back ramp is less steep than usual: much nicer for the horses. Redesigned ramp hinges have almost completely done away with the usual big step at the top of the ramp, and some cunning and neatly stored away fillers ensure a smooth path up the ramp for a power wheelchair… Or a wheelbarrow full of shavings/ feed for a show.
- A power socket in the horse area means a power wheelchair can charge when on hook up. Can also be used to plug in the clippers/power washer etc.
- My power wheelchair travels in what would be the horse partition nearest the living (which can still accommodate a horse if my chair isn’t there) and a solid “to floor” partition ensures that no bump will send my chair into the horse’s legs, augmented by tie hooks. All of this would equally well secure shavings, wheel barrow, bicycles, barbecue and the other paraphernalia that often travels to stay away shows.
- Drainage in the horse area has been redesigned to ensure that despite a very low door threshold between horse area and living (so my chair can get over) no dirty water will pass from one to the other
- Elegant but weight bearing grab rails enable me to safely get in and out of the lorry and to shuffle into my driver’s seat where the automatic gear box has the addition of hand controls.
- The wet room with loo is still bijou, but a little bigger than normal so I can once again stay for the whole day or indeed over several days at the heart of the action.
Jo and her daughter are free to enjoy horses together again.
“I was lent the money by a very close family member so that we could proceed before my daughter went off to Uni. She is taking a gap year after A levels so we can make up for time we feel was stolen from us. In addition to ‘Felix’ (the number plate gave us no choice) my husband and I have a festival vehicle, a camper van and an ability to ‘take to the road’ following his fishing in a way we never dreamed we could do again, given I can no longer camp in a traditional sense. I have a mobile home and a bathroom that travels with me, and the mental well being that comes with this is of incalculable value.
Another goal I set with my Physio was to get back on my horse. After 2 years of plotting, planning and precise exercises, in June 2014 (just after Felix arrived) I managed a 15 minute walk on my gorgeous Pokey.
A new goal is to see whether I could be the person to ride him after driving him somewhere. That currently feels a very long way off and unrealistic, but then again so did driving a 7.5t lorry with horses and my daughter, and we’ve done that!
Huge thanks to Kevin and Russell from Kevin Parker Horseboxes for listening and creating solutions, and to the wider team for caring and doing a great job. I wouldn’t normally have chosen to commission a lorry from someone nearly 300 miles away. But it was the right decision with the right team. We made 2 visits of a day each, and were in regular contact via phone/email exchanging design ideas and I was sent regular photos of progress.
I couldn’t be more pleased or excited at the future with Felix.”