This is the forgotten subject of Equestrian Industry teaching. It is one of the most important and your horse relies upon you knowing it off by heart. How people can be allowed to tow horses around without a Towing License is beyond me.
Rather than advise how you should tow a horse float, I will tell you how I do it as I break every rule in the book to give my horses a safe and comfortable ride. I am not advising you to break the road rules. Perish the thought.
KNOW THE LIMITS OF YOUR HORSE
I know the speed limit of every horse that I float, within the first couple of kilometers. You must know the limits to your horse and you must drive beneath thresh hold. Different horses have differing limits. This depends on which ‘Super Goose” has floated the horse in the past, whether they have had bad experiences or not and if they are ‘Scramblers or Climbers’ or not.
Believe it or not but unbroken horses never have floating problems, never move around in floats and can withstand speeds around corners etc higher than any seasoned horse. Humans and bad floats ruin good horses.
You can literally go as fast as all safety factors will allow….as long as you are driving in a straight line. It matters not to horses.
Traveling around bends is the all important subject. I cannot explain here how to take every single corner however a good rough guide is to be at least 10k slower than the Dept of Road Transport recommended speed sign for individual corners. There are other conditions that dictate speed around certain corners however.
A corner that has a camber running away from it must be taken slower than a corner that is built like a race track, with the camber sloping down to the inside. The camber of the road is a major enemy of the horse being floated and drivers’ should be taking total notice of the camber of each and every corner or bend, prior to reaching them and taking the appropriate action. The steeper the sideways fall in the road, the slower you must go.
If I am driving down a straight road and I notice a particularly steep camber, I will sit right up against the white line and in some cases, with my right hand wheels to the right of the centre line. Providing conditions and traffic is safe, I will do what ever it takes to provide a smooth ride for the horse.
If I am driving along a two or three lane highway and even though I should perhaps be in the left lane, I won’t be if I notice the left lane having more camber than the centre or right lane. I go where ever suits the horse most. bugga the other cars.
If I see a corner coming up and that corner has a nasty camber running away to the left, providing there is no car coming and I have a clear view of that, I will sit up on the tope of the road centre, regardless of where my wheels are and regardless of double lines or not.
I have mentioned the rough guide but there are many variables. Here are some:
Right angle corners at T junctions or out of your driveway must be driven at no more than 1kph.
Then, the most important factor but the most forgotten is that you must never accelerate your vehicle until the float is in a direct straight line with your car. Around 80% of people that I spy on break this rule.
Round but sharp ones like ‘Roundabouts’, should be driven at 1 kph.
The more the camber the slower we must take the corner.
Sweeping bends with the camber to the inside can be taken faster than the recommended limits.
I cut every possible corner that I can, to the point where my vehicle is on the wrong side of the road, providing I have a clear view forward. This is one of the most important tricks to diminishing the affects of corners upon horses.
I am driving along a straight Country road. There is a very slight S bend up in front. I will cut the first half of the ‘S’ and then the second half, thus removing the bend all together.
I often see people doing the following, as they leave my place. They drive out to the edge of the main road, look to the left and right and if clear drive out and across the white line to make the turn less severe. Taking the float onto the wrong side of the road momentarily. Wrong move. The reason lies in the camber that falls off the other side of the road and by taking the float wide, their turn is also accompanied by the float tipping over to the right, further complicating things for the horse.
With some of these tricks, even though I may drive slower around certain corners than others’, I still arrive at the same time and with happier horses.
I drive approximately 200 meters in front of me and in a defensive fashion. I map the moves of all other vehicles and read their minds in advance.
Braking must be done softly and gradually, right down to the stop. You must have a softness in your brake foot like the hands of a good horse rider. You must never give them a jolt, come to sudden stops.
DRIVING FROM THE HALT
Horses really do not mind how fast you accelerate providing it is within reason. There is really no rule for this.
DRIVING IN TRAFFIC
This is a highly important part of the journey.
Always be at least 40 meters behind the vehicle in front of you.
When the idiot from the next lane pulls into the gap immediately in front of you, you must back your car off without using the brakes if possible and regain the 40 meters distance. You will do that as often as is necessary.
You should be reading the Traffic Lights at least 500 meters in front of you and driving accordingly.
You should be not having to brake for too many traffic lights, rather you must judge them way in advance and adjust your speed to arrive at the right time. So you do not have to half and re-start.
STRESS AND RAGE
Never get stressed. Relaaaaaaaaaaaax, listen to the music. Just piddle along, you will get there just as quickly. Driving stress is a state of mind of the 21st Century and of new age people who have weak minds imho. Your horse comes first.
If you encounter these, they must be driven over at the speed that is so slow that there is no bump. You should have your head out of the window like a truckie and ease your wheels over smoothly.
I have driven with people who allow the car to wander and continually adjust the course ever so slightly. This has a dramatic effect in the back of the horse float and causes horses to shift their weight every time they feel it. This is bad driving.
Then there are the people who steer around a sweeping bend by using a series of subtle gives and takes on the steering wheel. This is bad driving and turns the corner into a much more vicious one than should have been the case.
OWN THE ROAD
I see people ‘Cow Down’ to aggressive car drivers’, to the detriment of their horses. When I tow horses, I OWN THE ROAD!!!!!!!!. You should too.
I pull out of my drive and look to the right. It is an 80k zone with a rise about 150 meters further up. I get the nose of my car out into the road and suddenly, over the rise comes a speeding motorist. A typical aggressive one at that. I do not speed up, I do not get out of his way, in fact I bring the vehicle to a halt. I will not be influenced like most people, to suddenly speed up to get out of his way. I see most people allowing such a motorist to diminish the comfort of peoples horses. Not I!
You are driving through the hills. There are 20 cars stuck behind you. Do you speed up a little? Do you let them intimidate you? No way. Wait for the appropriate time and pull to the side to do the right thing and continue on and collect the next batch. There is no point in trying to pull back into the traffic just because you have arrived at the end of your zone. The other cars will not let you back in these days and you shouldn’t want to be back in either. You would be forced to rush more than the horse needs. So relaaaaax. Slim Dusty is the go.
Most no horsy people think that if they stick the nose of their car inside the back of your float, they will arrive sooner. Ignore them. Don’t even bother to allow your left hand float wheels to drift off the road ever so slightly and give them some stone chips.
Truck tail gaiting is a different matter. I do not allow this and prior to the truck catching me totally, I will wave them back and look for a possible diversion to allow them to pass. Air brakes and some horses do not mix and one day I saw one kick the back out of a float, break away, escape, run completely though a barbed wire fence and ironically end up in with two donkeys which to it (an arab) was worse than the truck.
As I have said on this site, horse float condition and design plays a large part in the traveling happiness of horses. There are some shockers around. Get driven down the road in your float, yes, you in the float and someone else driving. Have a listen for the ‘Rattle Trap’ and have a feel of the increased sensation of speed that the horses feel.
Think of your towing vehicle as a ski boat and the horse float and horses as the skiers. Think about what happens to the person at the end of the rope.
After 7 years work, I have finally achieved my Goal in the area of Horse safety and happiness during tavel.
It will do your driving good.