Deciding what horsebox insurance you need might fill you with dread, but here's everything you need to know to get you up to speed before you sign on the dotted line

Insurance for a horsebox is a legal requirement and there are a number of policy options depending on the type of vehicle and how you use it. It’s important to pick the right one, as if the insurance is invalid, any claim may not be honoured. So the first rule is check your policy documents to make sure you have bought the policy that contains all the aspects of cover you need.

The good news is that there is plenty of information available to guide you, and the big insurance brokers, such as SEIB, KBIS and Shearwater, have dedicated specialists and a range of policies. There are also comparison websites but you need to make sure that you are comparing like with like and that each quotation has the cover you need. The cheapest option is not always the best value.

When you look for insurance, make sure you are clear on what category of driver will be operating the horsebox and exactly what you are using the horsebox for. Any breach of the regulations could invalidate your insurance.

The Vehicle & Operator Services Agency (VOSA) has a very useful booklet, A Guide for Horsebox & Trailer Owners, which clarifies the various categories of operators’ licence. This is particularly important if you intend to use the horsebox as part of your business or for reward. This will affect the type of insurance policy you will need to buy.

Q. What type of cover should I go for?

A. Fully comprehensive will cover you if you have an accident and pay for your repair bills if it’s a valid claim. It is usually the most expensive, but gives you the greatest cover and is the most popular. While policies vary, it will usually cover damage caused to the vehicle by the horse, as well as vandalism and windscreen damage.

Third-party policies can be cheaper ,but will usually only cover the costs of the other party if you have an accident which is your fault or loss through fire or theft. You will have to pay the cost of repairing your own vehicle.

Neither kind of policy will cover injury to the horse during transit. You will need additional horse insurance for that.

If you use your horsebox as part of your business you must declare this to your insurance company and purchase the appropriate business policy. For example, if you are a breeder showing your horse with a view to increasing its value, this may class as business use. Or if you are a professional rider transporting to shows and any winnings are part of the business, then you will need a business policy. If you intend to transport horses for a fee or hire out the lorry, you will need a hire and reward policy.

Q. What are the age restrictions for cover?

A. Many insurance policies will have age restrictions for the driver. Most will allow drivers from 21 years old upwards, but it is important to check this. Drivers under 21 can find insurance companies willing to cover them, but at a higher premium.

Q. Who can drive my horsebox?

A. “Most policies will allow you to insure more than one driver for your horsebox and have the option of adding others on for a fee. If you lend your horsebox to a friend, they would only be covered to drive the horsebox should they be named on your policy or you have an ‘any driver policy’. This can have restrictions so check your policy wording,” says John Gillingham, senior manager at Shearwater Insurance.

It’s useful to have other drivers named on your policy so in the event of an injury to you, they can take the horse home. It is your responsibility to check that anybody driving the vehicle does not have any adverse driving history such as accidents, claims, losses or conviction points and that they have the correct licence type.

Q. What does the “excess” mean?

A. This is the amount that you will be liable for if you have to make a claim. For example, if you have an excess of £150 and are making a claim for £750 to cover the cost of repairs, you will only receive £600 from your insurer as settlement.

Q. How can I keep the costs down?

A. The cost of insurance is affected by the value and size of the vehicle, its age and mileage and the level of cover required. Vehicles of over 7.5 tonnes will cost significantly more. A newer vehicle will attract lower premiums because the chance of breakdown is lower.

It will be cheaper if you are the only person allowed to drive, but this is not always practical. Make sure you do not overestimate of the number of miles you will do each year as this can affect the cost. But don’t underestimate either, as this could make your policy invalid if you exceed that amount.

Q. Can I travel horses I don’t own in my horsebox?

A. If you transport other people’s horses, providing you are not making a profit, this will still be classed as social, domestic and pleasure use so you will be protected. If you wish to charge more than basic fuel or running costs, you will need to contact VOSA to see if you need a transporting licence, and then review your policy with your insurers to ensure you have the correct cover. You may need a hire and reward policy.

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Q. What if the horse damages the vehicle?

A. Most comprehensive insurance policies will cover this, but you will need to check the policy wording.

Q. Are the vehicle contents covered?

A. Not usually. If you require this, talk to your insurer about extending your cover.

Q. Can I take my horsebox abroad?

A. If you are travelling abroad, you may not be automatically insured to the same level that you are in the UK. To maintain the level of cover you require, request a green card from your insurer.

“When travelling abroad, check that you are compliant with the laws of the respective country. For example, in France you must have reflective jackets, a warning triangle, headlamp beam deflectors and breathalysers on board the vehicle. Without these you could incur a fine. You should also contact your insurer before travelling to arrange a green card, which will allow you to maintain comprehensive cover while abroad,” says Charles Harris, horsebox account handler at KBIS.

Q. Do I need breakdown cover?

A. This is very much an individual choice and depends on the length of journeys you make and whether you have good back-up with additional transport available.

Horseboxes tend to break down more frequently than other commercial vehicles because they are not used so often and tend to be built on an older chassis. Breakdown cover, which starts at around £125, should be with a specialist equine company that can not only repair your vehicle but also recover the horse and take it home if necessary.

Note that most breakdown policies exclude cover for punctures and blowouts if the vehicle does not have a functioning spare wheel on board.

Not all breakdown policies include “home start” as standard. Without “home start” you will not be covered for breakdowns within a certain vicinity of your address.

It is crucial to maintain your horsebox (even in the off season) as failure to do so increases the likelihood of a breakdown and could therefore increase your premium.

This article was first published in 16 February issue of Horse & Hound magazine