If you’ve had experience towing a trailer you’ll be familiar with the basics, however a horse float is a different prospect. Ultimately, you are responsible for the safety and comfort of your four legged friends in the back. Approach the drive with a focus on caution and keeping the ride as smooth as possible – you want your horse to enjoy the prospect of going somewhere new, not dreading the prospect of standing in the float.

The team at Greg Grant Saddlery has assembled some of the top safety and comfort factors to consider before hitting the open road.

Preparing Your Vehicle

Before driving out the gate we recommend carrying out a complete safety check on your vehicle and float. Key areas to focus on include:

  • Servicing – Always ensure your vehicles are serviced up to date and double check your oil and water levels. Carry out an electrical check to confirm your lights, blinkers and brakes are still functional.
  • Tyre Pressure – The correct tyre pressure is essential for safe towing when travelling with your horse. Floats should be fitted with light truck tyres due to the strain of bearing heavy loads. Over-inflating tyres leads to an increased risk of tyre damage, reduces the surface contact between your tyres and the road and gives a rougher ride for your horses or ponies. Under-inflating can cause serious damage to your tyre. Tyre pressures for your car can be found in the owner’s manual while the tyre pressure for your float is based on your load. For an exact weight drive over a weighbridge.
  • Tread – Check the tread on your tyres. Worn tyres increase the risk of a blow out which could leave you and your horse stranded.

Preparing Your Horse

If you are travelling for less than 4-6 hours there is generally little need to make special preparations beyond ensuring your horse is fed, watered and healthy. However there are many extra considerations for longer journeys.

  • General Heath Check – Unless you’re floating in an emergency situation make sure your horse is in good health. Your horse should be eating, drinking and working normally.
  • Rugging – Ideally a lightweight cotton rug or combo will suffice however depending on how cold it is you may need to add an extra rug on top. As a general rule it is better for your horse to be too cool, than too hot. Overheating increases the risk of health issues such as travel sickness.
  • Boots – Travel boots should be well fitted to prevent them ending up under your horses feet during travel. This could lead to them slip and panic.
  • Tail bandages – Can be a great tool if your horse tends to lean back on the tail gates in your float. To prevent your horse from developing sores, not to mention sending their tail bald, you may want to consider wrapping your horse’s tail. This can be done with either a bandage or a tail Wrapping a bandage too tightly can have serious consequences so be mindful of a comfortable fit or try one of our great tail wraps like this HorseMaster Padded Cotton Tail Guard .
  • Drinking – Often a horse won’t drink while they are away from home. To mitigate this risk take a container of water from home with you – as your horse will be accustomed to the taste.
  • Feeding – Avoid feeding a large amount of grain prior to departing as it takes longer for horses to digest – you may need to get up earlier to give your horse breakfast.

On the road

  • Feeding - When it comes to feeding your horse during travel it may help make them enjoy the trip but some horses can tend to overeat, which can lead to an increased risk of travel sickness. There is also a risk of your horse suffering from choke if fed while travelling.
  • Tying your horse up – Don’t tie your horse too tight. Ideally they should be able to get their head below their chest, as this will allow mucous to drain. Otherwise this can descend towards the lungs leading to travel sickness. When travelling you have the option of not tying your horse up. However some horses may be prone to annoying their travelling companions or trying to turn in the bay. If you do decide to tie your horse up we recommend using either a quick release snap tie point or a rubber safety tie like this .
  • Travelling in the heat – If possible avoid travelling during the hottest part of the day however good ventilation in your float can greatly improve your horses

At your destination

  • Walk your horse – When you arrive take your horse for a walk, as this will help with blood flow, allow them to stretch and assess their new environment.
  • Clean your float – As soon as possible after travel you should clean out your float. If your horse has urinated you should hose it out or throw a few buckets of water through it to reduce the risk of rotting floor boards. A disinfectant scrub or spray can help limit the smell.

General towing tips

  • Corners and Roundabouts – Both need to be taken slowly – if you turn too fast or too suddenly your horse will lose its balance and scramble.
  • Drive to the conditions – Wet and windy conditions can make travelling a fair bit trickier. Water on the road can dramatically increase your stopping distance, play it safe and allow the extra room in case of an emergency. Excessively windy conditions also have the potential to cause the float to move more than usual.
  • Distance between vehicles – According to the Department of Transport it is recommended to maintain at least 5 seconds (120m) between you and any vehicle in front whilst towing during ideal conditions. This distance can vary greatly depending on the weather.

Hopefully this guide will help you tackle the often daunting prospect of travelling with your horse. The advice in this blog has been provided to assist those new to the challenges of floating, and is to be considered general advice only. As such Greg Grant Saddlery does not take responsibility for incidents that may occur. As always if you have any concerns speak directly with a veterinarian or equine professional for specific advice regarding the care for your animals, and with your mechanic for any vehicle issues.

March 10, 2022 — Greg Grant Saddlery