No matter how much care is taken and how well maintained your horse trailer and vehicle are, accidents and breakdowns can - and do - happen. For this reason it’s essential to have comprehensive breakdown cover in place to ensure that, in the event of an emergency, you and your horses get back on the road as quickly and safely as possible.
While car breakdown services offer assistance to the degree of fixing your towing vehicle at the roadside, they WILL NOT recover a trailer with a horse on board. Here you'll find advice on what to do in the event of an emergency.
There are, however, specialist companies that are geared up to deal with every element of accidents and breakdowns involving horses - from arranging alternative transport to overnight accommodation (human and horsey), where necessary. Coverage with one of these organisations is strongly recommended - watch this space for further details. In the meantime, the following precautions should help ensure you're ready for any eventuality.
Before every journey it’s well worth taking a few extra precautions so that, if the unthinkable does happen, at least you’re prepared:
- Make sure someone knows where you’re going, what time you’re due to arrive at your destination and what time you’re expected to arrive back at the yard - especially if travelling alone.
- Always travel with a fully-charged mobile phone with your breakdown service, insurance company and Vet’s telephone numbers stored in contacts. A hands-free kit is also useful so that you can use the phone on the move.
- Always travel with a bridle for each horse and a couple of lunge lines in case you have trouble re-loading.
- Travel with water, bucket and a hay net for each horse – this will help keep them calm and quiet in the event of a breakdown.
- Equine and human first aid kits should always be kept in your towing vehicle.
- Carry a toolkit, fire extinguisher, a high-visibility vest and warning triangle.
- A wheel clamp is always useful should you have to leave the trailer and take alternative transport home.
What to do in an emergency
If you’re unfortunate enough to either break down or have an accident while towing your horse trailer, there are some important things to remember:
- Try to get your vehicle to a safe place to stop –on the motorway the hard shoulder, otherwise as close to the left edge of the road as possible.
- NEVER unload horses on the motorway or a busy road, or risk letting them escape – unloading livestock on the motorway is illegal and highly dangerous. If you need to remove horses from a stricken vehicle on the motorway or a busy road, call the police.
- In the event of a breakdown, check your location and call your recovery service. On the motorway, try to send someone to the nearest blue & white emergency phone which will get your through to a police control room; let them know you have horses.
- Switch on your hazard warning lights, turn off the vehicle ignition.
- Make sure no one smokes around the vehicles – if seriously damaged, disconnect batteries.
- When it is safe to do so, set up your warning triangle at least 50m behind your vehicle – further if on a bend.
- Get someone to direct traffic away from the scene.
- If necessary, call the emergency services.
- Where casualties are involved, deal with human injuries before tending the horses.
Changing a tyre
- Consider investing in a wedge jack – this will make changing a tyre with horses on board far easier and safer.
- Loosen wheelnuts before jacking the trailer up
- If using a conventional jack, use a substantial area of the chassis or the axle as a jacking point, rather than the trailer floor.
- Fit the spare tyre and tighten wheelnuts in diagonal pairs.
- Ensure the damaged tyre is securely fitted to the spare tyre point on the trailer.
- After about 30 miles, check the wheelnuts are still tight enough.
- Once you’re home safe and sound, ensure you replace your spare tyre immediately.