Top Tips for Transporting Horses Safely
In the good old days, horses were put to work transporting humans, either by pulling a carriage or astride their backs. Now, of course, the reverse is true; we happily load up our horses into trailers or lorries and transport them many miles for our pleasure. That’s progress for you!
Yet transporting horses is not without its pitfalls. Not only can it be stressful (for both you and your horse), but it also has the potential to create health issues. However, with due care and attention, you can move your horse on wheels without any potential issues. Let’s take a look at some top tips for travelling your horse safely.
Whatever vehicle you are travelling in, you need to make a few safety checks before setting off.
Your vehicle should of course be roadworthy, but it is worth completing a few ritual checks before setting off. These include tyre pressure, and oil and water levels as standard. Check also windscreen wash, and lights, the latter being particularly important if towing a trailer.
If the vehicle has been standing a while (which can happen with horse transport, you need to pay attention to your brakes, as they can stick. If you have somewhere flat and safe to store your trailer, it may be best to put chucks under the wheels and leave the handbrake off, to prevent jamming. However, seek advice first as you don’t want your trailer slowly rolling away! If in doubt, leave handbrake on when stationary and deal with stuck brakes if it happens.
If this does happen, it is best to have the brakes serviced by a specialist, although they will usually free quite quickly if you slowly pull away. However, you should never take any chances with your brakes, and the best advice is to stop and seek expert guidance. Always have emergency rescue in place in case of a problem when travelling.
It’s crucial the flooring is in good condition and needs to be checked regularly. Pull mats out and do a thorough check and have a look underneath the vehicle from time to time. You can ask your mechanic to check when he/she services it. Metal floors are strong and long lasting but keep an eye out for any rust spots. Treated wood floors can last for years as well, as long as they are regularly maintained and monitored.
Check all the fittings and internal lights, making sure there are no sharp edges. The ramp needs to be kept in good condition, so oil the springs, hinges and fastenings regularly, and check the floor of the ramp has not rotted.
Always muck your horse area out every time you use it. Brush it out completely and if your horse is the only horse using it, you should still disinfect it once a month to keep it fresh. If you share the vehicle with other horses, or if you have hired a horse box, there is always the risk of cross-contamination, so it is important to disinfect it with a quality product every journey. If borrowing or hiring a vehicle, don’t assume it has been cleaned; disinfect it yourself, paying attention to the walls as well.
Now your vehicle is ready, it’s time to load up. To make sure the journey is a stress-free as possible, follow these simple rules:
- 1. Always carry your horse’s passport with you when travelling, as it is a legal requirement
- 2. Make sure your horse has plenty of ventilation by opening windows and leaving back flaps of trailer open. However, don’t travel with front flap open (if you have front unload), as it is dangerous
- 3. Protect your horse’s legs and tail with travelling equipment
- 4. Avoid over-dressing your horse – horses cope with cold better than us and find it more difficult to deal with heat. Use light rugs only, or a Thermatex. During summer, you may not need a rug at all
- 5. Give the horse a hay net when travelling – it will settle him and give him something to focus on
- 6. Have water on board in case you need to stop
- 7. On long journeys, stop every few hours and give your horse a stretch off the vehicle and offer him a little water
- 8. Drive carefully – be aware of your horse and do not make sudden turns or brake hard if you can help it. Keeping the journey smooth goes a long way to preventing a stressed and sweaty horse at the end of the journey
If introduced to the joys of travelling carefully, most horses are happy to be transported, and seem to cope with the noises and experiences the journey throws at them. And if the end result is a good blow out along the beach, you will both be longing to get back in the box! Drive safely!