Many people find trailering their horse to be a very stressful experience. They may have heard horror stories from others of accidents on the road, injuries to horse or handler while loading, or trailer malfunctions. Or it may just be the uncertainty of how a horse will react on the trailer or what to do if an emergency arises. In this brief article, I want to go over a few of the basic safety rules for trailering, beginning with loading your horse.
The first thing to do, before you even bring your horse out is to prepare the trailer. Inspect the integrity of the trailer’s structure, excessively rusted parts should be replaced, the trailer should be regularly maintenanced to ensure that the axle and wheel bearings are in good condition, and the tires need to be properly inflated. Pay special attention to the floor! Older trailers with wooden floors can be very dangerous, so inspect the floor for rotten parts and replace it immediately if you find any. Even steel or aluminum floors can be compromised over time, so routinely check under the rubber mats and inspect the floor. Before you load your horse, close the front doors and the front bars on a two horse so that the horse cannot decide to try and push forward out of the small “man” door. Be sure that you have a good place to tie, and that all dividers are out of the way and secured so as not to bang your horse on his sides should they start to swing.
Secondly, remember to avoid putting yourself in harm’s way. The best way to do this is to teach your horse to self load so that you spend as little time as possible in the trailer with him. If you do need to walk your horse in the trailer, then have a helper close up the back before you tie your horse up front. This is especially true in small trailers, like the typical two horse. If the horse is tied, begins to pull back and panics, he could slip and fall, get his legs places they shouldn’t be, or suddenly lunge forward and possibly injure you, the handler. As you or your helper close up the back, whether it is a door, a butt bar, or a ramp, always stand to the side, so that if the horse does rush backwards, you are not in the way.
As you head down the road, you will want to have made your trailer as balanced as possible so that it hauls easier. This means keep the weight (the horses) centered over the axles of the trailer as best you can in a stock or slant style trailer, and in a two horse put your horse on the left side if you are only hauling one, or load the heaviest horse on the left if you are hauling two.
If you hear your horse banging around excessively, check to be sure that he is not caught on anything, or that none of the restraints and dividers have come loose. If he is simply being fussy, bet back on the road, when the trailer is moving he has to focus more on balancing.
When it comes time to unload, untie first, then undo the back of the trailer, keeping in mind to always stand to the side. If you are backing a green horse out of a step up, be cautious as they first step down with their hind legs, as many will jump back up at the unusual sensation. If you are walking them straight out of the trailer, then again stand to the side as they may jump out the first few times.
So, inspect your trailer, keep these safety tips in mind, and enjoy your next haul!