Whether it’s moving them from grazing fields, transporting them to the vet or to an event or show, travelling with a horse can be a tricky and stressful experience for both owner and animal if not done correctly.
Horse trailers can be particularly cumbersome on the road, especially if the animal contained within suddenly spooks and upsets the balance of the trailer, which could lead to sudden movements that can potentially cause incidents while on the road.
Do I Need A Special Licence To Tow A Horse Trailer?
Before you even think about towing a trailer, you must make sure you are qualified to do so. Depending on what year you obtained your driving licence can affect what you are able to tow, and you may need to pass an additional test, known as Category B+E status, on your driving licence before you can drive while towing a trailer, this is known as Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM).
- Licences gained before 19th January 2013 – able to tow a MAM of up to 3.5 tonnes
- Licences gained from January 1st, 1997 – able to tow a MAM of up to 3.5 tonnes
What Should I Check Before I Set Off?
When preparing your horse and trailer for a trip there are a few things you should check in order to ensure a smooth journey for yourself and your horse.
- Check the condition of your trailer
It is important that you check your trailer before you travel, checking for any defects or damage before you set off. Keep the following checklist in mind:
- Check engine
- Check tyres on vehicle
- Check trailer connection/hitch
- Check tow bar
- Check tyres on trailer (including spare)
- Check number plate is attached
Ensure that you also check that your indicators and brake lights are working correctly before setting off. As well as the condition of the vehicle itself, you must also bear its mass in mind, and this will involve the weight of your vehicle, the trailer and the horse within, as explained below.
- Check your weights before setting off
When it comes to towing weight, there are limits as to how much you can tow on a regular car licence that includes towing (B+E grade).
Remember that the combined weight of vehicle, trailer and animals in each vehicle will have a different MAM limit, so be sure to work this out before you travel.
When working out the weight of your load you must bear in mind the following aspects:
- Weight and towing capacity of your vehicle
- Weight of unladen trailer and any equipment you are storing on board
- Weight of the horse(s) you will be transporting
Weigh your animals carefully using a weight station and keep an eye on the towing capacity of your vehicle – whether you use a 4×4 or a Land Rover – ensure that you are within the legal limit for towing with your vehicle before you set off.
Allow a little leeway when it comes to weight to include equipment such as tack, as well as feed and water to ensure that your animal is comfortable during the journey.
- Be careful when loading and unloading
Horses can be unpredictable beasts, especially when it comes to leading them onto a trailer, so make sure you have all the correct equipment and manpower to safely lead your horse onto the trailer.
Some horses will take to it easily, some won’t, but ensure that you are prepared for any situation; keep your staff safe by ensuring they wear protective clothing and that your horse has plenty of food and water waiting in the trailer for when you succeed in boarding them.
- Keep your horse safe and secure
Ensure that, once in the trailer, your horse has plenty of room to move within the confines of the trailer and has access to a good amount of food and water during the journey – even if it’s just a short one.
Ensure that your horse has adequate protection during the journey; including using horse blankets and leg protection such as bandages or padded boots before you travel – particularly on long journeys.
The most important thing to make sure when transporting horses is that they have a valid horse passport before you transport them to ensure that they can be transported within the UK. If you’re looking to take your horse abroad you may need a separate horse passport for another country, so it’s best to double check before you travel.
Get Insured Before You Set Off
You must also ensure that you have relevant horse trailer insurance in place before you travel in order to help cover you in the event of an accident caused by a third party. Different policies will have different features, including some which will allow you to transport your horses to nearby stables while you get repairs sorted.
If you find yourself breaking down en-route the best thing you can do, both for your sake and your horses, is to keep calm and contact a breakdown service, who will help to get you and your animal back on the road as quickly as possible, or arrange for time to be spent at local stables if not.
If you still need more information, you can download a free Horsebox and Trailer Owner Guide from gov.uk.