Part of enjoying our horses is taking them places, meeting up with like minded people, participating in clinics, horse shows, parades. In order to do that we need to have a safe way to haul them.
Does your horse trailer have to be pretty? NO! But it sure is nice if it is. I happen to have a 41 year old, two horse, straight load trailer that is about as ugly as they come. But it is tight and safe. It has new tires on it and has had the undercarriage re-built. I have some plans for upgrades that I’m hoping to get done this summer, but for now it is working just fine!
Let’s talk about what makes a trailer safe.
- A safe, solid floor. This is #1 for a reason. I have heard too many horror stories about horses falling through the floor of the trailer as it drives down the highway. Please take the time to check the state of your floor often. To do this you can get down on the ground, take a pocket knife and stick it up into the bottom of your floor. If it slides in easily you are in trouble. If it barely scratches the floor you are good! Check several different spots in the floor. You can also do this from the top, removing the trailer mat and checking for soft spots. Urine can be corrosive and will eat right through a floor.
- A solid hitch with solid safety chains. Check the welds closely on your safety chains. And always cross your chains. This way if the hitch does disengage from your truck the chains will catch the hitch and keep it from jamming into the ground, flipping the trailer. I had a trailer come off my hitch one time as I climbed up onto a swinging bridge. The safety chains were shot and the welds broke as the trailer disengaged from my hitch. My horse was in the trailer and I can’t tell you how horrifying it was to watch that trailer make it’s way across the bridge and run into the side. Horrifying. My mare was fine and there were several BIG men across the bridge that came to my rescue, wrestling my trailer back onto my hitch… this leads me to the next thing, a cotter pin. The cotter pin helps hold the hitch closed around the truck ball. ALWAYS use a cotter pin!!
- Solid door latches. I have heard horror stories of doors opening as the rig drives down the road, the horse inside thinking it’s time to unload and they try to back out. Horrible. Be sure your latches will stay shut even when driving over rough gravel roads. They will often bounce up and down and come undone when traveling over rough ground. You can use a bungee cord, hooking one end on the end of the latch and the other end under the trailer. My trailer’s manger doors, tack room door and escape door will open when driving down a gravel road so I have to tie a long 22′ rope around the entire front of my trailer to keep all the doors closed. I’m such a redneck. Sigh.
A great thing to do at least once a year and preferably before you have to haul your horse, is to have someone you trust take you for a ride in your trailer. This is a great way to know if something is coming loose, rattling and banging back there. If you have a horse that is increasingly fearful when hauling, take the time to check out your trailer. All that sheet metal that is often used on the dividers and along the sides of the trailer can come loose or will make the worst sound as you travel down the road. It kind of vibrates and is horribly loud to the horses. I have a friend who had a horse that tried to exit the trailer through the side window as they were driving down the road. They took the time to ride in the back of the trailer and found that the sheet metal that was used in the dividers made an awful racket and terrified their horse. They had someone weld them some nice sturdy bars in place of the sheet metal and didn’t have that problem again!
I am constantly amazed at what our horses put up with from us. Horse trailers are actually quite terrifying to ride in. You can’t see where you’re going, they are loud, especially when you are driving at highway speeds and the wind is whipping around. It’s amazing to me that our horses will load time and again! And I can completely understand why they would be reluctant to do so.
Not only is the state of your trailer extremely important, but so is HOW you haul your trailer. SLOW DOWN. Take your time when on the highway. You can’t stop on a dime when hauling horses and you don’t ever want to have to stomp on the brakes as the trailer brakes will often lock, then release, then lock then release. They don’t always act the same way as truck brakes do. This can toss the horses around back there, sometimes causing them to loose their footing and fall. Take it slow and easy.
Corner long and slow. Swing wide so you aren’t taking out mail boxes and curbs.
When I was learning to haul a trailer my dad made me back up everywhere. Once I was pretty decent at that he let me drive forward. I guess you could say I learned to back before I learned to actually drive.
My mom had me put a raw egg in the trailer. When I could drive that egg around the neighborhood without breaking it, then I was allowed to put a horse in my trailer. It’s shockingly easy to destroy an egg in the horse trailer! I went through a lot of eggs…
I have big plans for my trailer this summer. I am hoping to have all the exterior doors removed. I would like them to be replaced with sheet metal (and screwed down tightly so it doesn’t rattle!). I want a large single door for the back of my trailer, removing the bar that runs down the middle. I have found out that the bar is there to latch the doors to and isn’t holding up the roof.
I also want the manger removed and a new floor put in the entire trailer. I am hoping to have the roof lowered as well so it becomes a low profile stock trailer. This way I can haul all three of my minis in a slant load configuration. I’ll have a few slant dividers made so everyone will be safe and secure! Then I’ll paint it. It won’t be new but it will look a bit better and will function much better for me. Now I just have to find someone to help me do all of this!