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Comfort on the road
3:35pm Monday 20th September 2010 in August
HORSES are being transported more and more often, be it just a few miles down the road in a trailer, or farther afield in a sophisticated lorry. As far as a horse is concerned, it makes little difference how they travel. What matters is their journey is smooth.
Manningtree Horse Box Hire and Horse Transport has been helping to organise and advise on transport since 2006.
It runs a fleet of Equitrek horse boxes, which range in size from a three-and-a-half tonne or a four tonne for clients requiring to move two large horses, John Booty from the company says: “It is important firstly to highlight how one bad journey can turn into months of encouraging the horse to travel happily again, “Always ensure horses are suitably dressed for travel, ie.
boots, tailguard, and poll guard if required.
“When entering a new box for the first time, most horses will tend to have a sniff at the bottom of the ramp to investigate their new environment before committing themselves up the ramp.We always encourage owners to allow their horse to do this for a few minutes, and mostly they will walk up quite happily.
“There should always be sufficient hay, water and first aid kit on board, even for the shortest journey.You never know what is around the corner, so always be prepared.”
The horse transport business based in Manningtree, advocates the use of horseboxes which are rear facing, as studies have shown them to be a lot less stressful for horses. John adds:“We always encourage owners to be honest about their horse’s travelling experiences.
“If the horse needs time to load or has a history of unsettled travelling, it is always better the transporter is prepared for this.
“Don’t forget horses must always be accompanied by their passports, or a fine of between £2,000 and £5,000 can be imposed.”
The issue of weight when transporting horses is perhaps one of the biggest areas of concern. John says:“Whatever lorry you use, make sure you do not overload it.”
Dealing with weight queries is something Matt Churchill of Agroco Trailers is used to, and he believes there is often confusion over what is acceptable.
“We are often asked about towing limits, weights and capacities,” says Matt.“The rules seem rather grey, and you can hear conflicting advice. In order to be fully legal when towing a horse trailer, it is wise to strictly adhere to the letter of the law and leave no room for error.”
He says the first point to take note of when you are either buying a trailer, or about to tow one, is its gross capacity. “The Ifor Williams HB506, for example, has a gross capacity of 2600kg,” he explains. “This indicates the trailer’s maximum weight, including itself, cannot exceed this figure.
“The unloaded HB506 weight is approximately 920kg.
Once this weight is deducted from the total (gross), it leaves 1680kg of possible payload.
This is more than adequate for two relatively large horses.”
Matt says misunderstandings can arise because vehicles have their own maximum towing capacity, and could be anywhere up to 3500kg.
He adds:“A vehicle could, for example have a towing capacity of 1500kg and, once the weight of the trailer has been deducted from this (920kg in the case of an HB506), only 580kg remains.
“This would be enough for one horse, not two.”
Planning is crucial, whatever the journey. This should include the obvious, such as taking enough lead ropes, tack and rugs for all horses and sufficient food and water with you. If you go any distance, make sure supplies are available at all rest stops and there will be opportunity for feeding and water at least every six hours.
Make the trailer inviting.
Horses are fundamentally claustrophobic and will rarely, if ever, walk into a small, dark space. If you have a loading ramp, lower it and sprinkle some bedding to make it seem more familiar.
Open wide all other doors and windows to let in as much light as possible. If you can, try to put some hay in a place that is clearly visible to your horse from outside the trailer.
Prepare your horse for the ride. Groom him, halter him in a breakaway-style halter with a protective head bumper, protect his legs with shipping boots, and fly spray him. Blanket him if appropriate, keeping in mind it could be significantly warmer in your trailer than outside. Be sure to stay calm, as your horse will pick up on any stress.
Lead him calmly up the ramp.
If he is nervous, have a calm horse go before him, or go in first yourself. Show him the trailer is a non-threatening environment.
Training makes sense, so the horse is familiar with the experience.This can include making sure horses feel comfortable wearing travel boots. Many professional transporters use a bridle or Chiffney bit to help maintain control while loading.
If your horse has a companion, or you are nervous he might move around during the journey, tie him to a special, secure hook inside your trailer.
Never leave a horse loose or not tied in a float.
Know your route. Ensure you have all the documentation you could possibly need, including details of vets, and check the vehicle is safe.
Horses must be supervised as carefully as possible while travelling.
Keep your horse watered.
It is important to prevent dehydration and reduce the risk of colic by encouraging your horse to drink. Horses tend to lose weight on long journeys, so this should be monitored. It is thought some of the most successful competition horses cope without losing weight because they are calm and accustomed to travel.
Unless it is being moved to an equine hospital, a sick horse should not travel at all. Horses with a fever or nasal discharge are particularly at risk of developing shipping fever.They also travel better when it is cool, so modify ventilation, muck out where possible and avoid travelling in the heat of the day. If travelling conditions are hot or humid and horses sweat more, then water should be offered more frequently.