Horse trailer

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A bumper-pull horse trailer BumperPull.jpg
A bumper-pull horse trailer
A state-of-the-art semi-trailer used to haul horses. Large trailers are attached with a fifth-wheel coupling. ClydeWithBlanket.jpg
A state-of-the-art semi-trailer used to haul horses. Large trailers are attached with a fifth-wheel coupling.

A horse trailer or horse van (also called a horse float in Australia and New Zealand or horsebox in the British Isles) is used to transport horses. There are many different designs, ranging in size from small units capable of holding two or three horses, able to be pulled by a pickup truck or even a SUV; to gooseneck designs that carry six to eight horses, usually pulled by 1-ton dually-style pickups. There are also large semi-trailers that can haul a significant number of animals. In the UK, a horsebox may also refer to a motorised vehicle adapted to carry horses (generally known as a horse van in North America or Australasia), or a railway vehicle specifically designed to carry horses.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 26 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide.

New Zealand Country in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. It has a total land area of 268,000 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi). New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

British Isles Group of islands in northwest Europe

The British Isles are a group of islands in the North Atlantic off the north-western coast of continental Europe that consist of the islands of Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Hebrides and over six thousand smaller isles. They have a total area of about 315,159 km2 and a combined population of almost 72 million, and include two sovereign states, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The islands of Alderney, Jersey, Guernsey, and Sark, and their neighbouring smaller islands, are sometimes also taken to be part of the British Isles, even though, as islands off the coast of France, they do not form part of the archipelago.


The least expensive type of trailer is the stock trailer, a trailer designed for cattle that is enclosed on the bottom, but has slits at roughly the eye level of the animals to allow ventilation. Trailers designed specifically for horses are more elaborate. Because horses are usually hauled for the purpose of competition or work, where they must arrive in peak physical condition, horse trailers are designed for the comfort and safety of the animals. They usually have adjustable vents and windows as well as suspension designed to provide a smooth ride and less stress on the animals.

A "gooseneck" style horse trailer that also has living quarters in the front for people to use. It is attached to the bed of a pickup truck with a trailer ball coupling. Gooseneck.jpg
A "gooseneck" style horse trailer that also has living quarters in the front for people to use. It is attached to the bed of a pickup truck with a trailer ball coupling.
A European-style horse box, light enough to be pulled by a smaller vehicle Van 04.jpg
A European-style horse box, light enough to be pulled by a smaller vehicle


The first horse trailers were said to be horse-drawn ambulances created by city fire departments to take their wounded but savable horses from the scenes of accidents (which were common) back to the veterinarian at the firehouse.[ citation needed ]

Ambulance Vehicle equipped for transporting and care for ill and wounded people

An ambulance is a medically equipped vehicle which transports patients to treatment facilities, such as hospitals. In some instances, out-of-hospital medical care is provided to the patient.

Highly valued race horses were originally transported by specially outfitted railroad cars, but this transport was difficult to use due to issues of scheduling and delays. In December 1918, Popular Science Monthly reported on a new concept for transporting race horses in specially modified "Motor-Trucks" that eliminated these transport delays. [1]

<i>Popular Science</i> American monthly magazine about science

Popular Science is an American quarterly magazine carrying popular science content, which refers to articles for the general reader on science and technology subjects. Popular Science has won over 58 awards, including the American Society of Magazine Editors awards for its journalistic excellence in both 2003 and 2004. With roots beginning in 1872, Popular Science has been translated into over 30 languages and is distributed to at least 45 countries.

In World War 1, horses were used with infantry in France, and many were injured in the course of the war. If these animals could be transported back to animal hospitals, many could be saved. For this purpose, a special horse ambulance vehicle was developed which could be rotated so that horses could walk forward both onto and off of the ambulance truck. [2]

Infantry military personnel who travel and fight on foot

Infantry is a military specialization that engages in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and tank forces. Also known as foot soldiers or infanteers, infantry traditionally relies on moving by foot between combats as well, but may also use mounts, military vehicles, or other transport. Infantry make up a large portion of all armed forces in most nations, and typically bear the largest brunt in warfare, as measured by casualties, deprivation, or physical and psychological stress.

As horse-drawn transportation gave way to faster, mechanized transportation, there remained a need to transport horses themselves for work, sport, and other purposes. Thus, many types of trucks, vans, and trailers were developed or modified to transport horses on modern highways.


Horsebox built by Ketterer Horse Trucks (Germany) on a Mercedes Benz chassis Mercedes Benz Ketterer Horsebox.JPG
Horsebox built by Ketterer Horse Trucks (Germany) on a Mercedes Benz chassis

Horseboxes (motorised) can vary in size, depending on the number and size of horses to be carried. In Europe, horseboxes are developed from vehicles ranging from 3.5 tonne gross vehicle weight, through to legal maximums of over 40 tonnes. [3]

A 3.5-tonne horsebox pulling a horse trailer in Sweden 3.5t horsebox towing a horse trailer.JPG
A 3.5-tonne horsebox pulling a horse trailer in Sweden

Some horse trailers are designed to contain human living accommodation, as competitions may involve staying at a venue for one or more nights. [4]

A large DAF horsebox towing a trailer for carriages. Taken at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, 2011. DAF horsebox and carriage trailer.jpg
A large DAF horsebox towing a trailer for carriages. Taken at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, 2011.

Layout and features


In Europe, most motorised horseboxes will feature a single main ramp on the rear or to the side, though those with rear ramps may have a second smaller side ramp. [5] Within the European Union, regulations dictate that a horsebox ramp (used for commercial transportation of horses) should be no steeper than 20°. [6] It is also a requirement that the driver or other attendant be able to access the horse area without using the ramp. This is often achieved through fitting a small hatch or doorway (called a groom's door in the UK). [7]

Many smaller horse trailers, particularly towing and gooseneck models that hold two to four horses, do not feature ramps, either by having a low height floor or a demountable structure. [8]

Horse stall dimensions and orientation

Horses can be transported facing the direction of travel (forward-facing), facing the opposite way of travel (rear-facing) or on the diagonal (herringbone). It is also said that horses need sufficient room to take one step in either direction, so as to better support their weight when the vehicle is in motion.

Many American horse trailers have stalls which are slanted at about a 45 degree angle to the line of travel, this design is thought to be more natural to horses, as many times horses travel slightly canted to the line of travel when hauled in a stock trailer without dividers. It also has the benefit of being able to haul more horses in a shorter unit.

Some scientific research has been done to establish in which position the horse is most comfortable. The bulk of research suggests that horse have reduced stress and fatigue when travelling backwards. Travelling forwards also has reduced stress compared with travelling sideways [9]

Sufficient headroom for horses must be provided, at least 75 cm (29.5 in) above the height of withers. [10]

Railway horse boxes

Former British Railways horse box no. S96403, built 1958; the door with a window opens into the grooms' compartment. Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, 2008 BR Horse Box S96403.jpg
Former British Railways horse box no. S96403, built 1958; the door with a window opens into the grooms' compartment. Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, 2008

Horses were carried on the railways of the United Kingdom until 1972, using rolling stock known as horse boxes. These were often used to carry racehorses between the parts of the country where the breeders and trainers were based, and the racecourses. Some railway-owned horse boxes were hired on a semi-permanent basis to racehorse trainers (such as Frank Butters) or owners (such as the Earl of Derby). They were conveyed either in small numbers attached to ordinary passenger trains, or special trains consisting of several horse boxes coupled together.

A typical British Railways horse box of the late 1950s had a body length of 27 feet 6 inches (8.38 m) and a width of 8 feet 6 inches (2.59 m). In that space there was a section for three horses standing abreast, with padded dividers to prevent the horses from falling sideways; to the rear of the horses was a compartment for the storage of straw bales; in front of the horses was a grooms' compartment with windows and coach bench-type seating.; hatches in the partition between the horse compartment and the grooms' compartment allowed the grooms to feed and watch over the horses. Beyond the grooms' compartment, a passageway along one side led to a toilet, and also to a fodder compartment at the end of the vehicle. Each compartment, except the toilet, had external doors; the lower part of each horse compartment door was hinged horizontally, to form an access ramp. There were six windows: four in the grooms' compartment (two of these being droplights in the doors), one in the passageway and a frosted glass window in the toilet. [11] [12] [13] [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Truck freight motor vehicle

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Van covered transportation vehicle

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Cart vehicle with two wheels

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Railroad car vehicle used for carrying cargo or passengers on rail transport system

A railroad car or railcar, railway wagon, trucks, or railway carriage, also called a train car or train wagon, is a vehicle used for the carrying of cargo or passengers on a rail transport system. Such cars, when coupled together and hauled by one or more locomotives, form a train. Alternatively, some passenger cars are self-propelled in which case they may be either single railcars or make up multiple units.

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Stock car (rail)

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Fifth-wheel coupling

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Animal transporter

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  1. A Novel Use for Motor-Trucks: Transporting Race-Horses, Popular Science monthly, December 1918, page 31, Scanned by Google Books:
  2. Special Apparatus for Saving the War-Horse, Popular Science monthly, December 1918, page 57, Scanned by Google Books:
  3. "Transport's Friend" . Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  4. Preece, Rob (1 August 2012). "A palace on wheels: Inside Zara Phillips's £500,000 horse box complete with double bed and granite-top kitchen that's fit for a princess". Daily Mail. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  5. "Horseboxes". Empire Coachbuilders. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  6. Welfare of Animals During Transport (PDF). DEFRA.
  7. Welfare of Animals During Transport (PDF). DEFRA.
  8. White, Charlotte (22 October 2011). "Rampless horsebox launched to equestrian market". Horse and Hound. Archived from the original on 15 December 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  9. Padalino, B; Maggiolino A.; Boccaccio M.; Tateo A. (2012). "Effects of different positions during transport on physiological and behavioral changes of horses". Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research. 7 (3): 135–141. doi:10.1016/j.jveb.2011.09.003.
  10. Whiting, T L; Sauder, R A (2000). "Headroom requirements for horses in transit". Can Vet J. 41 (2): 132–133. PMID   10723602.
  11. Jenkinson, David (1988). British Railway Carriages of the 20th Century - Volume 1: The end of an era, 1901-22. London: Guild Publishing. p. 237. CN 8130.
  12. Jenkinson, David (1990). British Railway Carriages of the 20th Century - Volume 2: The years of consolidation, 1923-53. Wellingborough: Patrick Stephens Ltd. p. 260. ISBN   1-85260-152-3.
  13. Tatlow, Peter (2000). Jenkinson, David (ed.). Historic Carriage Drawings - Volume Three: Non-Passenger Coaching Stock. York: Pendragon. p. 81. ISBN   1-899816-09-7.
  14. Parkin, Keith (1991). British Railways Mark 1 Coaches. Penryn: Pendragon. pp. 199, 209. ISBN   0-906899-49-4.