With the start of the show season approaching The Blue Cross welfare charity is encouraging horse owners to check out the safety of their trailer before they travel their horse or pony.

Trailers that have been left unused over the winter months and not been checked or serviced regularly can conceal a multitude of dangers, which could be a death-trap on wheels for your horse.

“If a trailer has not been used for a long while you should check it thoroughly, lubricate moving parts and then take it for a test run,” says towing expert John Henderson.

“When you return home, check none of the wheel centres are unusually warm, which would suggest a wheel bearing or brake has seized. Only then should you load horses.”

He continues: “Trailers can deteriorate even if they are not used. Winter weather can speed up the effects of rot in a poor floor and interior condensation can promote the growth of fungus whose spores can be harmful to horses.

“Tyres can perish and crack and may even get a flat spot if the trailer has not been regularly moved while unused. Water seeping into brake drums can literally weld the shoes to the drums, especially if the trailer has been parked with the handbrake on.”

It is estimated that around three horses every day need veterinary treatment as a result of transport-related injuries. Many of these accidents are the result of poor trailer maintenance, with the collapse of the trailer floor being one of the most common and often fatal problems.

Vet Andy Bathe who is based at the University of Cambridge, says: “I see at least two serious horse injuries per year caused by travelling. I would expect this figure to be similar for many equine vets around the country, which would roughly equate to a national figure of about 1,000 injuries resulting from travel every year.”

Free advice on trailer safety

The Blue Cross launched a Safe Trailer Campaign in 2002, urging owners to undertake simple checks before transporting horses by trailer. The charity is offering free practical advice and guidance on trailer safety and maintenance in the form of an easy-reference leaflet produced in conjunction with John Henderson.

In addition the charity is liasing with key trailer manufacturers, dealers and towing authorities to ensure that everything possible is done to provide safer trailer travel for horses.

To request your free copy of The Blue Cross trailer safety leaflet telephone The Blue Cross Equine Welfare Centre on01993 822454 or visit their website at www.bluecross.org.uk