Driving a horse trailer is a learned skill that should always be taken seriously. As when towing any vehicle, you need to learn to maneuver around corners and tight places. Parking and backing up are also different when driving a horse trailer.
Acceleration and braking with a heavy load needs to be slower. You need to use low gears when going down steep declines. Gauging all maneuvers is unique to your specific horse trailer so you need to practice and become familiar before attempting to transport your horses.
It is imperative to keep your horse trailer in good running condition at all times as you never know when an emergency is going to arise and you will not have time for adjustments or repairs. This is especially important for those who seldom transport their horses.
The axles need to be greased with each season change. Tire and light checks need to be done with each trip, as should engine fluids and windshield wiper fluids. Some horse trailers have their own brake system and they need to be checked and adjusted to coordinate with your truck or towing vehicle.
Wheel lug nuts and bolts need to be checked regularly. Wheel bolts need to be torqued after each wheel removal. Coupler, hitch and safety chains need to be examined carefully. If you are new to driving a horse trailer, you need to familiarize yourself with towing something behind you. Gooseneck and fifth wheel horse trailers are easier to maneuver and will not sway as much.
When it is time to depart, load and tie your horses carefully, making sure they are comfortable and content. Horses should be fitted with leg wraps, shipping boots and head bumpers on every trip. Most traveling injuries happen loading or unloading so these items should not be dismissed for any reason.
If you are transporting a single horse, you should position him on the driver’s side of the trailer. If you have two horses, you should put the heaviest horse on the driver’s side. This is to help balance the trailer because the roads have a slight slope to the sides. Check that all doors and latches are secured properly. Make final adjustments to brakes and mirrors. Check your cell phone once more and leave an itinerary with someone.
When crossing state lines you need to know the laws for driving a horse trailer for each state you enter. You also need to know the health and vaccination requirements. Have your papers in order to present at the state line inspection station. Proof of ownership for each horse, health certificates and current negative Coggins tests (within 30 days) prepared by a veterinarian are mandatory.
Most people driving a horse trailer prefer having someone follow behind, both with cell phones or citizen’s band (CB) radios. This way you are protecting the horses by surrounding them and someone is aware if anything occurs that needs attention. You should always have a second person with you in any event.
If you are traveling for days, be sure to make reservations at barns located on your route. There are many available that take overnight boarders and some also have bed and breakfast accommodations. You can find them through your breeding association, the Internet or show circuit announcements.
Consider your horse by allowing him time to regain his balance after each turn and drive carefully over bumpy roads. You should stop every couple of hours to check your horse and offer him water. Use your intuition and do not hesitate to stop for any reason to check your horse.
Always carry a first aid kit for you and your horse. Your equine kit should include a sedative in case of an emergency. Acepromazine is a safe, fast acting tranquilizer that can be given intravenously (for fast acting) or in the muscle (if you have more time).
If you are frequently transporting horses or driving a horse trailer for a long distance, investing in a good equestrian motor plan is essential for peace of mind. These plans offer membership for emergency road service for people transporting horses. It is also good to carry a list of emergency numbers such as family, friends, your veterinarian and anyone capable of making decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.