There are two types of vehicles designed for transporting horses by road. A horse van is actually a covered truck, while a horse trailer is a separate entity which is towed behind a car or a pickup truck. In some countries, a special license is required to drive a horse van. Ventilation is an important element in both types of vehicles. Make sure that there is plenty of fresh air flowing through, without the inconvenience of drafts. Whenever you stop, open all doors and ramps to ensure a full air change. Both types also require regular maintenance for safety.
Horse Van–There are a number of points to consider when choosing a horse van. The vehicle’s overall weight may affect whether or not a special license is necessary. The layout may require horses to travel facing either sideways or front to back. Some vans load at the rear, while others load at the side. Vehicles are available that have living quarters for the people as well, but avoid the ones that have cramped, poorly equipped facilities for the horses.
Trailer–Before attaching a trailer to a truck, always check that its loaded weight is within the truck’s safety limit. The license plate must be visible on the rear of the trailer. During a trip, the trailer must be hitched with the safety catch on the ball with the socket closed. Remember, you should never travel in a trailer because doing so is dangerous.
Before buying a van or trailer, check the vehicle for suitable fixtures and fittings. You will find traveling much easier if all the doors, bolts, and other parts are easy to move and not too heavy. The floor should be easy to clean, with a good grip for the horse’s feet. Avoid transporting horses at night, unless there is ample light inside the trailer for loading and checking during transit.
If possible assess the vehicle on your own. The walls and partition should have some padding for the horse to lean on. There should be a restraint, such as a belt, chain, or bar located at the rear of each stall. Rear blinds should be lowered only in very bad weather conditions because they reduce ventilation. The breast bar should be padded and must be firm when in place. There must be a means by which you can secure the partition during travel. The ramp must be secure as well and have a good surface for the horse to walk on.
Be careful while driving because the slightest movements can be uncomfortable and unbalancing to a standing horse. Brake and accelerate gradually. Take turns and corners slowly. You shouldn’t tow a trailer unless you have practiced driving it, this includes going in reverse. Stop regularly to check on the horses. Try not to exceed traveling more than eight hours in one day, including stops.
When you arrive at an event, if you are using a trailer, put the trailer brake on as soon as you have stopped. Unload the horses and walk them around by hand for about five minutes; this will loosen any muscles that they were using to brace themselves against movement during the trip.