One of the most important skills in riding and dealing with horses is an attitude of continuing safety. When you begin to trailer your horses you can realize just how much can go wrong. However cautious you may be, it can still be intimidating to trailer your horses. This intimidation can be lessened by a proper maintenance schedule and the right preparation.
When speaking of maintenance, I always like to remind people that it is not only the trailer’s condition that is important. You also need a truck capable of hauling your trailer safely. Good maintenance begins with regular care such as oil changes, tune ups and tire rotations. If you drive your truck for reasons other than hauling your trailer, it is very likely you already have a good maintenance plan in place. Trailer maintenance is a bit less work than keeping up your truck but still majorly important. Your trailer tires need to be maintained, especially if your trailer sits on them for long periods of time. When I check my trailer tires, I make a point to grease the trailer tire hubs as well. If you have an older trailer, you may have to treat rust spots and weak welds as you find them. Floorboards underneath your floor pads should be paid special attention to. If you are lucky enough to have a newer trailer, your dealership may offer maintenance programs similar to car dealerships. Through excellent maintenance you can make your truck and trailer last longer and offer a safer experience for your horse.
Another large safety concern in traveling is your horse’s experience level. If your horse has never been in a trailer, the first time should not be a long trip. When teaching your horse to load confidently you should set yourself up for success by starting at home. With your trailer hitched up to a truck you can practice leading your horse in and out of the trailer. This reinforces to your horse that when he does get in the trailer he will always get to come back out again. Get your horse acclimated to the noises in the trailer. After he loads, stands quietly and unloads calmly and consistently, you can take him on short rides and gradually build up his time in the trailer. With each safe trip your horse becomes more trusting and less fearful of the trailer, making future trips less stressful for the both of you.
A pre-trip safety check is something you should do before any trip with your horse. It involves the quick onceover of all of the major components of the truck and trailer. It also prepares you for anything that should go wrong on the trip. I like to begin with the truck which will be pulling your trailer.
- Check all fluids-this includes engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, radiator fluid, brake fluid and washer fluid.
- Check to see that all of your wiring is in good shape .
- Make sure you have a good battery with clean terminals and good connections.
- Hoses and belts should be in good condition with no signs of wear or brittle pieces.
- Check your trucks headlights, taillights, turn signal lights, brake lights, reverse lights and hazard lights.
- Make sure your tires have decent tread and are all at the correct tire pressure.
- Check tires for uneven wear and bubbles in the tire walls.
- Tighten lug nuts before departure. Be sure you have a spare in good condition that fits your truck.
- The hitch receiver should be in good condition as well as the safety chains, wiring harness and trailer brake system (if you have one).
- Keep in mind any major issues the truck has before leaving for any substantial trip.
- Pull up your floor mats and check the underlying floor boards. Make sure they are in good condition.
- Make sure the interior of the trailer is free of rust spots, missing padding and any sharp protrusions.
- Check to see if all of your tie rings are in good condition, both inside and out.
- Be sure that all windows, doors and ramps have working latches that securely close.
- Trailer tires should be treated the same as the truck tires with correct pressure, tight lug nuts and decent tread. You should have at least one spare mounted on a rim that fits the trailer.
- With your wiring harness secured into the truck make sure all of the trailer lights work.
- If your trailer has living quarters, be sure to dump the grey water and sewage tanks before departure.
- Horse and Human First Aid Kit
- Extra water, hay and food
- Road flares
- Extra fuses
- Battery jumpstarter
- 12 volt air compressor
- Jack and tire iron
- GPS and/or maps
- Camping gear
- Extra tack and equipment
- Emergency farrier kit
- Coggins test results and registration papers
- Hay test results (depending on your area requirements)
- Extra battery and propane (living quarter trailers)
With this information it should give anyone a base knowledge of horse trailer safety but there is always more to learn. I still learn new things with every trip and in training every new horse. All in all, traveling somewhere with your horse should be more fun and exciting than stressful and intimidating. An approach to trailering with paramount safety and common sense should make trips with your horse as simple as saddling up for a trail ride.