Do you know which checks you need to carry out on your horsebox or towing vehicle and trailer before starting a journey with your horse on board? Horse & Hound asks experts from the British Horse Society, Organisation of Horsebox and Trailer Owners and the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency for their advice...
Owners are being reminded of the importance of frequent vehicle checks, having equine-specific breakdown cover and being prepared for unexpected delays — as more people prepare for the coming competition season.
Before travelling, the British Horse Society (BHS) recommends owners follow the anagram FLOWERS: fuel, lights, oil, water, electrics, rubber and self — urging them to consider if they are fit to drive the towing vehicle or horsebox.
BHS director of safety Alan Hiscox told H&H it is “vitally” important thorough vehicle checks are carried out before every journey, regardless of how frequently the horsebox, trailer or towing vehicle is used.
“It’s crucial all horsebox and trailer components are fit for purpose, including the main body, floor, ramp, tyres, brakes, lights and trailer hitch. The towing vehicle also needs to be fully checked,” he said. “It’s important trailers are professionally serviced at least once a year, ensuring all areas have been rigorously examined.
“The safety of owner, horse and those in vehicles around them is paramount, and we strongly advise all possible steps are taken to minimise the risk of a breakdown or incident. It’s also recommended owners take out quality breakdown cover specifically for equine recovery otherwise a rescue has the potential to be very expensive.”
Organisation of Horsebox and Trailer Owners managing director Jon Phillips agreed breakdown cover is important and told H&H he recommends owners download the What3Words app, which provides three unique words for every three square metres of land to identify precise locations.
“We use it as a rescue centre, and it means if somebody breaks down on a motorway and is are not sure which junction they are near, it helps breakdown companies locate them faster,” he said.
Mr Philips added owners must ensure they are prepared for a breakdown occurring by carrying sufficient hay and water as well as appropriate rugs.
“People don’t seem to learn — the number of people who ring us and say they have broken down and don’t have anything for their horses doesn’t improve. People need to think about their horses and what they would need if they were stranded.”
Gordon Thomson, head of vehicle testing policy for the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), told H&H the organisation is often concerned about the condition of horseboxes assessors see at MOT tests.
“The test is carried out once a year, but owners have a responsibility to maintain their vehicles throughout the year and be aware of checks they should do,” he said. “We are urging owners to make horsebox maintenance part of their regular weekly and monthly schedules.”
DVSA vehicle standards assessor Jim Bithell added that “too many” horseboxes are failed for faults that could be spotted and rectified with regular maintenance.
“Many of the defects are classified as dangerous, affecting steering, suspension or braking systems,” he said.
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