Heading back out to shows? Vital vehicle checks and breakdown advice for riders

  • As competition and training activity restarts this week, equestrians have been reminded about what to do in the event of a breakdown, and how to try to prevent such incidents.

    Following the easing of lockdown restrictions and the resumption of competitions and arena hire from today (29 March), Highways England and the British Horse Society have advised horsebox users about vehicle checks that should be performed before setting off, and what to do in an emergency.

    BHS safety team leader Des Payne said the safety of drivers, their horses and those in vehicles around them is “paramount” and the society strongly advises that all possible steps are taken to minimise the risk of a breakdown occurring.

    “It’s vitally important that thorough vehicle checks are carried out before every journey, regardless of how frequently you use your mode of equine transport,” he said.

    “It’s also important that trailers are professionally serviced at least once a year, like servicing a horsebox, ensuring all areas of the vehicle have been rigorously examined. Before towing, it’s crucial that all trailer components are fit for purpose. There are multiple checks that should be carried out on your mode of transport and a detailed list of these can be found at bhs.org.uk/transporting-horses.”

    Mr Payne added that in the event of a breakdown on the motorway or major A road, individuals should not enter the horse compartment – and should not unload a horse, unless the police or agencies have granted permission.

    “The BHS also recommends that you take out quality breakdown cover specifically for equine recovery, otherwise a rescue, particularly from a motorway, has the potential to be very expensive,” he said.

    Highways England, which has launched a campaign reminding road users to “go left” in the event of a breakdown, recorded 631 breakdowns on motorways involving horseboxes in 2020.

    “Safety is our top priority and we know that no one plans to break down but the unexpected does happen,” said Stuart Lovatt, Highways England head of strategic road safety.

    “We also know how important animals of all shapes and sizes are to their owners which is why it is so important to know what to do in an emergency. By following simple safety advice we want all those traveling on the motorway to feel more in control and confident.”

    Continued below… 

    In the event of a breakdown Highways England recommends leaving the motorway if possible. If this is not possible, road users should put their left indicator on and move into an emergency area, on to a hard shoulder, motorway service area, left-hand verge or A road lay-by. Horseboxes and towing vehicles should have their hazard warning lights on, and if it is dark, side lights should also be on.

    “On a motorway without a hard shoulder, it should be possible for most vehicles experiencing a problem to reach an emergency area. These are spaced regularly, and are marked by a clearly visible orange road surface and blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol,” advises Highways England.

    “If it is safe to do so, and you can get out with any passengers, exit your vehicle on the side furthest from traffic. If it is not safe to do so, stay in your vehicle and wait for help. Keep well away from moving traffic and your own vehicle. Get behind a safety barrier where there is one, and where it is safe to do so. If you’re on a verge, be aware of any unseen hazards such as uneven ground or debris.”

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