Educating young riders about the safety and wellbeing of horses in transit is the focus of NFU Mutual’s 2018 Horsebox Safety Week, running from 20-26 August.

The insurer has teamed up with The Pony Club and The National Pony Society to encourage riders to prioritise the maintenance of their horseboxes and lorries.

Every year horses become trapped in overturned trailers following a tyre blow-out or other component failure. According to NFU Mutual figures, flat tyres or damaged wheels account for one in four breakdowns, yet many could be avoided with a simple check before setting off.

Horsebox Safety Week highlights seven key issues: pre-journey safety checks, old and worn tyres, rotten floors and ramps, overweight vehicles, accidents, breakdowns and safe loading.

Jeremy Atkins of NFU Mutual said: “Horse owners risk unwittingly putting horses’ lives at risk by not carrying out basic checks before making journeys and we want to use the week to try and reduce injuries and fatal accidents.

“From an early age young riders get involved with the wellbeing of their ponies, yet when it comes to travelling it’s a matter often dealt with by adults. We want to raise awareness with young riders so they have conversations with their parents about how they can care for their horse at all times.”

Through its achievement badges and training system, Pony Club members are taught how to dress horses for travel and load and unload them safely from an early age. Its Loading Achievement Badge covers travelling as well as roadworthiness requirements for horse boxes and trailers introduced at different levels.

Jeremy said: “We understand how much hard work goes into equestrian championships and trials and we want riders to apply the same dedication and commitment when it comes to safety.”

Each day of the week will highlight one of seven individual safety topics through a short video and the insurer is calling for the equine community to watch, share and put into practice the safety checks provided.

Although horseboxes in the UK have to pass an annual MOT or ministry plating, the process does not include checks on the vehicle for its suitability or safety to carry horses. This means dangerous faults such as rotten floors or ramps can pass unnoticed. For trailers, there is no annual MOT test, meaning even greater impetus on the owner to ensure trailer safety.

Competitive show jumper of 28-years, Anthony Wallis from North Tawton, Dartmoor, estimates that, through his trailer service company Trailer Medic, around 40 per cent of the horsebox trailers he services have “dangerous” faults which could easily have been avoided through routine checks.

“Often people bring their trailers to us to check over after their horse has suddenly started travelling badly for no apparent reason. In these instances, we’ll always find a fault with the trailer which is making them uncomfortable, often a potentially dangerous problem, like a hole in the floor or faulty brakes.

“We advise people get into the habit of carrying out a few simple routine checks, including the tyres, floor and ramp and getting someone to check the lights are working.”