Coping with a horsebox breakdown

Just imagine you are on your way to a competition and suddenly your horsebox or towing vehicle breaks down. You are stuck on the side of a road, or, even worse, a motorway, with impatient horses.

This can be an extremely expensive and stressful experience if you do not have breakdown cover. A simple call-out charge can start from £60; a 100-mile tow could cost £500 and a new tyre £250. If the worse comes to the worst you may need to find overnight stabling in an area you do not know.

If you do find yourself in this situation, the first thing to remember is to stay calm. Summon help by mobile phone or by using the emergency telephones on the motorway’s hard shoulder. If you do not have any breakdown cover, then make sure that the recovery firm realises you have horses on board.

While you’re waiting to be rescued make sure the horses are comfortable and have a haynet and water. Extra supplies of hay and water should always be carried in case of a breakdown or delay in your journey. Do not get the horses out of the vehicle.

If you are in a lorry, stay with your horse if possible. If you are in a trailer, then open the groom’s door, providing it’s away from the traffic and it is safe to do so.

Better safe than sorry

When it comes to joining a recovery service, “the cheapest doesn’t always turn out to be the least expensive,” says Jon Phillips of the Organisation of Horsebox and Trailer Owners (OHTO). “Always compare options.”

The OHTO deals with on average 3-4,000 breakdowns a year and, since 1985, has rescued more than 50,000 members’ vehicles. It offers various plans for horsebox and trailer owners which cover free emergency repairs, towing and overnight stabling.

Many of the specialist equine insurance brokers such as British Equestrian Insurance Brokers Ltd (BEIB) and South Essex Insurance Brokers (SEIB) are now offering horsebox/trailer breakdown schemes.

Remember that ordinary breakdown cover with motoring organisations does not always cover you when you are towing your trailer with your horse on board.

Check with trailer memberships, too, that if your car breaks down while towing, it is also covered. Look carefully at the small print and ask a few questions before signing up with any rescue organisation, as some exclusions can be hidden by clever wording in the terms and conditions.

  • Am I covered with horses on board when towing a trailer?
  • Am I covered for blow-outs?
  • Will I have to pay on the spot?
  • For a list of companies offering breakdown cover look in the classified section of Horse & Hound magazine.

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