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Tips for Travelling Your Horse

Transporting your horse or pony safely

It is the time of year when we gear up to travel our horses and ponies to events, competitions, shows and even the beach. There always seems so much to remember and it is certainly best to be well prepared with a checklist when getting ready to transport your horse or pony. The following tips and guidance from our own Kate Harley, former international competition groom, will prove invaluable.

Horsebox and trailer fit for purpose

Horsebox and trailer maintenance should be undertaken year-round. You never know when you might need to transport your horse in an emergency, for example to hospital, and having your horsebox or trailer properly maintained will avoid any last-minute panic or worry. Quite often horseboxes and trailers can be left standing for long periods during the winter months. This immobility and temporary neglect may result in damage to tyres, decreased tyre pressures, battery discharge, ingress of moisture and rodent damage to electrical systems and wiring. Keep a watchful eye on your transport throughout the winter, run the horsebox occasionally and routinely check tyre pressures, brakes and batteries. Check the condition of the floor – most lorries and trailers these days have rubber matting on top of a wooden base, this wooden base can become damaged and rotten over time, so inspection of its condition is imperative. Check partitions are in good working order, that there are no loose screws, bolts or protruding sharp edges that could cause injury. Remember your horsebox needs an MOT and, if in doubt, get a qualified professional to check the vehicle over before the season starts.

Insurance, documentation, legislation, and plating

Always check the weight restrictions for your vehicle and that you have the appropriate insurance cover for your vehicle and the animals you are transporting. Ensure you have proper breakdown and emergency arrangements in place that cover the horses as well as the lorry or trailer.

Double check the up-to-date DEFRA and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) regulations. You will usually need an operator licence if you use horseboxes or a vehicle and horse trailer and you either:

  • are paid money (directly or indirectly) to transport horses.
  • receive payment (directly or indirectly, for example from prize money) as a result of transporting horses.
  • use the horseboxes for a professional activity.

You do not need an operator licence if you’re only transporting horses or goods for non-commercial purposes (such as leisure activities).

You may not now require a licence to tow a trailer. Check with the latest requirements as stipulated by the DVSA, DVLA and Department for Transport.

Horses, ponies and donkeys must be accompanied by their equine passport whenever they are transported.

Loading your horse

Before setting off on your travels, know whether your horse or pony can be tricky to load. If your horse has only ever been on a particular type of transport, consider whether practicing loading before the day of the show, trip or yard move would prove useful. Horses easily pick up on your mood and if you are feeling anxious or nervous, then invariably so will your horse or pony. If you know they require sedation to load or travel, be sure to book this with your vet, giving plenty of advance notice. If you know they’ve only ever travelled in a trailer alone, maybe the day of a show isn’t the best time to introduce them to travelling in a big lorry with other horses. If you are hiring transport, be sure to book it to collect you in plenty of time so that you are not rushing at the start and the end of your journey.

Always tie your horse using baling twine or a safe quick release tie. Consider the weather conditions on the day of travel. Will the horse or pony require a rug – if so, how heavy does the rug need to be? If the lorry has other horses on board, the collective body heat given off will quickly warm up the space they occupy. Will you need to open all the windows to allow for adequate ventilation – if it is a cold day you probably will not need to open all the windows, but it is always advisable to facilitate effective ventilation and ensure an adequate supply of fresh air. Take into account the weather, roadworks and traffic congestion and accurately estimate the duration of your journey and whether stops will be required.

Dressing your horse for travel

What should your horses wear for travel? If you have a young horse, practice fitting travel boots prior to loading. If they dislike travel boots, then consider bandages or boots and over reach boots to provide support. Consider whether a rug or sheet is necessary. You will, of course, need to bandage or wrap tails.

When travelling with your horse or pony always carry the following:

  • Your mobile ‘phone and charger.
  • A good supply of fresh, clean drinking water for your horse or pony, especially on hot days.
  • Your own clean buckets – do not share troughs and buckets at the show or competition site and discourage free-grazing.
  • Extra hay/haylage and/or feed in case you get held up in traffic or at the show ground or destination.
  • Spare rugs and different types of rugs to allow for variations in the weather.
  • Spare head collar(s) and lead rope(s).
  • Spare baling twine.
  • A comprehensive first-aid kit for both horse and rider. Ballinger Equine’s own equine first-aid kit is perfect for this.
  • If you are staying away from home, ensure your own yard has your contact details and location.
  • Spare engine oil and coolant for your horsebox.
  • A toolkit for the lorry.
  • And food and drink for you as well as for the horses!

Happy travelling from the Ballinger Equine team!