Whilst you expect to find horses and ponies snug at home in their cosy little stables or leisurely grazing in their paddock, the very nature of equine breeds and the purposes they are used for require them to be mobile, nationally and internationally. Whilst international transportation of horses, donkeys or any equine breed is widely accepted as a colossal task, subject to many legal stipulations and necessary preparations, it is not the only occasion that requires careful consideration as far as a horse’s welfare and travel logistics are concerned.
Whether your horse or pony is heading to a new home, a race or an event it needs to be safe and legal to travel which means you need to understand and implement the necessary precautions for pony transportation.
In 2004 Equine Passports became a legal requirement (see https://www.gov.uk/horse-passport for more details). All horses, ponies, donkeys – even zebras – must have a passport which will protect you, your animal and others by enabling authorities to track stolen/lost horses and identify horses unsuitable to be marked for food consumption.As the horse’s primary keeper, you are expected to have the passport with you at all times when you are with the animal (except when at the stable, grazing in a field or moving the animal by foot; if it is discovered your horse does not have a passport you can be fined up to £5,000.)
It is vital to ensure your horse or pony is properly insured. Whether you require horse insurance and pony insurance both include the same policies andautomatically cover death, theft and straying whilst some also offer optional extras such as:
• Veterinary fees – contribution towards cost of treating illness/injury
• Loss of use
• Third Party liability
• Disposal cover
• Loss or damage of saddler and tack
• Personal accident
In 2012 www.horseaccidents.org.uk reported that 183 horse-related Road Traffic Incidents were reported, demonstrating just how dangerous roads (and therefore transportation) are for horses, ponies and their riders and reinforcing the importance of insurance.
3. Plan Your Route
Like any journey, it is best to know how you plan to get from A to B as well as having a vague idea of the area should you hit any accidents or diversions en route. Whether you prefer to use a map, a Satnav or your innate sense of direction, remember you will be towing a live animal so consider routes that avoid excessive amounts of speed bumps, potholes and hills and don’t take roads (like motorways) that will pressure you into high speeds. Remember, when towing ahorsebox the speed limit is 56mph and for a car towing any sort of trailer it is 60mph.
As with any journey you need to check that your vehicle is in good shape for long haul travel. Check tyres, oil, fuel levels and so on. As a precaution, make sure you have a spare tyre, contact details for a breakdown company and bottled water with you. Before setting off it is best to do a quick MOT for your horse or pony too. Check their coat, hooves and shoes, look at their eyes, ears and nose for signs of illness or infection and give them some attention (perhaps a little brush!) to calm them before the journey. If you are going to Europe or on a particularly long journey, or if your horse can sometimes suffer from poor health, it may be worth getting a quick check up done at the vets before you set off.
Crucial to any form of animal transportation is the vehicle and the horsebox or trailer. The first thing you need to check is that you have the correct motor and horsebox insurance. Once the paperwork is sorted you need to set the trailer/box up ready for the journey and as you make your preparations, you need to remember how new and nerve-racking this experience is going to be for your horse
• Set the trailer/horsebox up correctly; is it secure and fitted properly? Do the brake lights work? Run a full diagnostic check and if you have any doubts, ask an expert for guidance
• Make the trailer/horsebox inviting; your horse is claustrophobic and suspicious of small, dark spaces so turn on lights, make it look comfortable, appealing and safe
• Prepare your horse for the journey; use the correct equipment (breakaway-style halter, protective head bumper, etc.) and make sure all efforts are made to keep your horse as comfortable as possible on the day – if it’s cold, give him a blanket, if it’s a hot day then put fly spray on your horse and remember, the trailer will always be warmer than it is outside so don’t overheat your horse. Most importantly, stay calm because your horse will pick up on stressed or nervous vibes
• Load and secure the horse properly; once again, check and triple check everything is as it should be. Ask for guidance from an expert or ask an experienced equestrian friend to help you guide the horse into the box and secure it
• Drive safely, slowly and always be mindful of how the journey is likely to feel to the horse
At some point it is likely you will have no option but to transport your horse or pony, for reasons of business or pleasure, and whilst the operation can seem time-consuming and laborious it is imperative that you take all precautions (both legally enforced and common sense led) to ensure your horse and journey are safe.