Transporting your horse in a trailer requires special skills and knowledge, which need to be learnt. Drivers who have passed their test since 1997 are required to take a separate test before they can tow a trailer, while those who passed their test before 1997 are eligible to tow, even though they have not had their skills tested.
Read the road
Anticipation is the key when you are transporting horses in a lorry or a trailer. Be aware of where the road is going, and what other road users are doing.
Don’t wait for the car in front of you to brake. If you see a car up ahead put its brakes on, then start to slow down gently yourself. A loaded trailer will not stop as quickly as a normal car so always leave plenty of space in front of you.
Anticipate traffic lights and if they have been green for a while expect them to turn red before you get there so you can start taking appropriate action.
Keep an eye out for over-hanging trees or buildings and give yourself plenty of space to pull out around them.
Most horse trailers are wider than the towing vehicle so your position on the road will be different with a trailer attached. You don’t want your horse to be bumping along in the gutter or the trailer to be out in the middle of the road.
You can check your position on the road by glancing in your wing mirror, which may require mirror extensions to enable you to see past the trailer.
Don’t be afraid to clearly assert your right of way when towing a trailer, as you will need more space on the road than the average car. If you are travelling down a road with parked cars on both sides, position yourself firmly in the middle to encourage others to give you right of way.
When turning left, check your mirror, then move a little out to the right first to avoid clipping the kerb or hedge.
Staying in control
Before going down a hill, select a lower gear than you would when driving without the trailer so the engine works as a brake, preventing the weight of the trailer from pushing you faster and faster.
If you find the trailer starts to “snake” while you are driving along the road don’t try to correct it using the steering wheel, as it will make matters worse. Keep the steering wheel straight and slow down gently — do not brake hard — until the trailer comes back under control.
Some people suggest accelerating when a trailer starts to snake but you may make things worse before they get better so this is best avoided.
Top towing tips
- Take extra care when turning corners or pulling up alongside kerbs, shop signs and fuel pumps
- Travel more slowly than normal in the interests of safety and fuel economy.
- Keep to the left of multiple carriageways so faster traffic is not impeded.
- Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front you will need more space to stop
- Be careful when overtaking as your acceleration will be reduced
For information on courses in towing trailers visit: www.learners.co.uk and look for instructors with the caravan icon.
This feature was first published in HORSE magazine