Smart, compact and light enough to be driven on a car licence, 3.5 tonne horseboxes are a common sight in lorry parks at competitions all over the country. They’re gaining favour for being manoeuvrable and easy to drive, and not taking up much space, but before you start splashing the cash, what do you need to consider?
When you first delve into horsebox shopping, the many different weights and technical terms can be difficult to get your head around. However, a little bit of planning and research will stand you in good stead when it comes to making a purchase.
DID YOU KNOW? The chassis is the cab and drive system of a horsebox. The coach, or body, is the horse and groom’s area.
First things first
There are two different types of horsebox to consider…
purpose-built horseboxes are created with one job in mind – getting your horse from A to B. These are built on a brand new chassis, meaning they’re often a more expensive option, but will have fewer miles on the clock and come with a chassis warranty
converted horseboxes started life with a different purpose, but have since been reworked to make them suitable for transporting horses. Because they’ve previously been used for something else, they’ll have a much higher mileage than a new, purpose-built lorry
TOP TIP – Always take a person who’s knowledgeable about horseboxes with you when you go to view a vehicle.
Before you start shopping, work out your maximum budget, then make a list of all the features you consider essential. Here are some to include…
- sound, solid construction
- non-slip rubber flooring
- an easy-to-handle ramp that can be operated by one person if necessary
- a reinforced steel bulkhead between the horse area and cab
- secure storage areas where you can safely leave tack and other kit, such as a tack locker or a lockable groom’s area equipped with tack rails
- a moveable partition
If you’re buying a new horsebox, either purpose-built or a conversion, most manufacturers will give you the option of personalising it to suit your taste. This can vary from a choice of paint colours and decals to the type of partition. Some will offer a standard model that you can customise with a variety of options, while others will provide a completely bespoke build. However, with added extras comes an added cost, so think about your budget and how vital that matchy-matchy paint job really is before you get too carried away designing your dream horsebox.
TOP TIP – A camera system will allow you to keep an eye on your horse while he’s travelling. Most lorries offer these as standard or as an optional extra.
Lighten the load
The payload of your horsebox is the amount of cargo it’s able to carry after you’ve subtracted the weight of the vehicle itself. It’s important to remember that this not only includes your horse, but everything else on board, too, such as tack, equipment, the driver and any passengers, and the fuel and any other fluids in the engine. The payload of most 3.5 tonne horseboxes is around 1,000kg. With the average 15hh horse weighing around 500kg, you’re unlikely to safely and legally transport more than one large horse in a lorry of this size, even if it’s partitioned for two.
TOP TIP – Fixtures and fittings will add weight to your lorry, so be realistic about what you’re going to use it for. If you’re only travelling locally, you probably don’t need a hob, sink or bed.
By their very nature, 3.5 tonne horseboxes are compact. If your horse is particularly tall or long in the body, check how comfortably he’s able to fit inside before you commit to purchasing. He should also be able to carry his head naturally without the risk of hitting it on the ceiling. If you’re worried about fit, either borrow a 3.5 tonne horsebox from a friend or hire one for the day.
TOP TIP – Most new horseboxes will come with a warranty from the manufacturer for the coach build, plus a separate warranty for the chassis. Make sure you read the small print so you know what’s included.
Stay in place
If your horse is restless when he’s travelling or left on the lorry, choose a vehicle with a full partition between the horse area and groom’s area, rather than a half partition. This means there’s no risk of him clambering over into the groom’s area, plus all your kit won’t end up covered in hay. However, it’s advisable to have an access door in the partition in case you can’t get to your horse via the ramp in an emergency.
Put to the test
Horseboxes are built on a variety of chassis types and, just as you might prefer driving one brand of car over another, the same can be said for these. It’s a good idea to test-drive several different models before you commit to buying so you can decide which one you find the most comfortable to drive. Try to include various types of road on your test drive, such as narrow lanes and dual carriageways, plus hills and some basic manoeuvres such as three-point turns and reversing.
Ready, set, shop
Inspired to start looking for a horsebox? Here’s a taster of the new 3.5 tonne ones currently on the market