While we are all currently on lockdown owing to the coronavirus pandemic, you may be wondering what horsebox maintenance is recommended while our lorries remain mostly out of use. We are permitted to transport our horses for veterinary or welfare purposes, so it is wise to keep your horsebox ready to roll should an emergency arise.
In guidance issued by the BEF on 12 November it states riders may travel their horses in order to make use of public open outdoor spaces where horses are permitted, such as common land or a beach, but should only do so if it’s necessary to meet your horse’s welfare requirements.
On the subject of transporting your horse to your trainer’s yard to have a lesson or training session, the 12 November update says: “At present, BEF doesn’t have clear guidance from Government in regards to whether you’re able to travel your horse to your coach’s yard. Therefore, we would not encourage you to do so. If you can justify your travel within the restrictions of the legislation and feel you can reasonably answer if stopped and challenged by the authorities, you must make your own decision on taking part.”
So bearing all of that in mind, H&H has investigated what, if anything, we should be doing with our horseboxes while they are parked up 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
- 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
As you aren’t expecting to be using your horsebox during the winter, 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.
MOT extensions are no longer available (these ran if your vehicle was due for an MOT between 30 March and 31 July) so you must book your lorry’s MOT as usual. 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, 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 offered a free extension to their members policies during the first lockdown, 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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