Checks before you travel | Towing, Trailers & Horse Boxes
All vehicles used for towing and horseboxes under 3.5T should have a current MOT. Horseboxes over 3.5T should have an up-to-date plating certificate. We recommend getting your trailer professionally serviced at least once a year. Don’t take it for granted that the serviceability of the floor will be looked at, always double check this will be examined.
These checks are not exhaustive, and you should refer to your manufacturers handbook.
Don’t forget to check the vehicle that will be towing your trailer too.
Did you know? It is illegal to travel in the back of a trailer or horsebox with your horse
Essential pre-journey checks
Body of vehicle
- Look around both the outside and inside for any obvious signs of damage. This includes rust, damp patches and any sign of rotting
- Have the vehicle parked on level ground and if the trailer/horsebox leans to one side, seek professional advice.
- Look for water damage around any seals.
- Partitions and breast/breech bars - check all pins are in place and there are no sharp edges or rips in the partition.
- Check tread depth; make sure it meets the minimum legal requirement of 1.6mm across ¾ of the breadth. (for over 3.5t it is 1mm)
- As of February 2021, tyres aged 10 years or older will be prohibited from use on the front axles of HGVs (vehicles with a maximum gross weight of 3,500kg). This includes horseboxes. For further information please look on the Gov website.
- Remove any stones and other objects embedded in the tread. Look out for any bulges, lumps or cuts.
- When not in use cover the wheels to help prevent the UV light from defecting the tyre wall.
- Look at your manufacturers handbook for the correct tyre pressures for both your vehicle and/or trailer.
Electrics & Lights
- Check the connection lead and sockets for any signs of wear and tear.
- If the cable is spilt and wires showing, then it’s in need of professional repair.
- Check that all your lights are clean and in working order both externally and internal when connected.
- Use a buddy to assist you when checking all your lights and signals.
Floor and Ramp
- Lift up the rubber matting to check the floor for any signs of rot, corrosion or damage and look from underneath the transport. Any signs of damage should be looked at by a professional before traveling your horse.
- Oil the hinges and springs frequently to prevent rust or damage.
Make sure you know the true payload of your horsebox. If you aren’t sure then you can take the horsebox to a weighbridge. You can find your closest one here.
- Check the trailer and towing vehicle are suitable and the combination doesn’t exceed the legal weight limits; always check your manufacturer’s handbook for both your towing vehicle and trailer.
You should carry spare water, feed and roughage in case of a breakdown or delays – but be aware when using a trailer, if you load this at the front you could also exceed the nose weight.
Top tip: Don’t forget to know the weight of your horse(s) including passengers and all the equipment you take with you; you could soon be over the allowed weight.
At the weighbridge
- Weigh the horsebox empty but with enough fuel and water for regular use.
- Ask for the weighbridge certificate that will state the unladen weight of your box.
- Once you know the unladen weight, take this away from the maximum your horsebox should weigh (3.5 / 7.5t etc). This will leave your payload weight limit.
- The payload weight limit is the total weight of all that you carry, including driver, passengers, horse(s), tack, water etc.
Did you know? Your trailer number plate must match your vehicle plates which is registered with the DVLA.
Ensure you have the correct driving entitlement on your license for driving or towing. You can check what vehicles you are eligible to drive on the UK Governments website here.
Additional Trailer Checks
- Lightly grease the tow-bar roughly every 3 months or more often depending on use.
- Check the security of the tow hitch by carefully winding down the jockey wheel and if secure, the rear of the vehicle will raise slightly.
- With the tow hitch connected, fully wind up the jockey wheel and secure.
- The jockey wheel must be secured when fully up with a safety pin to lock it into position.
Top tip: Hitching up a trailer can be difficult if you don’t have a reversing camera on your vehicle. Lean a broom against the hitch to give you something to aim towards, or invest in a trailer hitching mirror that attaches to the front of your trailer allowing you to see the hitch in your rear view mirror.
Brakes and breakaway cable
- If you’re leaving the trailer for a prolonged period, securely place wheel chocks either side of the wheels and then release the trailer parking brake (It may not be suitable if the ground is not level) - remember to put the brake back on before you hitch up next time.
- Breakaway cables are a legal requirement; activating the trailer brakes should the trailer become detached. The cable must be attached to a purpose made tow bar ring or a substantial part of the vehicle.
- Make sure there is no wear and tear along the cable and the fixings is all in working order.
- If your brakes are ceased or you have problems with the cable, then contact a professional mechanic.
Further advice for transporting your horse