An Australian engineer has created an equine “crash test dummy” to use in horse trailer crash tests in the hope of improving the safety of horses during transportation.
Areion Equestrian founder and engineer Tom Hotchkin is working on a prototype trailer with safety features including rear-facing bays, meaning the horse would impact its rump in an accident rather than its head and neck.
Hotchkin has also created a 750kg, 18hh rubber horse dummy — nicknamed “Tippy” — to test in a crash, bringing his experience in road safety to the equestrian world.
“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,” he said.
“Once we know what the horse does in a crash we can develop technology to protect the horse.”
Areion’s prototype trailer is made from plastic rather than steel or aluminium, creating a softer and smoother surface. All structures and latches have been structurally tested to contain the horse during an impact. The company is also incorporating patented restraint technology similar to seatbelts in its trailer design. Its first range of trailers is expected to be available next year.
“Our aim is to improve the well-being of horses in transport, for their comfort and safety and for peace of mind for their owners,” Hotchkin said.
“It is time we brought some of the developments in safety and new technology that we have in other vehicles to horse transport.”
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 horse agistment operation.
Tom Hotchkin is also the engineer behind Foal App, a smartphone-based birthing alarm with on-demand live video streaming and an unlimited range.