Guidelines For Safely Trailering Your Horse
HAVE THE TRAILER IN GOOD REPAIR
Making sure your trailer is in good shape will not only ensure the safety of your horse, but also the life of the trailer. Be sure to complete the following checkups and practices on your rig:
- Check the lights every time you hitch up.
- Check tire pressures monthly.
- Snug fitting rubber mats provide the most secure footing and preserve the floorboards.
- After each use, sweep the entire trailer, using a wire brush if needed to get manure out of the mat grooves.
- Raise the tail end of the mat up several inches (you can use bricks, 2×4 blocks, etc.) to let air in to dry the floorboards underneath, and store the trailer in this fashion.
- Several times a year, remove the mats completely for a thorough sweeping and/or hosing. Disinfect if necessary.
- When parked, keep the rear of the trailer completely enclosed or covered to prevent damage from the natural elements, rain and snow.
- When the interior walls get soiled, they can be washed with diluted dishwashing liquid and a scrubber sponge. Exterior washing to remove mud and winter salt and sand should be done several times a year.
USE AN APPROPRIATE TOW VEHICLE
A trailer is only half of the equation when it comes to towing your horse—an appropriate vehicle is just as important as the trailer itself. Consider the following when selecting a vehicle:
- The longer the wheelbase on your car or truck, the safer the towing setup. A longer vehicle will be less influenced by the weight behind it, and will be easier to steer and drive straight.
- The vehicle must have heavy-duty shock absorbers in the rear to take the extra weight behind while still riding level.
- The cooling system must also be powerful enough to prevent the engine from overheating in the summer. And that engine must be big!
- Large mirrors on both sides are a must for safe visibility, as the rearview mirror will no longer be as useful once the trailer is attached.
- Use the appropriate size hitch ball on your vehicle to fit the pocket in the trailer’s tongue. The height of the hitch ball should be such that when the trailer is attached to the ball, the trailer rides level. When a hitched trailer is uphill in front, the horses have an awkward, stressful ride, and a lot of strain is placed on the hitch, which could cause it to break.
- Safety chains should be strong and of proper length.
- Anti-sway bars are very helpful additions that keep the rig traveling straight at high speeds. Your trailer dealer should be able to provide your vehicle with the appropriate hitch and sway bar arrangement.
CREATE SETS OF ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT THAT STAY IN THE TRAILER
Horse people know preparation for any scenario is the key to success. Be sure to have the following readily accessible at all times in your trailer:
- Equine and human first aid kits.
- Tool kit—hammer, pliers, screwdriver, wire cutters, rope or twine, double-ended snaps,jack knife, scissors, tape, and paper towels.
- Hoof pick, brush, sponge, spare halter, and a chain lead-shank.
- Buckets and at least ten gallons of water in heavy-duty, sealed containers.
MAKE SURE THE TRAILER IS BIG ENOUGH FOR THE HORSE
If the roof is too low, or the stall is too short or narrow, your horse will be nervous, uncomfortable and unsteady. The horse must be able to spread his legs as necessary to remain balanced.
WRAP ALL FOUR LEGS FOR PROTECTION
The wraps should cover the heels and coronary bands. These areas are prone to injury when the horse adjusts his feet to stand steadily during transport. Bell boots can be added for extra protection.
WHEN CARRYING ONE HORSE IN A TWO HORSE TRAILER, ALWAYS LOAD HIM IN THE LEFT STALL (DRIVER’S SIDE)
If a center divider is used, it should be secured in the middle for the horse to brace against. Roads are “crowned,” with the centerline higher than the edges and if all of the weight in the trailer is on the right, the rig will tend to sway to the right or, even worse, tip over (especially if you have to stop or swerve quickly to avoid another car). If carrying two horses of unequal size, put the larger one on the left.
DRIVE SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY, STAYING ALERT AT ALL TIMES
Hauling a trailer requires a lot of concentration and planning ahead. It takes much more distance and time to stop or accelerate a loaded rig than a single car. Take all turns slowly so that the horses will not be flung against the walls for support or lose their footing. After making a turn, be sure not to accelerate until the trailer is back in alignment with the tow vehicle, to prevent a “whiplash” type effect. Give the horses as smooth and safe a ride as possible.