Horses often need to be transported on public highways.
At the BHS we want to make sure you are safe at all times and that you have the right licence for the vehicle you are driving and/or towing.
See our section on Driver Licensing Law for more information.
You may also find this VOSA leaflet (pdf) useful. Please note that it is intended only to offer general help and isn’t a legal document.
Horsebox and Trailer Rescue
DVSA and DEFRA now consider it illegal to transport horses on board a horsebox being either lifted or straight-bar towed behind a recovery vehicle. The only exception to this might be to move the vehicle a very short distance to enable safe transfer of the horses to fresh transport. Only DEFRA approved transporters may carry out this transport. All horses in transit must, by law, travel with their relevant passports.
However, it may be safer doing this than risking unloading and reloading horses on a busy motorway for example. Usually this would only happen short distance journey and/or to get the vehicle to a suitable and safe place to transfer the horses onto a new vehicle.
According to the Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order, 2006: “breakdown vehicle operators attending vehicles carrying animals that have broken down or been involved in a road traffic accident should not attempt to move the vehicle with animals on board if it cannot be repaired at roadside unless directed to do so by the police or other competent authority for reasons of public safety”. And “In the unlikely event that a vehicle has to be moved by a recovery operator to the nearest suitable place of destination, it is suggested that the recovery vehicle operator is accompanied (where possible) by the transporter and that the vehicle is not moved by means of a suspended tow.” Be aware of this legislation when choosing a breakdown operator and it is worth reading all the documentation and small print of your policy to make sure you are aware of any details that may affect you if you do need to call your breakdown service out.
For more information on the Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order 2006 please use this link.
Checks before you travel
Always have your trailer professionally serviced at least once a year and don’t take it for granted that they’ll look at the serviceability of the inside/underside of the floor, always double check that this will be examined. These checks are not exhaustive and you should refer to your manufacture handbook.
Ensure trailer body, floor, ramp, hitch/jockey wheel, tyres, brakes/bearing and lights are fit for purpose(in no particular order).
Look around the outside for any obvious signs of damage. Have the trailer parked on level ground and if the trailer leans to one side, seek some professional advice.
Don’t forget to look inside the trailer for signs of damage starting at the top, signs might be daylight peering through areas that it shouldn’t be there. 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.
While checking pressures and tyre tread depth, give the rest of the tyre a visual inspection. 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. For further information have a look at the horsebox and trailer tyres advice leaflet plus look at your manufactures handbook for tyre pressures for both your vehicle and trailer.
Lightly grease tow-bar roughly every 3 months or more often depending on use. It’s a good idea to 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.
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), remembering to pull the brake handle 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. Visual checks - 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.
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 of your lights and signals.
Lift up the rubber matting to check the floor for any signs of rot, corrosion or damage and look from underneath the trailer. It may be obvious but do not travel your horse and pony until it’s been looked at, preferably by a professional.