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What should we do with our horseboxes while on lockdown?

While we are all currently on lockdown owing to the coronavirus pandemic, our horseboxes will remain out of use, unless they are required for an emergency.

So H&H has investigated what, if anything, we should be doing with our horseboxes to help keep them maintained, so that they will be in good working order when the time comes to go out and about again…

Graham Hutton, manager of E.H. Hutton Coachbuilders Ltd, a business that was first established in 1958, shares his tips for horsebox maintenance during lockdown:

  • Move your horsebox forwards or backwards 12 inches every now and then to help prevent your tyres from deforming or cracking after being sat on one spot for a length of time
  • Isolating or disconnecting your lorry batteries will help prevent them going flat
  • If possible start your lorry at least once a month, but don’t rev it immediately — give the oil a chance to run around the engine first, and then increase the revs. In some older lorries, the batteries won’t start charging until your lorry has been pushed over a certain number of revs. Aim to run your lorry for around 30 minutes
  • Don’t worry about the gearbox oil in your horsebox — it will circulate when you start the engine
  • Air brakes can freeze on if left for too long, so when you start your lorry and move it backwards and forwards to help maintain the tyres, make sure you use your brakes a few times as well
  • If the weather turns wet, check that your horsebox isn’t leaking anywhere as you can end up with serious mechanical damage if water is pooling into your lorry
  • Don’t leave the ramp down on your horsebox — it damages the springs
  • While it’s unlikely to drop below freezing at the moment, if freezing temperatures are forecast, make sure there is no water stored in your lorry as it can cause pipes to burst
  • If your lorry is accessible and on private land and you have the space to do so, taking it down the drive and back is a good option
  • If you have a generator on your lorry, you can leave that unstarted for longer than your lorry engine

SORN

As you aren’t expecting to be using your horsebox, you might have considered applying a SORN to your vehicle. You need to make a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) when you take a vehicle ‘off the road’ and you want to stop taxing and insuring it. Your vehicle is off the road if you don’t keep or use it on a public road, for example if it’s in a garage, on a drive or on private land. You can not SORN a vehicle if it is kept on the public highway.

You must make a SORN in any of the following situations:

  • your vehicle isn’t taxed
  • your vehicle isn’t insured (even for a short time, for example because there’s a delay renewing your policy)
  • you want to break a vehicle down for parts before you scrap it
  • you buy or receive a vehicle and want to keep it off the road (you can’t transfer a SORN from the previous keeper)

If you decide to SORN your horsebox, then legally there is no requirement to have insurance in place. However, you would be unable to use your vehicle on the road under any circumstances, even for an emergency. In addition, if the vehicle was stolen or suffered fire damage, without insurance you wouldn’t be able to claim.

MOTs

You now have a three-month extension if your lorry was due for an MOT from 21 March 2020. In most cases, your lorry will have been automatically issued a three-month exemption, and you do not need to do anything. You will not receive a paper exemption certificate. Instead, your MOT will be extended by three months from its current due date.

You can check your MOT history to see when you have been issued an exemption. It will not be updated straight away so you should check back if the date your MOT is now due has not been updated yet. If your tax is due, you can tax your vehicle straight away.

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Insurance points to consider

Lorry insurance policies remain valid during the lockdown period — it is not a road traffic offence to drive your horsebox, however, in line with government advice regarding only “essential travel” being allowed at this time, you should only use your horsebox if it is “essential” to do so, such as transporting your horse for emergency veterinary treatment.

If you are trying to save money, speak to your insurance provider about whether it’s possible to downgrade your horsebox insurance based on driving fewer miles across the year, but check the small print for any charges that may apply. These may cancel out the saving you are trying to make.

While cancelling your breakdown cover might appear to be an easy win, in most cases you won’t receive a refund if you do so, but it is worth checking with your policy provider. It would also leave you without cover if you needed to transport your horse for emergency vet treatment and your lorry broke down on the way. At least one equestrian breakdown specialist company is offering a free extension to their members policies, so if your policy is coming up for renewal, it is worth checking if the provider can offer you anything of this nature.

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