Who didn’t enjoy building dens as a kid? Whether it be in the forest, using fallen branches and fern fronds to build a camouflaged hidey-hole, or taking snacks and a book under the dining room table – there’s something remarkably appealing about setting up a cosy retreat in a confined space. My parents probably assumed it was a phase when they found I had taken to sleeping in the blanket compartment beneath my bed rather than in the regular configuration, but I had a little radio and a flashlight in that secret miniature room, and it was just so much more fun than laying atop the mattress.
I reckon this was the earliest sign of my ongoing fascination with deliberately compact living compartments. I remember being in awe when I peered through the tiny glass porthole into a driver’s compartment for one of the coaches that served school. It looked comfortably padded, with a reading light and a radio speaker. Then I started visiting boat shows and exploring yachts. The biggest ones, thinks like the Princess 66, were alright, but they were too conventional; too spacious to really interest me. In fact, it was the clever space management of a double berth below the cockpit sole in a Maxum 2500SC that really captured my imagination. As well as, perhaps ironically, the cramped crew quarters of that very same 66′ Princess.
I’m 36 now, and the fascination is still with me. So when I spent the weekend at my Aunt’s stud farm for her birthday, I wasn’t too disappointed when all the bedrooms were taken and the pool house was fully occupied. In fact, I was quite excited. My overnight accommodation had a Scania keyring.
I’m a little ashamed that I know so little about horseboxes. There’s little excuse for it, to be honest – it would be a logical progression from buses and coaches. All of the above are the work of specialist bodybuilders, often using a commercially marketed chassis. The big difference is that bus and coach bodies – as well as those of Class A RVs – are draped right over the chassis and leave few visible clues as to its identity. Horseboxes, though – and Class B RVs – usually embody the cab section of whatever commercial chassis is doing the hard work. Elite Coachworks, who built this one, will happily clothe a chassis from DAF, Mercedes, you name it.
This one can easily be recognized as a Scania P Series, the kind of truck commonly found performing regional delivery and distribution duties. And this is, essentially, still a delivery vehicle – but charged with transporting a cargo that wins races, ribbons and rosettes. Some of the equine passengers of this Scania are worth huge amounts of money, so it’s only right that they travel in comfort and style. And while the horses get a spotlessly clean suite of polished checkerplate and white enamel, the humans that come along for the ride aren’t exactly hard done by, either.
Entry is via three tall steps on a foldout staircase from whence a coded door takes you to a vestibule, where you find yourself surrounded by an incredible concentration of furniture packed densely enough to give you a migraine. I know I mentioned a great love of interior volume being intelligently utilized, but this is ridiculous. It doesn’t even come close to being practical. Until you press a button or three.
Luxury RVs have had slide-outs for some years now, and high-end horseboxes now do too. This one has three. Two of them flank the main saloon, essentially doubling its width. The sofa and galley areas, which interlock with the precision of Tetris blocks when in on-road mode, slide out by at least three-feet per side and provide an interior space that many London studio apartment owners would envy.
The third, smallest slide-out is devoted to the bathroom and houses the shower compartment. When extended, there’s little evidence that it’s not a permanent fixture. The tiled walls of the room are exposed, a glass skylight floods the cubicle with light, and the feeling is very much like that of a luxury en-suite hotel room, or perhaps a yacht. Heavy fittings such as the somewhat showy tap and sink – along with the granite worktop in the galley – are made possible by the heavy duty nature of the chassis. Its plated maximum payload of 16 tonnes is easily sufficient for such luxuries, even with a few tonnes of horsemeat on board.
Back in the living area, the action of the slide-outs has also revealed a previously concealed 42-inch LCD TV, connected to a satellite TV system, from which sound is channeled to your ears via DTS wizardry. The screen is big enough that it’s clearly visible from either the three-seat sofa or single seater facing it. The only occupant who would struggle for a view of the TV is the groom, who gets a single berth hidden in a compartment above the bathroom. This is actually pretty similar to the driver’s compartment of a continental coach, and gets its own 12-inch screen. Interestingly, I’m told that many horseboxes have this compartment accessible from the horse side of the bulkhead rather than the human side, but in this case the groom has been invited to join the party.
Post-event entertaining is clearly a big part of what this machine is all about. The galley is well equipped with a good-size fridge, stove and oven and there’s a separate wine cooler handily located for the main sleeping compartment. Illumination is plentiful after dark; the slide-outs are underlit by an LED strip and there are enough overhead light sources to put your average Pink Floyd concert to shame, all of which are touch-sensitive and can be individually controlled. The overall effect manages to stay just on the right side of ostentatious, and the illumination itself is a decent white – although it might not show well in the pics, there’s none of the hopeless sickly blue that characterized early automotive LED lighting and made me yearn for the return of filaments.The only oversight seemed that the lights can’t be remote-controlled from the main sleeping compartment, although it may just be that I didn’t find out how to.
After the evening guests have been shooed off, the main couch can be converted to a double bed but the best sleeping is offered by the double bed mounted above the driver’s cab in the traditional Class B RV style. This was my crib for the night, and I was very surprised by how non-crippling it was. The mattress was firm but felt orthopedically sound, and although I naturally adopted a fetal position as I would when camping under canvas, I soon realised that this was quite unnecessary and I could stretch out at my will. After all, the bed stretches the full width of the truck and is far longer than the one I sleep in every night. Even the mild presence of horse-piss aroma didn’t disturb me – it actually reminded me of the whiff you get aboard new fibreglass yachts, and I have thus come to associate it with luxury.
The birthday party had been a good one, so sleep came easily. The main living area of the horsebox grew chilly during the night – as you experience on yachts unless the heating system is left on – but my little over-cab den remained toasty, especially under the duvet. Most surprising was the sound deadening – a thoroughly wet yard the next morning evidenced that there had been big rain overnight, but we had heard non of the annoying thrum of rain on aluminium that you can suffer in a caravan or RV. The privacy curtains were pretty adept at blocking sunlight, too, and it was only the fully-cranked radio in the neighbouring stables that alerted me as to morning having arrived.
Had I woken ahead of a day of rampant equestrianism, I’d be feeling alert, invigorated and ready for action, and my steed would be only fifteen feet away. I hadn’t, though – I had woken ahead of a two-hundred mile drive to the Welsh border for a few days holiday. Alas, I wouldn’t be driving the Scania – its mass requires the driver holds a heavy goods vehicle license. I’d be traveling in my car, and regarding every horsebox I overtook with a new interest.
When I arrived, though, and first viewed my accomodation, which took the form of a compact wooden shed with a heater and inflatable mattress, my den-building memories were agitated once again.
(Images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2017)
Some horseboxes are wasted on horses
17 responses to “Some horseboxes are wasted on horses”
Last Call, somewhat on topic: Scania shall pay 0.8 billion Euro for being member of a cartel dictating prices and rebate matrices (and probably more, I will speculate) for years on the European market.
Mercedes Benz, Iveco, DAF, and Volvo/Renault were convicted in 2016 because MAN snitched. I am not sure why Scania was convicted only now, but MAN was pardoned because they made the multi-billion Euro punishment possible.
Now here my conspiracy theory (which means crazy, paranoid idea here, not a proper theory about the actual conspiracy): MAN snitched in 2011, the very same year when MAN’s owner Volkswagen acquired the majority of Scania. Busting the cartel did not happen for 15 years, why then? Was the idea to ruin the in-house competition? When one had to pay a hurtful lot, why would Mothership keep both alive?
I need more rescue blankets.
The other guys settled, while Scania maintains its innocence:
We always called them horse floats. There is a scene in the movie ‘Her Majesty, Mrs Brown’ which illustrates the idea perfectly, with a low-floored horse drawn carriage carrying a horse, the horse being carried, lokking like it’s’ floating’ above the ground. The same idea of a dropped axle low floored carriage that you could step onto also giving us the word ‘milkfloat’. The low floor allowing the carriage of tall, unwieldy milk churns.
There’s a lot of stud farms in south east Ireland where I’m from originally, and the level of opulence doesn’t surprise me. Sometimes the horses had better facilities than the farm workers.
Of course there is the complete other end of the scale, where there’s a culture among poorer parts of North Dublin and the travelling community of owning a horse, with community stables in the city centre and the occasional road hazard of “sulkys”, lightweight horse drawn vehicles used for racing, sometimes races are conducted illegally. Not what you’d imagine when you think of “illegal street racing”
As one Irish standup comedian noted, it’s very easy to tell if you’re middle class in Ireland – you don’t own a horse.
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