Travelling in a trailer is not a natural experience for your equine friend, and every time you load up for transport there’ll be some nerves, for both you and them.
Figures from Highways England show that there are around 4,000 incidents every year involving trailers, so there is obviously reason for concern.
While the vast majority of journeys will not result in disaster, there are still too many accidents. Apart from having appropriate trailer insurance, what can we do to stop ourselves becoming one of those statistics? What causes so many accidents and can they be prevented?
Lack of maintenance – of either the towing vehicle or the trailer – is a common cause of easily preventable accidents.
The British Horse Society recommends getting your trailer professionally serviced at least once a year. Maintenance checks are vital, particularly if your trailer’s been sitting unused for any period of time. You should check for:
- Damage to the trailer body – look for bulges, suspension problems and signs of damp, rust or water damage.
- Perished floor and ramp – weak and dangerous flooring can easily be hidden by rubber matting or floor coverings.
- Worn tyres – help prevent tyre blowout or skidding by checking tread, tyre pressure and wheel nuts regularly.
- Defective lights – other drivers often don’t give trailers the space they need. Make sure you can give them enough warning.
Transporting horses in an underinsured trailer can be dangerous and leaves you and otherroad users at risk if an accident happens.
Check you have adequate trailer insurance for your vehicle and horse insurance for your beloved companion before heading off.
Inappropriate towing vehicle
As well as ensuring your trailer is up to the job, you also need to check the towing vehicle’s suitability.
If your car or truck is not strong or broad enough then you might find it difficult to deal with the shifting load of a jittery horse.
The trailer could jack-knife or snake from side to side causing a hazard for both you and other road users. Furthermore, get some expert advice on whether your tow bar or hitch system is adequate.
Horses and their trailers can come in all shapes and sizes, there isn’t a one size fits all. Exceeding a trailer’s maximum payload limit is asking for trouble and the Department for Transport has produced guidance on this.
Being too heavy can create handling problems for the driver which will only get worse in poor weather.
Even on a clear day the extra load can make braking more difficult, and if an accident does happen it can be more deadly.
Incorrect hitching of a trailer
A common cause of accidents is when a trailer becomes detached from the towing vehicle. Make sure to hitch your trailer when it’s empty.
Always check the trailer is correctly hitched and any breakaway cables or chains are secured. Repeat your checks once the horse is loaded, too.
If in doubt, get help from a more experienced person until you feel confident doing it by yourself.
Missed pre-journey checks
Going through a series of pre-journey checks is a simple way to prevent accidents. The Highways Agency advises anyone towing a trailer to:
- Carry out a final maintenance check.
- Perform a tyre check on both the towed and towing vehicle.
- Check the load is secure, check the weight is evenly distributed and isn’t excessive.
- Be aware of how towing affects the vehicle’s performance.
- Use extended mirrors when towing wider trailers to ensure clear and legal visibility of the trailer and of other vehicles on the road.
- Check you’ve an appropriate driving licence for the vehicle and trailer combination.
- Know the correct speed limit for the vehicle and roads.
Always make sure you’ve got proper breakdown cover in place. Trailer insurance arranged through Equesure can include both vehicle and trailer breakdown cover.
Many drivers towing a trailer won’t be used to doing it every day so it’s easy to forget that you’re now essentially an LGV driver. So, when towing your trailer be mindful of the following advice:
- Slow your speed. It’s important to follow the correct speed limits of your vehicle, particularly when you’re travelling downhill.
- Keep your distance. The size and weight of the additional trailer will affect your stopping distance. Doubling the usual distance between you and vehicles in front will give valuable time in an emergency. You never want to have to break suddenly.
- Stay aware. Just as when driving a normal car, driver distractions are a common cause of accidents. If you’re feeling tired after an early start or a long day then take a break. It goes without saying to also avoid using your phone while driving or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Watch the weather forecast. Poor weather can make towing a trailer very hazardous. High winds can be a particular problem for high-sided vehicles like horse trailers as handling and braking can be severely affected. Taking a break or rearranging travel plans to let the weather change might be the best option in the long run.
Find competitive cover with Equesure
Whether you’re transporting your own horse or even a friend’s horse, the specialist team at Equesure can help you find the right insurance cover for your needs.
With over 60 years of combined experience in the equine insurance market, we can find competitive cover for all makes and models of trailers. Trailer brands we can help insure include Cheval Liberte, Equi-Trek, Ifor Williams, Wessex and many more.
All trailer insurance policies obtained through Equesure include accidental damage, fire and theft as standard.
We can also arrange breakdown cover for both your vehicle and trailer, which can include home/stable start so you never need to worry about getting stranded, wherever you are. Other benefits can include:
- Public liability available up to £1 million
- Horse-drawn vehicles can also be covered
- Loss of entry fees
We also provide a comprehensive range of horse insurance and horse rider insurance to protect yourself and others while out riding.
Getting a quote is straightforward with Equesure. Simply give us a call on 01480 220089 or complete the ‘request a quote’ form.
Policy benefits and features offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.