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Horse owners warned to get detachable towbars checked

Horse owners are being advised to be wary of detachable towbars after an increase in trailer accidents, warns a horsebox breakdown company.

Jon Phillips, founder of the Organisation of Horsebox and Trailer Owners, said he would always recommend that horse owners use a fixed towbar.

Detachable towbars became part of a vehicle’s MOT test in April 2009, but Mr Phillips cautions they are only checked if fitted on the car.

“Our advice is for anyone with a detachable towbar to make sure it is fitted on the vehicle when it goes in for an MOT — that way it will be checked,” he said.

Trailer safety is a “major concern,” warns NFU Mutual, following the number of accidents on the roads.

Over the past 12 months the company has seen more than 1,200 collisions involving trailers, in 36 of which the trailer became uncoupled.

NFU’s Victoria Walton told H&H that people are still not putting the breakaway cable in the right place.

Looping it around the tow ball is not sufficient, as not only can it come off easily but, more importantly, should the tow ball neck break, the breakaway cable will detach from the towing vehicle along with the trailer. Many towbars, and some vehicles, have a reinforced loop which is specifically designed for attaching the breakaway cable,” she said.

Insurers put no restrictions on the type of towbar used, but it must be professionally fitted and correctly used and maintained in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.

“This includes adhering to weight limits in the trailer, the towing capacity of your vehicle and reduced speed limits when towing,” added Ms Walton.

Fears concerning the safety of detachable towbars have been raised by H&H readers following a recent accident in Scotland. Julie Buckle was towing her daughter’s 16hh event horse, and the family’s 14.2hh dressage pony back from a competition when the trailer came off her Landrover Discovery 3.

“My factory fitted detachable towbar came away and the breakaway cable, which was correctly fitted to the car chassis and not the tow bar, failed to pull the trailer brake on,” she told H&H.

Both horses escaped serious injuries.

A Landrover spokesman told H&H: “Landrover is aware of Mrs Buckle’s claim, and as with any customer concern, is taking the incident very seriously. We are proactively investigating this case, and we cannot comment until the full analysis has been concluded.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (14 August, 2014 issue)

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