In the past month I have had to refuse to load horses on unsafe trailers... twice. I’m not talking about trailers that weren’t “pretty.” I’m talking about trailers that were not SAFE. Your horse(s) trusts you that when he walks up into that rolling metal box that it’s going to be okay. Trailer safety is of the utmost importance if you are going to ask your horse to load on a trailer and roll down the road. Horse trailers don’t have to be fancy to be safe. Here are a few things that will get an automatic refusal from us to put a horse on a trailer.
The “horse coffin.” This is a tiny 2 horse bumper pull that should never have full sized horses in it. Pigs, goats, sheep, llamas, or maybe minis, but no full size horse should ever be asked to load in these pop cans. What makes the “horse coffin” even worse than its inadequate size is the condition that it’s typically in. Can you say rust bucket?
Most horse coffins that I see are older than I am. They’ve had next to no maintenance and the rusty steel and rotten wood are good indicators of the trailer’s inability to safely transport a horse. Those rotten side walls and that flimsy piece of rubber will NOT keep your horse’s leg from going through it and into the wheel well. (And some of the patch jobs we’ve seen are worse.) Let’s talk about the floor... see that rusty / corroded metal between the top of the ramp and the back of the trailer? Very likely that is what the cross supports of the trailer look like. The ones that your 1200 pound horse is STANDING on. Hopefully the boards aren’t completely rotted but the way the sidewalls look I wouldn’t have much hope. This is a HORSE COFFIN. The size of the trailer above isn’t horribly small, but the condition of the floor, metal support structure, and sidewalls make it unsafe. Don’t ask your horse to get in a trailer that looks like this, just don’t.
Let’s say you have an adequately sized trailer. The walls and floor are sturdy and safe. Minimal rust, solid wood, good mats, safe footing... What else will have us leading the horse back to the safety of a stall? TIRES. Many more times than he should have had to, Zac is dragging the air compressor out to the drive to air up tires on a small trailer that no one has bothered to check tire pressure on before hooking up and going. One lady was running on 4 tires that were essentially flat when she came from 3 hours away to pick up a horse. Now, I am NOT mechanically inclined. But even I can operate a tire pressure gauge and an air compressor. What’s worse than having trailer tires that are low on air? Trailer tires that won’t hold air! Because of the extended storage on a lot of trailers ( people aren’t pulling them as much in the winter) trailers tend to sit outside and the tires dry rot. Those tires that have decent tread on them are still not safe if there are cracks in the sidewalls from the tire deteriorating in the weather. Check your trailer tires and tire pressure!
Do you know what’s keeping your trailer tires rolling?? Bearings and brakes might not kill your horse, but they will kill your day. Bearings should be serviced annually along with brake inspection and adjustment. This requires some level of mechanical competency. However, there are online resources (youtube, etc.) that can guide someone with basic tools and experience. Improperly maintained electric trailer brakes will increase the load on your tow vehicle brakes and the distance required to get your rig safely stopped. Check your turn signals, running lights and brake lights every time you hook up your trailer. 5 extra minutes to check lights and tires could save you hours along the road (with your horse.) I’m not going to cover tow vehicle specifications. Suffice it to say, ‘size matters.’ Make absolutely certain that the vehicle pulling your trailer and horse(s) is of adequate size to do the job. Then make sure you have the correct ball, hitch, coupler, light hook up etc for the tow vehicle / trailer. There is A LOT that goes into safely transporting your horse. Make sure you do everything you can to keep your horse safe. He’s counting on you!