For as long as I can remember, horse trailer designs have been essentially the same — boxes that hold your horse while you pray that nothing terrible happens while you’re hauling them. A company in Australia has a mission to make trailers safer for horses and they come up with a novel way to test their designs: an equine crash test dummy.
“We want to make the trip more comfortable and less stressful for the horse,” he said. “We are designing this float around the horse and not the trailer.
We have patented a seatbelt that goes around the horse so if the trailer or truck rolls it will hold them where they’re supposed to be.”TOM Hotchkin, engineer and director at Ballarat-based Areion Equestrian
“Tippy” was created from rubber gym mats. He stands 18 hands high and weighs 750 kg (about 1650 pounds). “We will use the crash test dummy horse so we can test horse trailers to actually know what happens in an accident rather than guessing,” Hotchkin said. “Once we know what the horse does in a crash we can develop technology to protect the horse.”
The prototype trailer that Areion Equestrian founder and engineer Tom Hotchkin is working on has safety features that include rear-facing bays, meaning the horse would impact its rump in an accident rather than its head and neck. A study completed at the University of Sydney in 2017 which looked at transportation of horses and the implications for health and welfare found that horses facing backwards in a trailer had fewer side impacts and loss of balance compared to forward-facing horses. Horses traveling facing backwards in a truck also had a significantly lower heart rate, moved less frequently, and would rest their rumps on a partition.
Areion’s prototype trailer is made from plastic rather than steel or aluminum, creating a softer and smoother surface. All structures and latches have been structurally tested to contain the horse during an impact. The suspension used in the Areion Equestrian crash-safe float offers a 30% smoother ride compared to the best suspension on the market today and instead of using ramps, the trailer lowers for the horse to load, eliminating the possibility of the horse slipping off them while loading. The company is also incorporating patented restraint technology similar to seatbelts in its trailer design.
Areion Equestrian, based in Ballarat, Victoria, was founded by Hotchkin in 2019, in partnership with his father Darren Hotchkin, who has almost 30 years’ experience in the road safety industry. The pair are combining the knowledge they have gained from working in the road safety industry and from the family’s equestrian business. Its first range of trailers is expected to be available next year.
I think it’s a terrific idea to find better ways of transporting our horses. I’m humbled by the trust our animals put in us when we lead them into steel boxes and then hurtle down highways with them at high speeds.
What features would you like to see to make horse trailers safer?