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Hundreds of equestrians who drive small horseboxes on learner licences will be forced off the road from this week, after new rules dictating who can supervise them were brought in by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA).

Drivers who passed their car test before 1997 are permitted to tow trailers with a car and drive horseboxes weighing under 7.5tonnes without taking the category C1 horsebox test.

And until last Tuesday (6 April), they could also supervise those drivers who need to take the C1 test.

But now only drivers who have passed the horsebox test can accompany learners in small lorries. Pre-1997 “passers” can continue to sit in with trailer drivers.

H&H reader Cathy Foley said: “My 29-year-old daughter Claire always drives our 7.5tonne lorry with us sitting next to her as she is the best at driving it.

“I’m unsure what to do next, whether to sell up or borrow some money to get her through the test.”

Packages involving training and the C1 test are offered by companies around the country and cost around £1,000.

The test involves both a theory test at £50 and a practical exam — £115. Applicants must be 18 or over.

Another reader, Louise Lamb, is also affected. She said: “As I can no longer drive myself with my husband or a friend on board as supervisor, this means that the 5tonne lorry I was saving up for will have to go on the backburner.

“I am going to have to find time and fork out for lessons. A 3.5tonner is no good if you have two [big] horses.”

A DSA spokesman said: “There are road safety issues involved where a person who has never passed the relevant driving test acts as the supervisor for a learner driver.”

The DSA announced the change in the law in 2007, following public consultation. But drivers feel they should have been reminded more recently.

“I had no idea it was coming in,” said Mrs Foley.

Sheila Hardy, of the British Horse Society, said: “It is concerning that this legislation has not been more widely publicised. It has left people no time at all to prepare themselves.”

For more information, go to www.dsa.gov.uk

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (8 April, ’10)