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Buying a horsebox can be difficult at the best of times, but buying a 3.5 tonne box is simply a minefield and these are the boxes that we find customers have the most trouble with. To give you an idea of the scale of the problem, only 1 in every 5 second-hand 3.5t boxes we inspect – regardless of whether it is a safety inspection for a current owner or a Pre purchase inspection for a potential buyer – actually pass the inspection.
There are so many companies making these boxes and, as I mentioned in my previous article ‘Henning Horseboxes Guide To Buying A New Or Used Horsebox’, this industry is totally unregulated, so the chances of buying a good, solid and safe box become a bit of a gamble. Many of the generic horsebox style vans on the market have the potential to be death traps for both the horses they carry and the drivers that drive them, as many of them are not constructed properly.
There are two main areas of concern that we see time and time again when doing inspections on these 3.5t horseboxes; the bulkhead between the horse area and the drivers cab, and the offside wall in the horse area. We often see boxes with little or no reinforcement in either of these places and this is when they become dangerous.
When thinking about the bulkhead, you must consider that the horse’s bottom is generally only a couple of inches behind you – if the bulkhead does not have any structure in it, it would not take a lot before the horse is in the cab with you! Imagine having a collision, even at a low speed of say 20 mph, and you hit something head on, both you and the van may stop, but the horse will still be travelling at 20 mph and only has one place to go – into the driver’s cab! If there is decent reinforcement within the bulkhead, this will at least give the people in the cab a fighting chance of not sustaining any serious injuries as the framework may bend but should stop the horse from actually joining you.
It is not only important that the structure is there but that it is constructed properly. Ideally, you would see a seem welded framework that is welded on all 4 sides and bolted to the main structure of the lorry. Any horsebox manufacturer worth their salt should be able to show you the structure they use and how it is fitted, with either, a photo diary of the builds or by showing boxes, to prospective customers, in various stages of the build.
Then there is the offside wall – meaning the wall without the ramp on – in the horse area. Again, time and time again we see these boxes with little or no structural reinforcement. By nature, these boxes flex and move every time they are driven, so over time screws and fixings work themselves loose and if that is all that is holding the wall in place it is a potential hazard for your horse. Anyone that owns or deals with horses knows that even the most bombproof horse in the world can have a moment, and when half a tonne of animal is flinging itself around they can cause untold amounts of damage. Many of the boxes of the on the market are flimsy, to say the least, and we often come across older boxes where the wall moves so much we can see the road.
As with most horseboxes, weight is a big consideration and even more so with these little boxes and it seems, at the moment, that having a big payload can be more important than having a safe and sturdy horsebox that is fit for purpose. It should really be the other way round. Safety is paramount and should be the biggest and most important consideration when buying. The only way we will see these builds improve across the board is by demanding safety be a priority. If consumers stop buying flimsy boxes because they are educated and informed, then hopefully build quality will improve. Thankfully we are starting to see this happen already and there are some very good quality boxes out there that are well made, safe, sturdy and fit for purpose.
There may now be lots of worried people out there thinking about the safety of themselves and their beloved horses in their boxes but there are ways of retro fitting reinforcements to these boxes that make them safe and fit for purpose. We regularly fit a lightweight ERW box section steel frame into the non ramp walls and add steel reinforcements onto the bulkhead wall, making what could potentially be a death trap into a safe and sturdy box.
The most important thing, for both prospective buyers and existing owners of a 3.5t horsebox, is to ensure that a Pre Purchase Inspection (PPI) is carried out before buying and that regular safety checks are performed over the life of your box to ensure its ongoing safety. As a company, we offer both services, as do various other companies. Keep an eye on our Facebook page, Henning Horseboxes, over the next few weeks for our upcoming ‘safety inspection Saturdays’. If you would like to book a safety Inspection or a PPI with us, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
To enquire about a Pre Purchase Inspection or safety inspection, please contact Henning Horseboxes via email at [email protected] or give them a call;