After your horse, the next most expensive equestrian purchase you are likely to make will be a trailer in which to transport him.
Of course, your horse receives only the very best care and attention in order to keep him fit, healthy and ready to perform to his optimum when required. But can you say the same for his transport? Are you one of the many owners whose trailer languishes out of sight and out of mind until show day arrives?
You should have your trailer professionally serviced at least once a year to keep it mechanically sound and safe, but you should also have a regular maintenance routine to ensure happy and safe travel for you and your horse.
When selecting a vehicle with which to tow your trailer, do bear in mind that it is a legal requirement that the total (gross) weight of the trailer and load does not exceed the towing vehicle's capabilities. As a general rule when towing, the trailer should not exceed 85 per cent of the towing vehicle's kerb weight, kerb weight being the total weight of the vehicle including a full fuel tank, and 75kg allowed for the driver and vehicle contents.
Before each journey
Check the trailer tyres. Even if you don't do much mileage, tyre walls do perish over time especially if your trailer is not kept on hard standing. Make sure that there are no lumps, bald patches, uneven wear or obvious hazards such as nails on the sidewalls or the treads. Your spare tyre should also be in tip top condition. Remember, the tyres are the only thing keeping the trailer (and its precious cargo) in contact with the road surface so it's vital they are correctly maintained.
Make sure that the tyres are at the correct pressure by using a tyre gauge. The trailer manufacturer's recommended pressure is usually shown on a badge on the trailer frame. If you are unsure of the correct pressure, contact the manufacturer and ask.
Connection. Always ensure that the trailer is correctly and securely attached to the towing vehicle. Drawing up a checklist is useful to ensure that nothing is omitted.
First of all, apply the trailer handbrake, remove any tow ball covers or electrical connection socket covers and detach the safety breakaway cable. The tow ball should be lightly oiled. Manoeuvre the towing vehicle into position and use the jockey wheel to raise the front of the trailer then lower the coupling head onto the tow ball. Make sure the locking handle clicks to indicate that the coupling head is firmly locked on.
Raise the jockey wheel a further few turns to ensure it is not in contact with the ground before locking it fully raised. Re-attach the breakaway cable ensuring that it does not touch the ground. This will apply the handbrake in the event of the trailer becoming detached whilst towing.
Plug in the electrics plug and ensure all lights and indicators are working correctly and adjust external mirrors accordingly.
Make sure that the number plate of the towing vehicle and the trailer are matching.
Before you go. Once you have your horse safely on board, check that you have tied him up short enough so that he can't try to turn around during the journey or pester his companion if you are carrying two;ensure that there are no loose items which could shift around during the journey and cause the horse to panic, make sure that the partition is securely in place and that the breast-bar and breeching bars are secure. Finally, check that there are no trailing wires under the trailer or around the coupling and check that the jockey wheel is securely fixed and not able to vibrate loose so that it drops down and drags along the road en route.
After your journey
Always muck out the trailer thoroughly before you put it away. Do not be tempted to leave it until your next outing! Moisture can find its way beneath matting and cause the trailer floor to rot and weaken. It's best practice to remove mats, wash them and allow to dry before replacing them being careful to double check the trailer floor for wear and tear first. Close any windows or vents to prevent rainwater entering. If you are unable to store your trailer undercover during periods when it is not in use, invest in a waterproof blind or shield to fit above the rear ramp.
Coil up the electrical connector cord and hang the plug upside down tom keep water out. It's not a good idea to cover the plug as this can encourage condensation and retain moisture which will damage the connection.
Lubricate the coupling mechanism and tow ball with a light oil spray or grease. Replace the rubber ball cover to keep dirt, grit and water out.
With a little planning and extra effort you can ensure safe and trouble-free travel for both you and your horse and your trailer will last you much longer.