Many horse owners compete which means transporting horses all over the country. Whether it be to your local agricultural show or to the many all year round venues hosting affiliated and unaffiliated competitions. I do and have done both for many years and therefore have travelled horses all over the country.
There are various means of travelling horses. Trailers, usually holding two horses. Small 3.5t vans which again carry two horses. Larger means of transport are 7.5t lorries which can carry three horses and anything over that is an HGV. To drive an HGV you need to pass a theory and practicle test which is expensive putting many people off and if you passed your driving test after the 1st January 1997 you have to sit a test to drive a 7.5t lorry.
Fortunately or maybe unfortunately Im old enough to have passed my test before 1997 and during my competitive career with horses I have used various different methods to travel horses. First I used a trailer, as most riders do when they start out. A trailer is the least expensive and most popular method but not without their hazzards!
My first horse did not like the trailer, he wouldnt even put his front feet on the ramp to start with. We, my father and I would spend hours trying to coax him in. This ment an early start in the morning because you never knew just how long the process would take. Once loaded we would head off to that days competition knowing full well that we would have to load him again to come home.
We were always the last to leave the show ground. Many a good deed was done by various helpers at shows, who would provide long ropes and the occaisional brush as encouragment to get the horse in the trailer. Heading home after one particular show we were suddenly aware of people pointing as we drove past. My father stopped the Land Rover and I got out to find the horse had untied himself and turn around, happily hanging his head over the back ramp… and thats how he travelled home!
Another trailer incident with my next horse who was a young show jumper – driving en route to a show through a local town and again people were pointing and laughing. I got out the car with dread to find he had kicked down the ramp and was standing there very pleased with himself. Fortunately he decided it better staying in the trailer!
Our next mode of transport was a very old Ford 7.5t lorry. This was 1984 so when I say old, I mean even for 1984 it was old! It had a wooden body which carried 3 horses plus a very basic living area with a bench seat which folded to a bed, a sink, cupboard and luton which was the other bed. But I loved it! My 15 year old self felt very important to have a lorry! It came with me when I left home to become a working pupil and was my home for a couple of months before the ‘luxury’ caravan, in the summer I may add.
We travelled up and down the country, my dad driving. One particular trip we were heading to Yorkshire in late February 1985, this trip included driving over the infamous A66 and of course it was snowing! It was a long difficult drive but we arrived late in the day, in darkness. After the horses were unloaded fed and settled I entered the living to find the luton covered in snow! The front vent had flipped open (obviously on the A66) there was snow everywhere. My dad slept in the cab that night while I took the fold down bed in the living accomodation. I’ll can still see dads grey slightly blue face haha!
Another adventure south when we transported a young horse for my boss again to Yorkshire and on the way back picking up the new rider/working pupil Andrew and his horses, who was to live and work the same yard as me. All good across the A66 phew! Get to Scotch Corner and VOSA have a spot check. Of course we were pulled in.
Brakes non exsistent, two bald tyres and the icing on the cake, we were over weight… with only one horse in the back!! I hot footed it over to the Scotch Corner hotel to buy fags (unbeknown to my father) and got chatting to a random guy. He was going to Wetherby and after telling my dad I got in his car and we headed off. Yes I got in a total strangers car….
A very scary hour and a bit later we were at Rufforth Park. Orange Volvo driver had tried to grope me several times. Of course you’d never do that these days. I wonder what my dad was thinking letting his 16yr old daughter go off with a complete stranger. I guess back then we didnt think much of it or were as aware of the dangers as we are now.
With my dad and the horse still stranded at Scotch Corner a driver and lorry were dispatched from Rufforth to get them and an SOS phone call to my boss who immediately set off from Scotland to rescuse us all and drive me, my dad, Andrew, his horses and furniture back home to Scotland.
We got home at 3.30am, what a day that truned out to be. And Andrew? Well thats another story ……