On the ball

Are you right up to speed on the towing regulations, and your obligations when towing a horsefloat? Neil Clarkson seeks some answers.

The rumours circulated at dizzying speed. You will no longer be able to tow a horsefloat with a car; only four-wheel-drives will be legal with a two-horse float; the regulations are getting so tough that even some four-wheel-drives won't be up to the job.

Not so long ago, the rumour mill would have us believe that the horse float was on its way to extinction.

Today, the rumours have run out of steam. However, the obligations imposed on those pulling a light trailer - and that includes a horsefloat - are strict, and specific. Have you ensured you're meeting all requirements on the road?

Horsefloats are classified as light trailers. Horse floats will normally fall into the TB class - that is, a trailer with maximum loaded weight of between between 0.75 tonnes and 3.5 tonnes. The manufacturer of the float will normally specify this weight, which is technically referred to as the maximum gross vehicle mass. Your local weigh station or rubbish transfer station may allow you to weigh in with your horses on board. My local rubbish transfer station charges a few dollars for the privilege.

It is important that you know the laden weight of your float for two reasons:

Before we deal with towing weight, the braking issue needs to be addressed. There is one essential braking requirement for all vehicles towing a trailer: it must be able to stop from 30kmh within 7m. This applies whether your float has brakes fitted, or not.


  • If you're pulling only one horse in a tandem float, always put the animal on the right (centreline) wide of the float.
  • If you're loading two horses, put the bigger animal on the right (centreline) side.
  • Moving horses can cause the float to sway, and this will have an impact on your braking ability.

  • Did you know that some bigger vehicles once restricted to 80kmh can now go faster? This will explain why some trucks might end up tailgating you on the open road.
  • The speed limit for horse float and other light trailers has increased to 90kmh. It is important that those towing pull over wherever reasonably possible to allow faster traffic to pass.

    If you borrow or hire a float, it is the driver's responsibility - not the owner's - to ensure that the float is safe and meets all legal requirements. Be careful. Check that the coupling is in good order and that there is no chance of the float lifting off.

  • Brakes are mandatory on trailers with a laden weight greater than 2000kg, which will cover most tandem horse floats. It is unlikely any unbraked two-horse float will pass the 7m test, no matter how good the brakes of the towing vehicle.

    So, armed with the laden weight of your float, you can now determine whether you are legal to tow it. Chances are you will find the definitive weight for your vehicle in its handbook. A couple of things to note:

    It is important to remember that even if you meet the load requirements of your vehicle manufacturer, you are still required to be able to stop from 30kmh within 7m.

    Your float's lighting is looked at during its warrant of fitness, so we won't go into detail here. However, it is important that you understand the situation with towballs. If you have a problem, your warrant garage should already have brought it to your attention, and resolved it.

    However, it always pays to check. There are two sizes for tow balls: the old 1 & 7/8ths of an inch, which has a diameter of 47.5mm, and the newer 50mm ball. Drivers need to be very careful to use matching couplings, as there is a risk they can come apart if they do not match. Some couplings are designed to deal with both ball sizes.

    Really, you should not, for safety's sake, mix and match these couplings under any circumstances. Your ball and coupling should be marked clearly. If you're in any doubt, get your garage to check it out.

    In terms of overall dimensions for your float, some of these can only be checked when your float is attached to your towing vehicle. Hook it up and check it against this diagram from the Land Transport Safety Authority.

    It is also important that you can complete a 360degree turn within a 25m circle. While doing this, no part of the float or vehicle may touch, apart from the coupling.

    New road user rules affect horses

    February 2005

    From February 27, 2005 the new "Road User" Rule took effect.

    The changes have been well publicised in the media with the intention of making it clearer what is required of motorists at pedestrian crossings, special vehicle lanes (such as cycle and bus lanes) and roundabouts (particularly multi-lane roundabouts). There have been other changes, too, including:

    Related stories:
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    Fifth wheel trailer hitches for heavy duty towing
    The inside scoop on gooseneck trailer hitches
    The trouble with towing - and how to stay out of it
    Is your horse trailer / horse float an accident waiting to happen?
    The real cost of running a horse truck
    Towing a horsefloat - have you got it right?
    What's the best second-hand vehicle for towing a horse float?
    Buying a horsefloat - guide to buying a horse float or horse trailer
    Beware of overpaying for road miles
    The horse lover's guide to trouble-free towing

    Loading the scared horse
    Basic Float Training