Getting back to towing horse trailers
Towing horse trailers can be an intimidating prospect for both you and your horse after a long break. With lockdown restrictions planned to lighten and competition season right around the corner, you might be planning to brush the dust off your horsebox or trailer. To help you get back to towing your horse trailer safely we have put together our top 3 tips for getting back onto the road with your horse.
Carry out safety checks
Before going on a journey of any length it is important to make sure that your trailer is in good condition and is safe to drive. Your horsebox should be maintained annually by a qualified trailer specialist. If your trailer has been sat unused for months or has not had any maintenance carried out for the past year then you should consider taking it to a professional before competition season rolls around.
Regardless of if your trailer has been recently serviced, there are several things you should double-check before driving anywhere with it.
Horse trailer towing checklist:
- Make sure all your paperwork is in order, including licences and insurance that you might not have kept track of over lockdown.
- Ensure that the correct number plate is attached securely to the back of your horsebox. This should conform to DVLA standards and be the same number plate as the vehicle you are towing with.
- Check that the lights on your trailer work correctly and replace any that do not. You will also want to make sure that the lighting cable and plug are in good condition. If they are not you might consider replacing them so you can be sure they will function correctly on your journey.
- Check that your breakaway cable or secondary coupling is undamaged and connected correctly. You should also make sure that the cable isn’t too long or short. If there isn’t enough slack then it might accidentally apply the brakes, and if it is too much it may drag on the ground and become damaged.
- Look over your tyres. Make sure that no tyres have cuts or bulges and are inflated to the manufacturers’ specification for the weight you will be towing. The tread of each tyre should be at least 1.6mm deep around the tyre.
- Check that the tow bar or pin is in good condition and the trailer is coupled correctly and at the right height.
You can be fined heavily for driving a trailer in an unsafe condition, and it poses large risks to you and your horse. If you would like to know more about safety checking your horsebox, The British Horse Society has an in-depth page with images and videos.
Practice loading your horse
It can be difficult to load your horse into a trailer at the best of times and is likely to be even more of a challenge if they have grown unused to it. We recommend you practice loading and unloading your horse before your journey so they can get used to the experience once more.
Make sure that you are dressed suitably and have someone to assist you. Remember that your horse needs to be dressed suitably too! Check that they have a head collar (preferably leather as it breaks under stress where nylon may not, leading to injuries), travel boots, a tail guard and a rug if needed. It is worth having them wear their travel gear when practising so that there is nothing new to them when the time comes to travel.
Horses will need to be loaded differently depending on what type of trailer or horsebox you have. The manufacturer should detail how to safely and correctly load and secure your horse. Be sure to remain calm and collected so they learn that it is nothing to be feared. Take a look at our previous blog posts on Preparing your horse to travel and Loading horses for some further information.
Take your trailer for a test drive
Your vehicle will handle very differently with a trailer attached. It is a good idea to practice driving in open areas and then on quiet roads to get the hang of towing once more.
Due to the additional weight of the horse and trailer, it will take longer to build up speed as well as longer to slow down and stop. This means it is important to keep a greater distance between your vehicle and any cars in front. Remember to take corners wider than you usually would or the trailer might cut the corner behind you, clipping the curb.
You also need to accommodate your horse. This means driving smoothly so they can keep balance, avoiding sharp braking and accelerating. You will also want to allow extra time for your trailer to clear a turn before accelerating so your horse can regain their balance.
You will want to reacquaint yourself with the different rules for speed limits and lanes. Be aware that you will not be able to use the outside lane in three-lane motorways or dual carriageways, though you can on two-lane roads. In the UK the speed limits when towing a trailer are as follows:
- 30mph in built-up areas.
- 50mph on single carriageways.
- 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways.
We hope you have found this post interesting and helpful and are looking forward to enjoying some outings with your horse this year. Cheval Liberté is a leading manufacturer of equestrian products including trailers, stables and stable equipment. If you need any further information or are looking for a new horse trailer then don’t hesitate to get in touch. We are always happy to help.