More than half of horsebox users are putting their horses’ lives at risk every time they go on the road, according to a recent survey.

The survey of 2,000 trailer and lorry users returned the worrying result that 64% of boxes are over-laden, 30% of drivers do not know the legal tread for tyres and 56.5% admit failing to check the tyre pressure, indicators or the oil and water levels of their vehicles before making a journey.

A campaign to investigate people’s attitudes towards horsebox safety launched earlier this year by NFU Mutual, the British Horse Society (BHS) and PRP Equine Rescue Services, involved an online survey and a weighing exercise.

An additional 100 vehicles – from 4x4s with trailers to 18-tonne horseboxes – were weighed at Equifest in August as they entered the East of England Showground.

Half of all vehicles weighed were overweight. Had they been subject to an official roadside check, 64% of cases would have resulted in a fixed penalty notice.

In the survey, 62% of respondents said they did not think loading and transporting horses was taken as seriously as it should be – and 66% cited a lack of knowledge, as well as complacency, as the reason why.

Jon Phillips at PRP Equine Rescue Services said: “If you drive an overweight lorry, at some point you are going to have an accident.

“You could also face fines of up to £2,000. The most concerning thing is that most people are convinced they are not overweight. It’s a real worry.”

The number of accidents involving horseboxes is increasing. In 2008/09 PRP had 1,276 call outs, in 2010/11 it had risen to 1,502.

Sheila Hardy from the BHS said the survey results highlighted the need for education.

“Many drivers had underestimated the loaded weight of their vehicles and/or their axle-bearing weight,” she told H&H.

“We hope that during the next 12 months, the partnership will offer voluntary weighing at more equestrian events across the UK and that as many drivers as possible will find out the weight of what they are carrying and the dangers of being overloaded.”

Read this news story in full in the current issue of Horse & Hound (27 October, 2011)