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Box and Trailer Advice

There has been an upsurge in reported incidents of horses falling through horsebox floors, often whilst the vehicle is moving. The resulting injuries are horrific, including tyre burns on limbs, dislocated hocks and fetlocks and even limbs being ground away by the road.

Regular and thorough horsebox maintenance is vital to stop this happening to your horse

  • Wooden floors, or those made of laminated chipboard, will rot if not maintained correctly. Rotten, moist or damaged floors can give way
  • Power-wash and thoroughly dry the flooring after use and check for soundness and damp patches every time you load your horse
  • Have wooden floors checked two to three times a year by your trailer distributor
  • Lift rubber matting if the box is not used for a while
  • When buying a new horsebox, choose one with aluminum flooring or consider replacing a wooden floor with an aluminum one
  • Be aware that tyres will need replacing more frequently than those on other vehicles, especially if horseboxes and trailers are frequently parked on damp ground

If the worst should happen

  1. Contact the Fire and Rescue Service and Police for assistance on 999
  2. Keep your horse calm by getting it to eat. Food is a great natural tranquilizer
  3. Never release a trapped horse unless there is a safe place for it to go

This information was provided by the British Horse Society's Safety Department, who provide information and advice on all aspects of horse and rider safety.

The Organisation of Horsebox & Trailer Owners has valuable information on tyre and windscreen safety on their website as well.

Colic Symptoms

Colic is probably the most feared condition by horse owners and it is easy to assume the worst. It literally means abdominal pain and can be caused by any structure in the abdomen. In reality, most colic cases recover without the need of any significant veterinary treatment.

Horses with colic will show some, if not all, of the following symptoms:

  • Pawing the ground
  • Lying down excessively
  • Sweating
  • Rolling
  • Kicking at or watching flanks
  • Groaning or grinding teeth

Horses may or may not pass faeces but it is important to monitor the amount produced held up against the normal for this horse.

Most colics tend to be mild and only require administration of painkillers and/or laxatives but a small number need further investigations such as sedation and rectal examination, nasogastric intubation or a peritoneal tap.

Therefore it is important to examine colic cases as soon as possible. If your horse has colic then call the practice to arrange an examination.

West Nile Virus

There has been much in the equine press recently about new diseases which, as a result of global warming and increased movement of horses over long distances, are a threat to our equine population. West Nile Virus (WNV) is one such disease that has become endemic within America, Italy and some parts of Hungary. The disease usually cycles between mosquitoes and birds, but occasionally an infected mosquito will bite a human or horse and cause them to be infected.

Approximately 10% of horses infected with WNV develop signs associated with encephalitis which may include dullness, incoordination, head pressing, seizures, difficulty eating, circling and in some cases death. Although not currently reported in the UK, birds carrying the disease have been identified and horses traveling abroad for competition are at increased risk.

A new vaccine has recently become available for vaccination of equines against WNV and it requires two injections three to five weeks apart and then yearly boosters. If your horse is traveling abroad, it may be appropriate to protect against this disease. Please contact us if you have any queries.


Laminitis is one of the most severely painful and debilitating diseases affecting horses and ponies and represents a major reason for euthanasia of older equines. Laminitis is not just prevalent throughout the spring; horses and ponies with endocrine problems commonly suffer from laminitis during the autumn.

Current thinking and evidence suggests that 90% of laminitis cases occur as a result of an underlying hormonal condition such as Cushing’s Disease (PPID) or Equine Metabolic Syndrome. With this in mind, owners - particularly those with a horse over 10 years of age - are being urged to get their horse tested for Cushing’s as soon as possible if they suspect that it may be suffering from laminitis or even if it simply appears a little foot-sore.

Despite perception, Cushing’s Disease is not just a disease of old horses. Recent research by Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica has revealed that one third of middle aged horses (between the ages of 10 and 15 years) tested positive for the disease, where laminitis was the most common first sign, not the 'classic' signs of Cushing’s such as a curly coat

Cushing’s Disease can be easily diagnosed by blood tests taken by your veterinary surgeon, and autumn is the best time for the test for Cushing’s as this is when there is a greater difference between horses with Cushing’s and those free of the disease.

If you suspect your horse has laminitis, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica offer free laboratory fees at certain times of year for the blood test used to detect Cushing’s disease as part of the initiative 'Talk About Laminitis'. This initiative, to raise awareness of the underlying hormonal causes of laminitis, is supported by The British Horse Society, World Horse Welfare and Redwings.

Please visit Talk About Laminitis to read more about laminitis and to download a voucher to cover the lab fee for a Cushings test. A fee will still be incurred for the visit and taking the blood sample and interpretation.

If your horse tests positive for Cushings, the disease can be treated and managed appropriately to help prevent future painful episodes of laminitis. Early diagnosis and intervention are critical if the crippling changes seen in the feet caused by laminitis are to be avoided.