Loading and transporting your horse
Loading and transporting horses can be a worrying time, and changes in the law regarding this have also made it a potential minefield.
The type of vehicle chosen will depend on when you passed your driving test, how many horses you need to transport, and the type of horses you want to travel.
If you passed your test before 1997, you can drive a lorry with a weight of up to 7.5 tonnes or tow a trailer.
If you passed your test after 1997, you are restricted to driving a lorry with a weight of up to 3.5 tonnes. In order to drive a larger lorry or tow a trailer, you would need to take an additional test.
These smaller 3.5 tonne lorries are really only suitable for transporting one horse, and only comfortably up to about 16hh. If you need to transport something bigger, or more than one horse, you would be best advised to take the additional test.
With larger lorries come different legalities. A 3.5 tonne lorry can go through a car MOT, but anything larger needs to pass a different test, called plating. Larger lorries also may also need more safety features, such as reflective strips and bars down the sides. A trailer does not need any tests done, but it is advisable to have it regularly checked for safety.
Horses can be wary about loading and travelling. If it is ensured that they have a good experience every time out in the lorry, these worries are likely to be easily overcome.
Loading horses that are genuinely scared or worried is a job for experts. There are many approaches to this. The horse needs to make the decision himself to load, as forcing him on will only confirm his fears that there really is something to be afraid of.
The interior set up of a lorry can make a huge difference to how horses travel. Studies have shown that most horses prefer to travel facing backwards, but this can be different for each horse. Some prefer to travel diagonally (herringbone), some forwards, some prefer a partition to lean against, and some prefer no partition at all.
Horses can move about a lot in a lorry, and it can get quite warm. Ventilation is important, and all windows should always be open, even on cold days. A haynet to keep the horse occupied will always be appreciated, and may help the horse travel better.
Horses do not really need to travel in a rug unless they are likely to get chilled. Many people choose to travel horses without boots, although some insurance companies stipulate that horses must be travelled in boots, so it is always worth checking this. There are many different options – traditional travel boots, bandages, or brushing and over reach boots are all sensible choices. Many horses have a personal preference to how they like to be booted, so trial and error may be the best way to decide.
The handler should always wear a hat, gloves and sturdy boots to load.