At some point in your equestrian life, you’re likely to need to transport your horses. Whether you travel the continent with them for sports, or just take them occasionally to the vets, you’ll need a horsebox or trailer.
The government has issued a handy guide to the legalities around driving a horse trailer. But what else does a novice need to know?
Read on for our top Frequently Asked Questions on topics such as choosing a horse trailer, driving safely while towing one, and buying suitable horse trailer insurance.
Q. What factors should I consider when choosing a horse trailer?
A. Firstly, how many horses will you be transporting? Single and double trailers are practical options for most people who ride as a hobby, but larger trailers are available.
What size are your horses? Make sure the standing area is not too big nor too small. And what weight will you be transporting? Remember to factor in your tack and equipment.
What vehicle will you use to tow? You need to consider not just the maximum authorised mass (MAM), or loaded weight, of the trailer, but also the terrain. A four-wheel drive with good clearance will do the job for most smaller trailers.
What type of trips will you be taking? The longer the journey, the more important it is that you ensure your horses travel comfortably in a trailer with good ventilation and suspension.
And if you’re away for a while, some horse trailers have living areas where owners can get changed, go to the toilet, or even sleep.
Trailers serve many purposes, so make sure you protect yours with horse trailer insurance.
Q. What should I look for when buying second hand?
A. Check the bodywork thoroughly for rust. Make sure the floorboards are sound, and that the partitions are in good condition. Inspect the tyres for signs of wear, and the ramp for any rot or damage.
Try hooking it up to your vehicle to check that the hitch is undamaged. Then test the lighting, to make sure the electrics are in good working order.
When it comes to the engine, it’s best to get a trained mechanic to carry out an inspection for you.
Once you’ve made your choice, get it covered with reliable horse trailer insurance.
Q. What maintenance checks should I carry out?
A. Before setting off on a journey, check that the electrical connections are working. Make sure you have good visibility in your mirrors – you might need towing mirrors, too.
Secure all doors, and take a good look at the vehicle coupling. Is the breakaway cable properly attached, and is there any risk it could snag or become taut?
Give your reflectors and lights a check, too. Finally, measure the pressure of your tyres and the tread: the legal minimum for trailers is 1.6mm.
Q. How do I load a horse onto a trailer?
A. This is often easier said than done, but practice makes perfect! This guide goes into detail about loading a horse onto a trailer, and we’ve included a few pointers here.
Stay calm. Position the trailer in a quiet, familiar place, and show the horse it’s nothing to be frightened of.
Stay safe: horses are large animals, and could pose a risk to you if they’re frightened. They could also damage the trailer, so make sure it’s covered with insurance for a horse trailer.
Desensitise your horse to the trailer. Once your horse is familiar with the trailer, it should become less reluctant to walk onto it.
Reward your horse. If it associates the trailer with praise and treats, it will be happier with loading in the future.
Q. What licence do I need?
A. You can tow many smaller trailers on a regular car driver’s licence. For larger, heavier trailers, you might need to pass a car and trailer driving test.
If you’re transporting a horse for commercial reasons, you’ll also need an operator’s licence and will have to abide by working hours regulations and other legal requirements. Check out the government’s horse trailer guidance to stay on the right side of the law.
Q. How do I tow a horse trailer?
A. Driving feels quite different when you’re towing a horse trailer, so it’s best to practice at calmer times and on quieter roads before heading off on a long journey. You must also make sure you’re covered with horse trailer cover in case of any accidents.
Your horse trailer might be wider than your towing vehicle, so take care positioning yourself on the road. Also, the extra weight means it takes longer to accelerate – and to brake. Allow twice the normal stopping distance.
Drive as smoothly as possible to keep the journey pleasant and safe for your horse. Use your gears to help you slow down. When turning, wait for the trailer to clear the turn and straighten up before you accelerate, giving your horse a chance to right itself.
Remember that speed limits are different when towing a trailer: for example, you can only do 60mph on a motorway.
Always listen out for noises that could indicate your horse is in distress, and stop as soon as it’s safe if you hear anything concerning.
Q. What do I do if it starts snaking?
A. It’s pretty alarming when this happens, but you must stay calm otherwise you could make the situation worse.
Hold steady and apply gradual braking. Don’t try to steer out of it – stay as straight as the road allows. You should soon regain control, keeping you, your horse and other road users safe.
Loading your trailer so the weight is evenly distributed will reduce the likelihood of it snaking.
Q. What is horse trailer insurance?
A. Accidents do happen – so it’s essential you’re covered with a suitable horse trailer insurance policy.
Equesure arranges cover for all makes and models up to a value of £10,000. All policies include accidental damage, fire and theft, and you can choose to add breakdown cover with optional home or stable start, too.
Some policies include EU cover, and public liability up to £1 million.
Get a quote from Equesure, the horse insurance experts, today.
Policy benefits, features and discounts 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.