Warning after broken-down lorry owners left ‘utterly helpless’ in the heat

  • With the first real heatwave of the summer hitting the UK this week, owners are being served an urgent reminder to make sure they have enough water on board when transporting their horses.

    Temperatures across parts of Britain expected to reach over 30 degrees for a fifth consecutive day today (21 June) and the forecast for the weekend remains hot and dry.

    While ensuring your lorry is not overloaded, a call has been made not to skimp on the water.

    Claire Barker, of breakdown cover provider The Organisation of Horsebox and Trailer Owners, said that over the last couple of weeks they have had some very distressed customers at the roadside feeling “utterly helpless” as they realise they can’t keep their horses comfortable while waiting for help.

    “Planning for unexpected delays is so important when travelling with horses — they are particularly vulnerable as they are completely dependent upon their owners whilst shut in a lorry or trailer,” she told H&H.

    “Horses are amazing creatures and their trusting nature allows us to put them into this situation. This trust should not be abused.”

    Claire put a thermometer in her horsebox yesterday morning (Tuesday, 20 June) to measure how the temperature can rise.

    After three hours, the temperature had risen by 10 degrees to 33ºC by lunchtime.

    With hot horses on board and parked on the edge of a road, this temperature could well climb much higher.

    “I think people set off anticipating there is not going to be a problem,” she added.

    “Especially in this weather you need to be prepared for the fact that there might be a delay.

    “We have had people who have not taken water with them because they are going for a ‘quick trip’ and where they are going will have water on tap.

    “Even if you break down half an hour from home, if your water is not accessible, you could have a problem.

    She added that making sure your water is at hand is very important and recommended having a couple of containers of emergency water that can be easily reached.

    “If you break down on the side of the M4, for example, and your tap is on the traffic side, how are you going to access it then?” she said.

    “Some people doing a short journey don’t think they need it — and you can’t think that, you just don’t know.

    “If you are stuck, the temperature in that lorry is going to be rising so quickly.

    “Our average response time is just under an hour. If we can’t repair it, they will have to wait for a recovery vehicle and horse transport.

    “People need to appreciate that as well as whatever they are doing, when the weather is good the roads are busier. Our contractors are all fantastic, but this affects their response times.”

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    She added that those who are lucky enough to have cooling systems for the horse area in their horseboxes should remember that these may not work if the vehicle breaks down.

    “I would ask people to think: ‘is this journey really necessary? Is it essential to be out in your lorry when it is 30 degrees outside?

    “If travelling is essential, could they go early in the morning or if they are at an event, could they wait a while and travel back in the evening when it is cooler?”

    H&H vet Karen Coumbe agreed having water is important, but warned that horses can be fussy about drinking especially if they are unfamiliar with the taste of water from a plastic container.

    “Ideally you might consider getting them accustomed to it in advance or some people add things like apple juice to change the taste,” she said.

    “But again test it before you travel — the old cliché that you can take a horse to water but you cannot make them drink applies.”

    She recommends planning in advance to travel in a cooler part of the day and urged owners to make sure that their horseboxes or trailers are fully roadworthy before setting off.

    She also reminded owners not to put rugs on horses travelling in warmer weather and to never leave horses standing in trailers or horseboxes parked in the sun.

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