Tips for Hauling Your Horse Safely
A Little Background
When I imagined hauling a horse in a trailer a few years ago, I immediately shot down the idea of ever doing it myself. I pictured driving like a Granny, with white knuckles and crawling along the road with people honking frustratedly behind me.
Yet, I couldn’t deny my love of trail riding and the feeling that my horse and I always had to ask for a ride when moving barns or were limited to the trails nearby. One day a barn mate mentioned in passing her desire to sell her stock/slant combo for a very reasonable price. I was intrigued enough to look into it and practice with Ferrous, who is not a good loader.
Taking A Leap of Faith
While I almost bought the trailer then, I refrained. The little voice in my head told me I would never drive it, much less haul a horse, and it would be a waste of money. A year later, we were having a tack sale and my old barn mate asked if she could bring the same trailer to sell. Rather that do that, I asked my friend to help me test drive it and ended up purchasing it myself!
I admit that my test drive went better than expected and my friend, a very experienced horsewoman and my former trainer, gave me some tips and lessons. That day I purchased the trailer and later that week I drove it myself to my barn. Pheww!
That was a nerve-wracking experience. I mapped out my route before hand with the least amount of traffic and lights. My brakes were set too high and they squealed repeatedly. But I did it, and with another set of eyes guiding me, backed it into its space in only minutes.
The trailer sat for 4 months over the winter until I finally bit the bullet and registered it in my name and state.
I love to take the slow and steady approach as you all know by now. So I’ve been spending time teaching Ferrous to load calmly. We’ve done only a few sessions of 10-15 minutes each but already he’s gone from panicking, needing to be loaded with a chain under his lip and a rope behind (previous owners), to voluntarily stepping in with all four feet, curiously inspecting the inside, and calming backing on command.
Biting the Bullet and Going For It
Still, I was nervous to haul a horse. Then my friend purchased a new horse spontaneously and asked me for a ride to her new barn.
Something about me…if it’s on my timeline I can be slow as molasses. My friend needing assistance gave me the kick in the pants I needed to pop my cherry and drive the thang!
Perhaps I didn’t sleep the evening before. Still, I woke up confident. I checked the trailer for anything loose that might bang around, checking the tires for air, and hooked it up!
Pulling out of the barn there was a problem. I felt the trailer pulling a bit, which was weird. At the end of the driveway we realized the brakes were locked and the tires not rotating. Not great.
I reset the electronic brakes, reduced the pull and problem solved! We made it to the pick up location perfectly, loaded well, and headed home with her new horse safe and sound. Even better, I backed in again to my space even better than the first time.
Appreciate the Effort
I’m one proud girl. I did something I NEVER thought I would have the confidence to do, much less the capacity. Now I feel like I can do almost anything. Suddenly, trailering to trail rides and Hunter paces, or even camping with Delight seem like possibilities but more, seem like something to look forward to rather than dread.
It just goes to show that often we make things so much harder in our minds, when the reality is often much easier.
Here are some safety tips I’ve learned on trailering a horse:
- Secure loose items. We don’t want them falling and banging, scaring your horse!
- Lock the tack room door if you have one.
- Kick the tires and check for air. Do you have an air gauge, a jack and a spare tire just in case?
- Make sure your hitch ball is the appropriate size as labeled on your trailer. You shouldn’t hear the hitch at all while driving.
- When hitching to your bumper pull, make sure nothing is dragging on the ground and could cause sparks or get caught on something.
- Plug in your electric and have someone check the brake lights work as well as turn signals.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS SUGGESTIONS:
- Make sure your dividers latch in correctly.
- Replace the tie straps periodically so they don’t rust or disintegrate on you (that literally happened to me as I tried to use the former owner’s ties. The horse moved her head and it fell off! Thankfully I had extras in my trailer tack room).
- Install a wireless camera if you are a nervous traveler so you can check in with your horse periodically, especially if you are traveling alone. Which leads me to…
- Travel with a passenger who can help in a pinch with loading, unloading, directing you to back, etc.
- Brake before you need to and do it gently and slowly.
- Take wide turns and check your mirrors often to verify your trailer is where it should be.
- Local roads are better than highways for new drivers!
- Look for pull-throughs whenever possible when you start, especially if you have a horse on board. Backing is scary and takes practice, so unload your horse before parking to take some of the pressure off!