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Transporting your horse safely

Find out how to make sure a trailer or lorry is safe to transport your horse in and how to pick a professional transporter.

Find out how to make sure a trailer or lorry is safe to transport your horse in and how to pick a professional transporter.

Assessing your own vehicle or one you’ve borrowed/hired to travel your horse

It may seem tricky to know where to start with checking your lorry or trailer (or a borrow/hired one) is fit to travel a horse in, but it really is essential – your horse’s life may depend on it!

Lorries (either converted or built) up to 3.5t must have a current MOT certificate and lorries over 3.5t should have a current plating certificate. Remember though that an MOT or plating certificate doesn’t cover the part of the vehicle the horse actually travels in, so you’ll still need to have the floor, walls, ramps and so on inspected separately.

If you use a trailer, it’s a good idea to get it professionally serviced at least once a year, and make sure that they check the serviceability of the floor, as this isn’t guaranteed to be included.

You can carry out your own checks on the floor and ramps between getting it professionally serviced, including lifting up any rubber matting and checking the floor for any signs of rust, corrosion or rot (depending on the material). You should also check from underneath the vehicle. If you do notice any signs of damage, make sure you get the vehicle inspected and repaired by a professional before you load or travel a horse. Hinges and springs should be oiled frequently to keep them in good repair and prevent damage. You should also keep a careful eye out for any signs of water getting in through seals.

Before a journey you should check around the body of the vehicle – whether a lorry or a trailer – for any obvious damage, including any signs of rust, damp or rotting. You should look over partitions and breast/breech bars to make sure there are no sharp edges or tears in the material. Also ensure that all pins are in place correctly – and can be removed easily if necessary.

Tyres should have a minimum of 1.6mm (or 1mm for lorries over 3.5t) depth of tread across three-quarters of the breadth. Check for anything embedded in the tyre itself as well as any cuts, bulges or lumps and cracking of the tyre walls, especially if the vehicle doesn’t get used very often as tyres can perish when stood for a long time. Don’t forget the spare wheel either! The manufacturer’s handbook will tell you the correct tyre pressures for your lorry or trailer – and remember to check the tyre pressure on your towing vehicle (if applicable) too.

It is important to check the lights are working (get someone to help you with the brake lights) – and clean. You should inspect the connection lead and sockets for any signs of damage. If you’re using a trailer, make sure you check the breakaway cable too, as it needs to be legally connected to the towing vehicle. If there’s any visible damage to leads or cables, such as splits or wires showing, once again you should get the vehicle inspected and repaired professionally. If using a lorry, it’s worth checking the engine bay for any fire risks, such as birds’ nests.

Once you’re comfortable that your vehicle is fit to travel a horse, make sure you know the correct payload for your vehicle. You will also need to know, accurately, the weight of all cargo, including the horse(s), passengers and equipment, as it’s very easy to unknowingly exceed the payload weight limit. Make sure you know how to lower ramps in an emergency, such as if the hydraulics or electrics fail, and also ensure that partitions/breast bars in trailers can be released from outside the vehicle. Last but certainly not least, make sure you have appropriate breakdown cover in place, which covers the trailer and your horse’s recovery

If towing with a car, you can find further guidance here.  

Other points to consider when transporting horses

  • Do you have a plan in place in case of emergency, e.g. a breakdown or road closure?
  • Do you have all the appropriate equipment with you in the event of an emergency, including extra feed and water, as well as high vis, a warning triangle and so on?
  • If it’s a long journey you’re making, have you made sure you know where you can stop and rest your horse(s) at appropriate intervals?
  • Are you sure your horse(s) are fit to travel and can load and travel confidently? (You can find a helpful blog on this here.)

How to choose the right professional transporter to move your horse

If you choose to use a professional transporter rather than move your horse yourself, there are other factors to consider when making your decision. An easy starting point is a quick search on Google and social media, which should bring up reviews from past customers – it’s always worth checking these and you may save yourself a lot of time and heartache by starting here.

You’ll need to check the transporter has a certificate of competence and authorisation to transport animals. Other questions you should ask include checking that they have appropriate insurance in place – they must have hire and reward insurance, but neither care, custody and control insurance nor specific equine breakdown cover are legal requirements. However, to make sure your horse is in the best possible hands, you may wish to make sure you select a transporter who does have both of the latter in place.

The type of transporter you need may vary depending on the length of your horse’s journey. If the journey is under 65km, then a transporter authorisation is not required. A Type 1 authorised transporter can only move horses on journeys under eight hours. They will have passed an online theory test to demonstrate they understand the legal requirements that protect the welfare of the horses they transport. If the journey will be over eight hours you’ll need a Type 2 authorised transporter, who will have passed a practical assessment of competence to demonstrate their ability to handle and transport horses safely. By law, they must also have contingency plans in the event of an emergency, and their vehicle must be checked by a Defra-authorised inspector to assess it for safety, temperature monitoring and ventilation.

These requirements are set in law to help ensure your horses’ welfare is protected during transport, and they arrive in the same condition that they set off (if a little more tired). If the transporter does not have the correct authorisations, then we strongly recommend you walk away – even if the price is difficult to resist!

Lastly, do make sure you also ask the transporter about their biosecurity practices, i.e. what measures they’re taking to prevent the spread of disease.

If you need more advice or have specific questions about travelling your horse safely, you can always call our Advice Line in office hours on +44 (0)1953 497 238.

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