Transporting your horse can be nerve-wracking, but these safety tips can make the ordeal easier.
While it may seem simple to non-horse people, equestrians know that few things are more terrifying than trailering horses. If you think about it, you're taking a 1,200-pound flight animal with steel nailed to its hooves and asking it to walk into a dark, foreboding box and stay there for a few hours while you drive the box sixty miles an hour down a loud highway.
Sounds like a good idea, right?
Wrong. Trailering horses is scary because there are so many things that can go wrong. But sometimes you have to transport your horse anyway, and for when you do, here are a few tips that can help make the trip as safe as possible.
1. Be careful loading and unloading.
Asking a horse to walk into an enclosed box should never be taken lightly. Many frightened horses have run into their handlers when loading, or bashed their heads against the roof when asked to back off the trailer. That's why it's so important to practice loading and unloading before the big day, at a time when there is no stress or pressure.
When loading, open all the doors and make the trailer as bright and inviting as possible. When unloading, take your time and do not release the butt bar before you have the horse untied from the trailer and lead rope attached to the halter.
2. Plan ahead with protective equipment.
Some owners choose to cover their horse in protective equipment when they travel. This equipment can be useful, but only if you familiarize your horse with it ahead of time.
For example, if you want to protect your horse's legs when he travels, it's important to get him used to the wraps beforehand, or the new item will only add to his stress and cause more problems.
3. Provide food distractions.
Road trips don't only get boring for people, they can become boring for horses, too. A good way to help them pass the time, stay out of trouble and feel less stressed is to provide food.
While it's not a good idea to feed grain to traveling horses, hanging a hay bag near each horse's head does the trick.
4. Make sure the vehicle is in good condition.
You should always do a thorough check of both truck and trailer before allowing horses anywhere near them.
Check the tires on both truck and trailer for damage and proper pressure. Make sure the butt bars and breast bars in the trailer, as well as the posts and dividers, can be easily removed in an emergency. Be sure the trailer is hitched correctly, and that the lights are working properly.
5. Drive with the horse in mind.
No matter how much prep time you put into making sure your horse and vehicle are ready for the trip, none of that matters unless you also drive safely.
When hauling a horse trailer it is extra important to keep a large distance between yourself other vehicles because it takes longer to stop, and you don't want to have to slam on the brakes when you're carrying precious cargo.
6. Carry emergency supplies.
The goal is always to avoid emergencies, but it's always best to be overly prepared. You should carry both an equine first aid kit and a roadside kit in case you encounter trouble with horse, trailer, or both.
There will always be some stress associated with trailering horses, but if you follow these tips you'll be sure to get your horse from Point A to Point B safely.