Of Horse

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Transport - Lorry versus Trailer
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Transport - Lorry versus Trailer

If you want to ride your horse in competitions or take part in clinics, you will probably need to transport him in order to get to the venue. So, do you opt for a lorry or a trailer? Your available budget will obviously have a bearing on which option you choose but there are other considerations to bear in mind.

A lorry may appear more luxurious and comfortable than a trailer but can you afford to run another vehicle as well as your day to day car? In addition to the general maintenance of the lorry you will also have to pay for insurance, recovery (essential when transporting livestock), road tax and possibly storage if you don't have your own yard. A lorry will also be heavier on fuel consumption, especially if you travel long distances. Does your driving licence allow you to drive a lorry or will you have to undertake separate training and take another test? Remember, depending upon your age, you may also be required to take a special test to allow you to tow a horse trailer. Obviously your trailer will need to be insured and you will want to take out specialist breakdown cover as most standard recovery policies do not make special provision for onward conveyance of your horses should you break down.

Of course, a trailer will still require regular maintenance, safety checks and routine servicing but this will not be as expensive as keeping a lorry on the road. Some yards will charge you to store your trailer with them although lorry storage is generally more expensive. Your horse's comfort during his journey is obviously of paramount importance. The smoothness of the ride you give him will depend in part on your confidence and ability as a driver. Would you be comfortable behind the wheel of a big lorry or happier driving your everyday four by four with a trailer?

From personal experience, I have always found that a big, heavy horse will feel safer and more secure in a lorry. Trailers can be inclined to rattle and feel flimsy and this can be claustrophobic and unnerving for a big horse or inexperienced youngster. Rattles can be addressed to a large extent by the fitting of thick rubber matting to the trailer floor and the ramp. This also helps the horse to feel more confident in his footing and balance and the same applies to a lorry, especially on the ramp.

You will also need to bear in mind the kerb weight of the trailer when it is fully loaded versus the weight of the towing vehicle, particularly if your horse is on the large side. If the weight ratio is incorrect, the trailer will be more inclined to fishtail and become unstable, even at low speeds. Not only is it dangerous to tow a trailer with a vehicle that is too light, it's also illegal.

If you are intending to stay overnight at shows, you will almost certainly find a lorry more comfortable. Many have 'living' space equipped with a sink, gas hob, refrigerator and seating which is easily converted into a bed. If money is no object, you can even have satellite TV, a shower and central heating. Having said that, many newer, modern trailers are now designed with a small amount of living space which is ideal for getting changed at shows and making a hot drink.

Many horses are much happier loading into a trailer. For one thing the ramp is shallower than that of a lorry and you can usually open up the front so that the interior is light, airy and much more inviting than the dark shadows and 'dead end' look of a lorry, especially when loading at night.

If you are travelling two horses, it can become a little cramped in a trailer by the time you've hung two haynets up and it can be difficult to keep the occupants from nipping each other whilst in transit. In a large lorry you have the option of positioning the partitions so that you have ample space between horses which eradicates the possibility of fighting more effectively.

From a safety point of view it is open to debate which vehicle is the better option. A lorry is undoubtedly more stable (unless you are driving along an exposed piece of road in a strong crosswind), and should you be unfortunate enough to be involved in a collision, your horse is probably better protected inside a lorry, although rescuing horses from a trailer in the event of an accident is generally more easily facilitated.

On balance, I think if I was transporting one average sized horse over relatively short distances and not expecting to stay overnight more than occasionally, I would opt for a good quality, lightweight trailer. There is always the option of hiring a lorry for a weekend when travelling further afield or staying overnight.


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  1. PonyGirl
    I found your post very interesting Things are a little different in the U. S. I have not seen a lorry (usually called a "horse box" here) in years. When I first came on the track in 1976, I would occasionally see one owned by one of the larger trainers, but that was the last of them. Although there may still be a few on the East Coast. Going to shows, most people drive one ton trucks (usually with dual wheels) and pull goose neck trailers. Many of these have living quarters in the front (some quite luxurious). When I was moving all the time and kept 4 ponies, I had a slant-load stock trailer. If I was traveling, I could comfortably fit all 4 in, but going to work each day, I only used one at a time. I could tack him up at home, and let him ride lose in the trailer. Race horses usually go by horse van- usually 12 horse standing stalls in the trailer, pulled by a semi truck. Sometimes if the horse is really special, (or if shipping a mare and foal), the owner will pay for 2 or 3 stalls, which can be converted into a box stall. There are several companies who serve just the racehorse market.
    1. autumnap
      Hi PonyGirl! Yes, it seems to be very different over here. At the bigger events, it's pretty much lorries only in the horsebox park with just a scattering of small, two horse trailers. Some of the really flash lorries are just like luxury houses on wheels and cost more than my house! It'll be interesting to see if more people opt for trailers while the country is in recession and folk are trying to save money wherever they can. x
    2. jst4horses
      I too am from the US. There are, at least in Los Angeles, van companies that serve both show and racing owners, not just big trainers. I prefer the big vans. It seems expensive, but if you are showing in many areas, and distances, the cost of insurance, upkeep, no sleep, and risk to your animal in my mind create a big argument for using professional van services. During most big shows and rodeos they are shipping full capacity to the same place you are going. The stalls are ready, the horses are much safer, and you can fly to the show or rodeo and be there to greet your animal, refreshed, not wrung out from a long drive. For short distance, we have a goose neck, and a three horse slant with a dressing room. We do special events, at parks for veterans and their children, and high risk youth and their families. These make more sense to use our own trailer. Sometimes we are only going a couple of miles, but have many volunteers coming from different ranches and stables coming. We use our trailer for transport, the horses are fresh and ready for their exhibition part of the event, or the lead rides for children and beginning riders. Many owners come and we do hourly exhibitions of how to care for a horse daily. One woman does hourly lounge exhibitions and answers questions. We have several owners who like to get two or three riders and go out for a trail ride, they trailer to the trail heads. We use a small two horse trailer occasionally just for to the trail head and back. It just depends.
      1. autumnap
        Thanks for the comments everyone! It's really interesting to hear how folk manage in other parts of the world. I think the main difference over here is the distances generally involved in travelling. We tend to travel shorter distances - a couple of hours typically - so I guess the cost of keeping a lorry on the road is cheaper than it would be if we had a five or six hour journey to every show. x
  2. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    Voted. When I was a kid, my parents had a 3 horse stock trailer. I myself being older now don't have a truck or trailer, but then I'm not going off to shows or traveling right now. My dream truck and trailer is what they call a business class Semi truck with a 2 or 3 horse goose neck and living quarters in the front with a walk through door to the back. Ah to dream though! lol
    1. autumnap
      Thanks Rene. Yes, dreaming is free (according to Debbie Harry circa 1979 - showing my age there LOL!) x

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