Safe Driving when Towing a Horse Trailer


When towing a horse trailer, there are many different areas that the driver should be aware of. This has to include being legal on the road along with remembering that unlike other types of loads, you will be transporting a live animal that can become spooked with sudden movements.

Being Legal on the Road

  • In the UK it is legal to tow a horse trailer with only a B license.
    • This is a standard operator’s license for a private passenger motor vehicle.
    • The weight of the trailer with horse must be 750 kg or less.
    • The trailer and load can be more if the total weight of the vehicle, trailer and load are at or below 3.5 tonnes.
  • When the trailer is over 750 kg and the total weight of the combined vehicle, load and trailer are above 3.5 tonnes, an E license is required by the driver to legally operate on UK roads.
    • Maximum load for E license drivers is 8.25 tonnes.
  • Weight distribution must be correct.
    • If the weight of the horse box or trailer is uneven or over the limit, it will be unsafe on the road and the police are on the lookout for this.
      • A majority of the weight must be over the axles of the trailer.
    • Drivers who have been ticketed with an overloaded trailer offense will have a difficult time finding insurance.
  • Certificate of Competency of handling and transporting horses
    • This is required for any professional driver who transports horses.
    • Private citizens do not need the certificate to transport their own horse.
      • Every driver that transports horses must be in compliance with the Welfare of Animals during Transit Regulations 2006.
        • Horse can only be transported for a maximum of 24 hours with a break every 8 hours.
        • All horses over the age of 8 months must be fitted with a halter during transport.

Operating the Tow Vehicle Safely

When a trailer is attached to a motor vehicle like a car or small truck, the handling of the tow vehicle is very different than when not being used as a tow vehicle. Because of this many find it very helpful to take a course specifically designed to help drivers learn how to operate their vehicle with a trailer attached.

  • With the additional weight, precautions have to be taken when the trailer is hitched up to the tow vehicle.
    • The distance between the tow vehicle and the vehicle in front of it must be increased due to the increased weight of the vehicle and trailer.
    • Acceleration is slower.
    • Turning radius is greater.
      • The trailer will take a shorter path than the tow vehicle when turning. This must be compensated for or the wheels of the trailer could hit the curb.
  • Situations to avoid when towing a trailer
    • Never slam on the brakes or control over the vehicle can be lost. This includes the vehicle and trailer jackknifing.
    • Never change lanes quickly or suddenly, the operator’s can lose control over the trailer causing the vehicle and trailer to tip over.
    • Sudden acceleration could cause the load to shift and control over the vehicle and trailer could be lost.

For first time operators of a tow vehicle it is suggested that a dry run occur. This is the towing of the trailer with a vehicle empty to begin with. The next step will be to place a load in the trailer to simulate the transportation of a live animal.  Once the operator feels comfortable then the transporting of a horse should be attempted.

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