Payload, what load? – advice for buying a trailer or horsebox

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When buying a trailer or horsebox there are a few terms that you may have heard but not necessarily understood what they mean. 

Colin Herapath, senior engineer and director at Equi-Trek – one of Britain’s leading providers of horse trailers and horseboxes, shares his industry expertise.

A weighty issue

‘Payload’ is the weight available for the safe transport of your horses. You need to consider the empty weight of your vehicle and its gross weight. The difference, effectively, is the payload.

To work out the gross weight, you have to consider not just the weight of the horses you intend to transport, but also the weight of yourself, any passengers, and all the tack and equipment you may be taking.

A vehicle with living space will usually weigh more, so will reduce the available payload you can add, unless the vehicle is permitted to be driven at a higher weight.

You also need to consider the weight of anything you will be carrying for use in the living area, including any water in on-board storage tanks.

You might have to consider a vehicle with higher gross weight to accommodate all of this if it’s what you require, but check your driving licence permits it.

What are the rules regarding licences?

It depends on when you obtained your standard UK driving licence. Post January 1997, you will only be licenced to drive vehicles up to 3500kg maximum allowable mass (gross weight).

If you passed before January 1997 you will have further categories listed on your licence, allowing you to drive a horsebox between 3500kg and 7500kg (category C1). To tow a horse trailer you need category BE or C1E. Check the government’s website for clearer information.

Can my car tow a trailer?

The first thing to consider is the maximum weight the vehicle can legally tow, and then the gross combination weight to check the situation is safe and you are covered by your licence. See your vehicle’s handbook or contact the manufacturer. 

With modern vehicles, engine size isn’t as important as it once was. Ideally, opt for an engine with higher torque values, rather than higher power, as this will aid you more when setting off or approaching hills.

 For more information about horse transport, see the full article in issue 450, available here.


 Don’t miss the latest issue of Your Horse Magazine, jam-packed with training and veterinary advice, horse-care tips and the latest equestrian products available on shop shelves, on sale now. Find out what’s in the latest issue here