Most horses will travel to a new location at some point in their lives, be it for some competition, horse show, or for breeding. Investment in a good horse trailer is the very first step in the journey. A horse trailer gives you the freedom for you and your horse to be mobile. It opens a lot of opportunities for you and your horse to travel to trail rides, horse shows, exhibitions, horse vacations, educational events, and clinics.
Before hitting the road, it is very important you take all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of your horses while traveling and upon reaching the destination. Safe horse trailering demands thoughtful planning and good experience beforehand. Reaching the destination trouble-free while keeping the horses as comfortable as possible should be the foremost agenda on your list.
In this article, we have listed all the important information that would be useful for you in preparing for trailering your horses, during the journey, and after reaching the destination.
Know your Equipment
The first important thing before trailering your horses is to know what your truck or vehicle is capable of towing safely. Generally, trucks with large tow ratings have high-performance features such as heavy-duty springs, engines, frames, transmission, U-joints, brakes, and rear-axles. However, all these features have nothing to do with the payload of the truck, or how much it can carry in the back. Before towing, you should consider knowing the gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of the truck. GCWR includes the weight of the truck, the trailer it can tow, and the total cargo and truck the trailer can carry.
Secondly, you must know the maximum towing capacity of the entire hitch assembly. The hitch assembly consists of the insert, the receiver, the ball, and the tow vehicle. Be sure to check all the hitch components each time before you pull your trailer. Look for signs such as rust and corrosion, and bent or cracked components.
Choose your trailer wisely
There are many types of trailers in the market such as tow-behind/bumper-pull, gooseneck, fifth wheel, slant loads, stock trailers, straight loads, and many more. Choose the best trailer to meet all your needs. There are also available custom-designed trailers from the renowned manufacturers of trailers across the world, such as double D trailers in USA, who specifically meet the needs of you and your horses.
The safest option is to choose the specific type of horse trailers that allow the handler to access each horse individually without disturbing or unloading other horses. In the case of an emergency too, these types of horse trailers would make a big difference. Make sure that the horse trailer you are choosing must have electric brakes, breakaway brakes, and safety chains. Other than this, you should also make sure that you have mirrors mounted on the vehicle for towing. They should be positioned at correct angles for optimal visibility of the trailer and the road around it.
Important tips for the safety and maintenance of the trailer
If you are an amateur in horse trailering, then you should first practice driving the rig with an empty trailer. Before going out on the road, you must know how to hook up, back up, and park the trailer correctly. You would also need a commercial driver’s license, depending on the combined weight of the truck and trailer.
In order to have a safe trip with your horse, the maintenance of the trailer is very crucial. Inspect the flooring of the trailer at least once a year, check the wood flooring for signs of dry rot and aluminum flooring for signs of stress fractures. Along with this, you should also inspect the brakes for wear, the wheel bearings for greasing, bolt holes, and broken welds. If all this is too much for you, hire a professional inspector for your trailer.
Get your horse ready for the trip
There are different types of protective gear for horses that make sure they are completely protected and comfortable during the entire journey. For protecting horses’ legs and providing support to them while traveling, there are available shipping bandages and boots. However, if the shipping bandages are not correctly applied to the horses’ legs, they can cause serious damage to the soft tissues of the legs. To make your horse comfortable in leg protection gear while traveling, make sure you try them before trailering. There are also available head bumpers to protect the top of horses’ heads from impact while traveling.
Checklist for loading the trailer
Make sure to follow this checklist for correctly loading the trailer:
- Make sure that you have enough space for exiting the trailer after loading your horse inside
- Make sure the butt bar is up before you tie your horse
- Make sure that all the partitions between the horses are secured and in places
- While parking the trailer, make sure the trailer is at a level to safely unload or load the horse
- Before trailering, make sure to do a final check on the hitch, lights, trailer, and towing vehicle
- Make sure there is good lighting while loading
- Make sure there is no loose gravel, ice, mud, or asphalt on the footing, as it can be a slip hazard while loading and unloading the horses
- If there is more than one horse for trailering, load the heavier one on the driver’s side, as it will help stabilize the trailer if the wheels of the passenger side go off the road in an accident
- In the case of a slant-load trailer, make sure to keep the load centered over the axles
Checklist for the trailer
Before making any trip with your trailer, you must consider the following things:
- Do not put a horse on the trailer before practicing it empty
- Depending on the weight of the load you would be carrying, adjust the electric brakes of your trailer
- Make sure your tires are checked for the load you would be carrying
- Make sure the trailer is tightly connected to the towing vehicle and locked in places
- There must be a portable air compressor in your vehicle always
- Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher and reflective safety triangles in the event of a breakdown
- Keep spare tires for your towing vehicle and the trailer
- Inspect the mats and flooring of the trailer
- Check if your vehicle is rated to safely tow your trailer
- Check for the maximum towing capacity of the hitch and vehicle
Things to carry in the journey
Here is the list of all the essential things that you should carry while on the journey:
- Bedding for the trailer
- Supply of feed and water
- Veterinarian contact information along the route
- Shovel and bucket to pick up manure
- All the important paperwork including health certificate and Coggins negative test report
- First-aid kit for your horses
- Flashlight and knife
- Spare halters and lead ropes
- Your EQU StreamZ magnetic bands!
Often horses do not like the smell and taste of unfamiliar water, hence it is important to pack the supply of water from your home only. However, it would be good if you get your horse used to drinking flavoured water to mask the taste of unfamiliar water.
Dehydration is a common problem in horses while traveling long distances, hence, offer your horse water at least every two hours while traveling.
Make 'pit stops' to rest and stretch
Many horses do not urinate while the trailer is moving, and hence, you should make frequent pit stops so that your horses can urinate. At every stop, check the vitals of your horses for any sign of weakness, and discomfort. There are some trailers that are equipped with cameras so that you can keep an eye on the horses while traveling. At each stop, unload your horses and allow them to move around to stretch their legs.
Maintain the temperature inside the trailer
Regular monitoring of temperature inside the trailer is important as on hot days, the temperature can rise in a very short amount of time, especially when you have stopped for rest. Always park your vehicle where there is shade and check your horses for sweating. Even in cold climates, the temperature can get warm if the horses have worn winter coats. Make sure you have opened the roof vents to provide air circulation.
In the end, you are driving with equine passengers, so be considerate about that. Do not accelerate quickly and give the horses some time to prepare for stops. Before returning to the normal speed, make sure the trailer has cleared all the turns, straightened out, and the horses have regained their balance. Carefully drive over the bumpy roads, minimize the noise in your trailer, and once arrived at the destination, make sure you give your horse adequate time to recover.
Checklist for Unloading
Make sure you check all these checklists before unloading your horses:
- Make sure you do not stand directly behind the horse before or while he unloads
- Carefully examine the complete area for any safety hazards
- After untying the horse, make sure to control his head until the butt bar is down
Treat your horse to Advanced Magnetic Therapy
One common issue with travelling horses is how some of them legs beginning to fill/stock-up when standing around for long periods of time. In the majority of cases this is reduced after a short time when movement is returned, however, in some cases it can be severe and require an extended period of recuperation prior to exercising. Often an issue with sports horses who are likely to be travelling for a competition and particularly within dressage/3-day eventing disciplines.
Advanced magnetic technology, such as EQU StreamZ magnetic bands, have shown to support a horses filling and can be worn safely whilst travelling. Simply wrap the bands around the cannon bone prior to the journey and let the magnetic therapy get to work!
You make a huge investment of time, money, and love on your horses. Hence, it is very important to do your homework before pulling out of the driveway to haul horses. You should always stay vigilant to the changing conditions while on the road trailering your horses. Before starting on the journey, you should develop your personal, safe horse trailering plan, and follow that plan strictly.
You can also follow this guide on trailering your horses and the chances are good that you and your horses will arrive in great shape.
Bio of Author:
Kate Brown is an equine expert and writer with over three decades of experience in training and riding horses. She was raised caring for horses, rehabilitated rescue horses, showed her own horses, and rode long distances.