Mark Unsworth from Horse Trailer Parts Direct gives some useful advice on giving your horse a smooth journey whilst travelling him in your trailer.
Ideally, you should load your horse from the safety of your yard or an enclosed area. If however you have to load your horse on the road, make sure that you, your horse, and other road users are safe before you load your horse. Be aware of what is going on around you and always wear a high visibility vest. Never attempt to load your horse into your trailer unless your trailer is hitched onto your tow vehicle.
If you are travelling a single horse, make sure he is positioned on the off-side of a double horse trailer. If you are transporting two horses load, travel the heaviest horse on the off-side of the trailer. This is to compensate for the camber of UK roads.
Before leaving your yard or the place where you have loaded your horse into your trailer, slowly drive a few metres and gently apply your brakes. This is to test both your tow vehicle’s brakes and your horse trailer brakes to ensure that they are working correctly.
Drive slowly when you set off, to allow your horse to adjust to the motion of the trailer, and to obtain a secure footing position inside the trailer.
Avoid sudden or erratic changes in direction or speed.
Take corners slowly and as wide as possible.
Be aware of other road users, and try to anticipate their actions.
Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
Anticipate the road ahead and be aware of suitable passing points if travelling on a country lane in case you meet another vehicle.
Give parked vehicles a wide berth and be aware of roadside foliage such as trees and bushes. Remember your trailer is likely to be wider and taller than your tow vehicle, so giving objects a wide berth will avoid collisions or scrapes.
Get into your correct lane early when approaching roundabouts. Don’t take any chances – whilst towing your horse trailer, your vehicle will not accelerate as quickly as normal on roundabouts.
If travelling on a motorway, you are not allowed into the extreme right, or fast lane.
If your trailer starts to weave on the road this could be because you are travelling too fast. Avoid sudden braking, and use controlled acceleration to overcome the weaving before slowing to a safer speed.
Always react to how your horse is behaving in your trailer. If your horse is becoming stressed to the extent of erratic or violent behaviour within the trailer, find a safe and suitable place to stop before proceeding further. Exercise extreme caution when entering your trailer under these circumstances.
Always stick within the speed limits for vehicles towing trailers.
Use your indicators to advise other road users of your intentions
Single carriageway: 50 mph
Dual carriageway and motorways: 60 mph
Reversing should not be rushed. Remember not to over steer as it is always easier to add to the steering wheel turns, than to recover over steering.
The main thing to remember when reversing is that whichever way you turn the steering wheel will send your trailer in the opposite direction. So, if you steer the wheel left, your trailer will go right. To straighten the trailer up, simply turn the wheel back the other way. Often if you get the angle wrong, you are better to go forwards again rather than trying to correct it.
Practise reversing your trailer whilst it is empty. Remember to not only watch your trailer as you are reversing, but also the front of your tow vehicle as this changes direction, too.
Unloading your horse and un-hitching
Park your trailer on as flat a surface as possible and then apply the tow vehicle’s and the trailer’s handbrake.
Place wheel chocks if you have them both in front and behind your trailer wheels.
If the edges of your unloading ramp do not sit flush to the ground then consider chocking them with wood blocks. If you don’t do this this can unsettle your horse as he stands on the ramp and it can also result in a twisted ramp door!
Drop your trailer’s ramp/s, ensuring that your unloading spot is safe for you, your horse and other road users. If unloading on or adjacent to a road ensure your wear a high viz jacket. Then un-load your horse.
Here are a few key things I feel you should consider and be aware of prior to towing a horse trailer for the first time.
It is not a definitive list by any means and could be much more comprehensive but I feel it gives the novice an insight and some useful pointers to consider and follow.
Does my licence allow me to tow?
Ensure that your driver’s licence allows you to tow.
Basically, if you passed your driving test before 1st January 1997 you should find that your licence categories will allow you to drive a motor vehicle and tow a trailer up to a combined weight of 8.25 tonnes.
If you passed your test after 1st January 1997 you are only allowed to tow a trailer with a maximum gross weight up to 750kg. If this is the case, you will be required to undertake a further test to provide you with the grouping that will allow you to tow a horse trailer.
Full information can be found on www.dvla.gov.uk.
Check your tow vehicle’s insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for third party liability/public liability for the towing of trailers.
This is a legal requirement.
Insurance guarding against the theft or damage to the trailer is a separate issue and can be provided by many reputable equine insurers.
Your tow vehicle
Ensure that it is roadworthy and importantly that the tow bar and ball are in good condition and that all the electrics function.
Check the tow vehicle’s towing capacity. You will find this in the handbook provided with your vehicle. The basic principle is that you must not attempt to tow anything whereby the maximum gross weight of the trailer and its load may exceed 85% of the tow vehicle’s weight. It is always better to be cautious, so the greater the leeway the better.
Remember that if you exceed the recommended towing weight for your vehicle you could be liable to prosecution if caught doing so.
There are many on-line sites whereby you can simply type in your make, model year of your tow vehicle and it will advise you of the vehicles legal towing capacity.
If you have no towing experience
If you have no previous towing experience, practise driving your tow vehicle in various weather conditions, and on different road surfaces without having a trailer attached. This will help you become familiar with the capabilities of your tow vehicle prior to introducing the trailer.
It is also useful to practice driving your tow vehicle off road as well and become familiar with the different vehicle handling characteristics which are evident when driving off road. This is particularly important if you own a 4 x 4 vehicle as often engaging the 4 x 4 gearbox will be a very different experience when driving. We advise doing this as many times when you attend shows and events with your trailer these are held in paddocks and fields which often become wet and soft and with your trailer hitched on and horses loaded this can prove sometimes to be a very testing experience especially if gradients and hills are involved.
Practise both on road and off road before introducing a horse to your trailer.
You may also consider obtaining one or two basic sessions with an approved instructor or other tutor.
There are products which will also assist you with towing or make the towing experience safer – one example which we sell is the extended vision towing mirror. This is a larger than normal mirror which is attached to your drivers mirror of your towing vehicle allowing your field of vision to extend down the side of your trailer. Often because your trailer is wider than your tow vehicle you cannot see clearly down the side of your horse trailer to the rear and these mirrors not only assist you but also make towing much safer. Sometimes people buy a pair of these mirrors and fit one to the passenger side of their vehicle as well. They are easily fitted and removed to your tow vehicle and only takes a couple of minutes to add or remove before setting off on your journey.
Horse Trailer Parts Direct provide a comprehensive range of horse trailer parts online in the UK. Our horse trailer spares are all oraganised in to categories to help you find exactly what you want. Simply move your mouse cursor over the category links at the top of this page to see a drop down menu of our categories. We provide parts for Ifor Williams horse trailers in addition to other popular brands and setups. So, if you're looking for parts for trailers or any kind of trailer accessories please take a look at our website to find what you need. If you any questions please call us on 01305 269393 and we'd be delighted to help you.