As a horsebox owner, whether attending shows or races, paying a visit to the vet or simply relocating your horse to a new grazing area, you will be familiar with the unpredictable nature of animals, on top of normal road hazards and how this presents a unique combination of risk.
We have therefore prepared this guide simply to draw attention to some of the most common horsebox-related risks that you may face, together with the practical steps that we hope will allow you to mitigate these risks and ensure that you and your horse remain as safe and secure as possible.
Entering and travelling in a horsebox can be very stressful for your horse, both physically and mentally. Travel anxiety and dehydration can compound the issue, causing a stressed horse to become restless and unpredictable – posing a safety hazard to both themselves and their handlers.
Reducing the risk
To keep your horse calm during transit:
- Accustom your horse to transportation by starting with shorter journeys.
- Plan your trip thoroughly to avoid added stress caused by road disruption, especially during busy times.
- Avoid travelling in hot temperatures, especially during the mid-day sun. If you do need to travel in hot weather, ensure that you pack a bucket and sponge that you can use to provide water &/or cool your horse.
- Pack plenty of water and hay, as well as additional rugs.
- On longer journeys, take regular breaks to check your horse.
- Give good ventilation. Where available, keep roof vents and side windows open. This will also help to prevent dehydration.
- Drive carefully, paying particular attention to acceleration, cornering & heavy braking, as poor driving techniques will contribute to the distress.
Note that younger horses are particularly prone to distress, hence they should be given extra attention and certainly thorough training prior to the journey.
The risk of injury to your horse increases during its transportation, including when entering or exiting your horsebox. Whilst fatalities are rare they can happen, but it is not uncommon for physical injuries to include broken or bruised limbs, head trauma or neck stiffness. Be aware that this risk increases significantly when the condition of the horsebox is not maintained.
Reducing the risk
To reduce the risk and severity of injury to your horse:
- Before each journey, inspect the horsebox body inside and outside, keeping an eye out for warping, rust, damp, water damage and sharp edges.
- To reduce the risk of slipping, keep the inside of the horsebox clean and ensure adequate bedding is provided .
- Even if protected, rotten or loose floorboards are dangerous – please inspect these regularly & replace where needed.
- Look for & treat any signs of mould.
- Regularly check & maintain the condition of your ramp.
- Provide suitable partitioning , allowing adequate space for each horse.
We strongly recommend that you carry an equine first aid kit for minor injuries and save an emergency vet contact in your phone in case you require urgent professional medical assistance.
Horseboxes are a popular target for theft, especially in rural areas. Thieves are also looking to steal their contents, including tack and sometimes the horse itself.
Loss of a horsebox and/or its equipment will undoubtedly cause inconvenience and some form of financial loss. It may also impede your ability to care for, show and train your horses which can be upsetting for you, your family & those that care for the horse.
Reducing the risk
To reduce the risk of horsebox theft:
- Make your vehicle or horsebox easily identifiable through distinctive features or markings.
- Whether at home or away, try to park your horsebox in a safe & secure area, driveaway or garage (thieves will generally look for an easy target).
- Please ensure that when unattended the doors & windows are locked.
- Never leave keys in or on your vehicle (this may also breach your insurance policy).
- If your horsebox uses keyless entry, consider storing your keys in a faraday bag.
- Consider installing a tracking device to help locate your horsebox if it is stolen.
To reduce the risk of tack theft, including from your stable:
- Keep a comprehensive and up to date inventory.
- Install tack lockers with alarms.
- Personalise tack with name or postcode stamping, making them more easily identifiable and harder to sell on.
- Additionally, use trackers and microchips registered with Farmkey or Datatag, or register your tack with the Police National Mobile Property Register .
- Install CCTV to deter and identify thieves.
Whether travelling on a motorway to a major national event or on a country lane to your local veterinary practice, the breakdown of your horse can cause significant distress to both you and your horse.
While some mechanical damage may be immediately visible, most breakdowns can be avoided by a simply maintenance check of your horsebox and to rectify any faults or hazards before you set out on your journey. This action together with regular maintenance of your horsebox will considerably reduce your risk of breaking down.
You may also wish to consider the purchase of breakdown insurance. We strongly recommend that you check the terms of your policy to ensure that it specifically designed to care for your horses as well as you & your vehicle.
Reducing the risk
To reduce the risk of breakdown:
- Regularly wash the outside of your vehicle to remove dirt and prevent build-up in the mechanics.
- Ensure your vehicle has passed its latest MOT
- Carry a spare tyre / wheel in case of puncture
- Before starting any journey, conduct breakdown prevention checks, making sure:
- you have sufficient fuel for your journey, including unforeseen detours
- the condition, tread and pressures of all tyres are correct
- oil & other lubricants are at their recommended level
- brakes and lights are functioning properly
- water levels are correct and internal piping is in good condition
In the event that you do breakdown:
- Alert other drivers by switching on your hazard warning lights and side lights, especially if it’s raining or becoming dark.
- If it is safe to do so, place your warning triangle or other hazard warning, ideally at least 45 metres behind the vehicle.
- Whilst you should a safe refuge, it is usually best to leave your horses in the horsebox until help arrives.
To make sure help reaches you quickly, always travel with emergency contact numbers saved, ideally in your phone, including those for your breakdown insurance and equine medical assistance.
Despite everybody’s best intentions road accidents can happen at any time, and especially when driving on rural or unfamiliar roads. The presence of an animal adds an extra layer of unpredictability, as well as logistical complications should the horse need to be removed from the vehicle and transported to a location of safety or medical assistance.
However many accidents could have been avoided had some simple preventive steps been taken.
Reducing the risk
- Ensure the driver of the vehicle has the correct driving licence for the horsebox and is experienced at handling horses.
- Ensure front and brake lights are functioning properly.
- Adhere to best driving practice, such as using side and fog lamps correctly during reduced visibility conditions .
- Check tyre pressure to prevent a blowout or skidding.
- Repair damaged cables or exposed wires .
- Ensure that mirrors / cameras allow a clear view of the rear of your horsebox
- Do not exceed the maximum permitted payload
In the event of an accident, do not attempt to open the ramp and retrieve your horse, as it may be scared, distressed, and cause you harm. Instead, call for emergency services and wait for their assistance.
While transporting horses will never be risk-free, with the right knowledge to identify common risks and taking a few simple practical steps, you can reduce their likelihood & severity.
Diligently maintaining your horsebox, including during the off season, will help you to reduce many of the risks covered in this guide. This way, you stand the best chance of keeping yourself and your animals safe and happy.
How can we help?
Even with effective risk management, not every risk can be eliminated. That’s why MS Amlin offer our specialised Countrywise product for motorised Horseboxes, created with the experience and expertise required to ensure that you and your horses are looked after in the event of an accident, theft or breakdown.
Contact your broker today to discuss your options and get a quote.
For further advice see Transporting horses in horseboxes and trailers - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)