Horsebox Safety Checks

Helios 7.5 tonne - June 2022

Are you prepared for the next trip in your horsebox?

You’re on your way to an event for a few days, you have cleaned your horsebox inside and out, stowed your tack, filled your water, run the fridge down to temperature and filled it up with food and possibly some wine! Your horses have been groomed, watered, loaded and you have fuelled up and checked oil and coolant levels.

Are you safe? Are you ready go?

Here are some points for you to check and not all of them involve horsebox safety. It may not warrant checking every point on every trip, however, most of these should at least be considered and others should be made part of your regular maintenance program.

1. Starting with the obvious

You must have insurance, road tax and MOT. I say obvious, but you would be surprised how easily a vehicle can run out of MOT when you are focusing on day to day life.

2. Payload

Everything you have loaded for the outing must fall within the payload allowance for your horsebox (see horsebox payloads). Going over the maximum allowance voids your insurance and puts you and other road users at risk!

3. Chassis and Tyres

For your own safety, if you are going underneath your horsebox, put the ignition key in your pocket or you may end up taking a very unexpected trip!
Check tyre pressure, tread depth and tyre condition. As well as the outer tyre surfaces, it is worth getting underneath and looking at the inner tyre walls for cracks, blebs and blisters.

You should be aware of new legislation for tyres. In July 2020, following an industry-wide consultation, The Department for Transport (DFT) announced a ban on tyres over 10 years old on any axle of minibuses with single wheels fitted or on the front axle of any lorry, bus or coach. This legislation took effect on 1 February 2021.

Part of the chassis check should include wheel nut tension and that wheel trims are securely fitted.

If you carry a spare wheel it should be removed from time to time, both to check the condition and check the securing bolts are not seized.

Additionally, it is a good idea to swap a spare onto the road wheels every once in a while. Spares can crack and deteriorate just the same as the road wheels, so moving them around the vehicle should give you more mileage for your expensive rubber.

The essential checks are brakes, lights, horn, engine oil, engine coolant, wiper fluid, and clutch/brake fluid.

Modern vehicles are filled with electronics and packed with sensors to monitor how your vehicle is behaving. Warning dash lights are generally red in colour, advisory dash lights are generally amber in colour and information dash lights are general white, blue and green in colour. Dashboard warning lights will illuminate when the ignition is started and whilst it is performing a system check, they will then go out. If any warning lights remain illuminated it indicates something is required before it is safe to drive away.

4. Horse Flooring

Horse safety must be at the forefront of any maintenance routine and over the years I have posted many blogs advising that horsebox owners should check the horse area floor on a regular basis. Just at rest horses place considerable weight on a relatively small area of the horse floor. So, you can imagine the damage they can do by stamping or kicking. With your horse’s welfare at stake it is an essential check, especially so when you consider the consequences.

A visual inspection should include inside the horse area and underneath the horse floor (keys in pocket). Depending of the construction, alloy will rot and crack around bolts and fastenings and wood or composite can crack and splinter. Look for damp patches and rotted subframe components where water and urine ingress will cause damage.

5. Ramps

The ramp warrants the same inspection as the horse area floor and I would always recommend checking the hinges and spring or hydraulic ram mounts for cracks. If the horsebox has springs on the ramp, these will become less efficient over time and the ramp will become heavier. So new springs will be money well spent if you value your back!

A good technique for closing a sprung ramp safely is to give it a quick throw upwards and then quickly walk up it with your hands, never letting it stop. If you let it stop half way up, it takes considerable effort to start it moving again.

6. Extra Checks

Checking for loose cappings, sharp edges and rattles should be up there on the weekly checks too. Horses have a habit of biting corners, window bars and window catches. A quick inspection of the horse area each trip could easily save on expensive vet bills.

Sudden noise or vibration from worn parts, horse partitions or horse doors can be contributing factors to raised stress levels whilst your horses are in transit. More constant noises like fans running tend to fall into the more beneficial category of white noise. These are considered helpful as they can mask other sudden sounds like horns or fast motorcycles.

7. Ventilation

Ventilation is a topic often overlooked and well worth considering each trip. Air is basically very lazy and always takes to quickest route out. Open a window directly under a roof vent or fan and air will take the very short trip from the open window up and out, leaving the rest of the horse area untouched. So, depending where your horse is positioned some windows will need closing completely and others opening or part opening. The aim is to draw air across your horse before it leaves through the roof vent or fan.

For more information please see Horsebox ventilation and how to keep your horses cool


Any queries or questions?

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Kevin Parker Horseboxes Ltd  Unit 1, Brockholes Way, Claughton-on-Brock, Preston, Lancashire, PR3 0PZ

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