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The Blue Cross launches Safe Trailer campaign

A leading animal welfare charity is highlighting the dangers facing horses in the UK every day through poorly maintained and dangerous trailers. The Blue Cross is launching a Safe Trailer campaign aimed at reducing unnecessary injury, suffering and even death of horses during routine trailer transport. This comes as one of the UK's leading equine vets estimates that up to three horses every day are treated as a result of transport related injuries. Many horse owners are simply unaware of the vital importance of regular trailer maintenance that can result in horrendous injuries to horses, sometimes in the middle of journeys. The collapse of poorly maintained trailer floors is one of the most common problems.

The campaign, which will be launched at the Blenheim Horse Trials on 5-6 September, urges owners to undertake simple checks before transporting horses by trailer. The Blue Cross is offering free practical advice and guidance on trailer safety and maintenance in the form of an easy-reference leaflet produced in conjunction with respected towing expert John Henderson. In addition the charity is liaising with key trailer manufacturers, dealers and towing authorities to ensure that everything possible is done to provide for safe trailer travel for horses.

Robert Webb-Bowen, Director of Equine Welfare at the Blue Cross says: “Fatal injuries to horses caused through unsafe trailer transport are more common than you think. Unlike other countries in Europe, the UK has no trailer MOT test, so making sure your own trailer is safe and legal is entirely your responsibility. Yet many horse owners remain unaware of how to keep their trailer in safe working order. This leaflet will play a vital role in making horse owners aware of what is necessary.

“The ground pressure exerted by a 550kg horse through its shoes is 3.05kg per square centimetre, which is exactly the same as that of a fully laden military Land Rover Defender weighing six times more. The big difference is that the Land Rover is supported by all four wheels as it moves, but the horse walking into a trailer always has one foot off the ground, creating even more, ever changing, stress on the floor."

But it is not just weakened floors which endanger horses. Many horse owners give no thought to the maintenance of the trailer's brakes, wheel bearings, hitch or lights, which can result in accidents that will endanger the horse, towcar occupants and other road users.

Andy Bathe MA VetMB CertES(Orth) DipECVS MRCVS RCVS & European Specialist in Equine Surgery, University Equine Surgeon at The Queen's Veterinary School Hospital, University of Cambridge said "I see at least two serious horse injuries per year caused by travelling. I would expect this figure to be similar for a lot of equine vets around the country, which would roughly equate to a national figure of about 1000 injuries resulting from travel every year."

Dr Natalie Waran BSc PhD, animal behaviour and welfare expert at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh University who has carried out research on transport stress in horses said: “The consequences of transporting your horse in an unsafe trailer should be of serious concern to owners. At the very least your horse will be exposed to an extremely frightening and stressful experience and at the worst he could be seriously injured and even die.

"Poorly maintained and designed trailers can be the cause of stress due to the problems the horse has to cope with during the journey. Injuries are likely due to floors or ramps giving way, and an out-of- control trailer is not only a risk for the horse inside but also to anyone that happens to get in its way.”

For details of the Safe Trailer campaign visit the Blue Cross website at

The Blue Cross is Britain's pet charity, providing information, advice and practical support for pet and horse owners. Through its network of animal adoption centres it rehomes thousands of animals each year. Its hospitals provide veterinary care for the pets of people who cannot afford private vets' fees.


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