There are many things horse owners should think about to ensure their horse is safe when travelling. This starts from the moment you buy your horsebox and goes through to the upkeep and maintenance required to maintain safety.
Whether you are buying a new horsebox or a second-hand vehicle, it is important to ensure it is fit for purpose. In a world of instant gratification, it doesn’t pay to be cheap. And if an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Firstly, ask for recommendations and take on board other people’s good and bad experiences with companies. Don’t write off the bad experiences – as the saying goes there is no smoke without fire. Conversely, a company may be reputable, but it doesn’t mean they will have their customer’s best interests at heart.
It is important to be wise of clever marketing which can be used to sway the decision-making process. With so many companies in the marketplace making claims about how and why their horseboxes are the safest, most well-built and offer the best quality, it can be difficult to sift the wheat from the chaff. Some companies even go so far as to say that the only way to ensure absolute safety is by only using a brand-new chassis and that anything else is dangerous. So it pays to be wary of hyperbole.
Whilst many customers will opt to buy a brand-new chassis, there’s still a huge demand for second-hand with the primary deciding factor being budget. In terms of the build process, there is no difference materials or methodology. In fact, despite the extra work involved to remove the unwanted parts and their disposal, for our own customers, as an example, the price even remains the same whether it is new or second-hand.
The number one priority should be the very best in safety and build quality for the budget. And if that means opting for a second-hand chassis, that isn’t a bad thing. There are also some mistruths about this invalidating your warranty on the chassis from the vehicle manufacturer. This is not the case as only the parts that have been removed or directly affected by the conversion would be affected. Things like air conditioning and front-end engine parts are fine, which is what buyers need to be concerned about when thinking about protection with a warranty.
For horseboxes that are new, DEFRA approval ensures that the horsebox is built to a sufficient standard to protect the horse from injury or unnecessary suffering during transportation. The inspection covers a broad range of regulatory requirements such as overall build construction, ramp angle for safe loading and unloading, inclusion of a fully insulated roof panel for thermo-regulation, partition construction, sharp or protruding edges, plus more. If an inspector deems the horsebox is safe they will issue a ‘Certificate of Approval’ which is handed over when the vehicle is collected. By choosing a horsebox with DEFRA approval, it minimises the risk of accident or injury to the horses being transported.
The way in which horseboxes have been manufactured has changed massively, but there are still a lot of older vehicles available – some will be good, others not so good. When buying second hand, it is important to get a third-party specialist to inspect the vehicle and make sure it is structurally sound. Ideally this person is somebody you know and trust, but also has knowledge of transporting horses. A mechanic can tell you that everything is working, but it doesn’t mean it is completely safe for travelling a horse. Somebody with knowledge of horses can give you an honest opinion of whether it meets your needs.
There are also many things it is important to look out for during the life cycle of a horsebox, whether you have bought it new or second hand. By routinely checking and servicing a horsebox it maintains it roadworthiness and is safe to use.
Firstly, check for signs of rotting or any damage to the floor and ramp. This can be done easily by lifting the matting and making a regular visual inspection for floor corrosion. It’s also important to ensure all screws, latches and bolts are done up tightly, that no fixings are missing and nothing could cause injury to the horse being transport. Also check if the brakes are working and the tyres are in a roadworthy condition. During regular inspections its vital to pay attention to the doors and partitions.
For many event riders, the first events of the season are looming fast. Now is the perfect time to be making checks before travelling.
Another area to pay particular attention to in order to reduce the risk of travelling is to ensure the payload is correct for the type of transport. It’s a simple thing but can easily be forgotten about. Simply put, it is the amount of weight that a lorry or trailer can legally carry.
A lot of people don’t realise that everything on board needs to be taken into consideration. This includes horses but also any passengers, equipment and the added extras which make a day out competing comfortable for everybody concerned. So it is important to make sure it all comes within the payload of the vehicle.
A vehicle’s payload should be documented in its paperwork. It can also be checked by taking an unladen horsebox to a weighbridge carrying enough fuel and water for regular use. To calculate the payload, take the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) and deduct the unladen weight. This will provide the payload for the vehicle.
But what if the worst happens? It’s easy to think it will never happen, but most people will experience a breakdown in a horsebox at some time or other.
And when it does happen, would you have adequate insurance for equine rescue? It’s all well and good having breakdown cover, but it’s important to think about how a breakdown could affect the horses too.
Breaking down is a distressing enough experience without having horses on board, but all too often, horsebox owners realise too late that they don’t have the cover they need to get their horses rescued too. If you have to pay for recovery, it can be very expensive. Before the eventing season gets underway in earnest it is best to check insurance documents to make sure it covers what is required, and where necessary have it extended so everything is covered for all eventualities.
This article was written with the support of Owens Horseboxes. Owens Horseboxes was founded more than a decade ago and since then this family business is proud to have grown to become the UK’s number one choice for bespoke luxury horseboxes. For more information visit www.owenshorseboxes.co.uk