It’s a rite of spring, Best Horse Practices Summit presenter Dr. Rebecca Gimenez would rather not endure: Horse Trailer Nightmare Season. Every year, scores of unwitting horse owners lead their horses to injury and death.
They neglect what should be another rite of spring: trailer safety review and overhaul. Faulty hitches and floors are just the top of the list when it comes to ignored trailer features that could get your horse in trouble.
Do yourself and your horses a huge favor: Service your trailer and give it your own thorough inspection. We thank Bobby Fantarella of Elm City Trailers for this handy checklist below. You can also review this booklet from Purdue University Extension.
Another good resource can be found here, at Least Resistance Training Concepts.
Writes Dr. Gimenez:
In the spring, people get excited about hauling and having fun with their horses. But lack of maintenance, failure to match the correct towing vehicle with the trailer, and failure to understand the hitch system can get us all in trouble.
You don’t have to be an expert. This Purdue document should be shared with ALL of your horse hauling friends. Make sure that when you hitch your trailer, you know what you are doing and are as safe as you can make it. Horses depend on us to do it correctly and to show due diligence. Print it or otherwise share it with your trailer maintenance person, your friend or spouse, whoever helps with the trailer, your tire maintenance guys, too.
Help prevent horrific, tragic incidents. In my opinion, folks who allow this to happen to their horses should be punished for their neglect and cruelty. There’s really no excuse for failure to maintain your trailer.
Gimenez is the president of Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue and teaches worldwide.
Fantarella, owner of Elm City Trailer, has these suggestions for making sure the riding season is full of good, SAFE times. Some of these tips are Do It Yourself. Others need a mechanic.
Most manufacturers recommend service every 12,000 miles or every 12 months. Since most people will never put 12,000 miles on a trailer each year, annual service is cheap insurance.
Basic service consists of:
- pulling the wheels
- re-packing the bearings with fresh grease
- putting new seals back.
One crucial thing people seem to forget is to check the air pressure in all the tires. Low pressure can cause sway, poor tire wear, etc. Don’t forget to check the spare’s pressure, too.
Check that all running lights, blinkers, and brake lights are working.
Check the ‘break-away’ battery. That little guy engages your brakes if your trailer ever became separated from the tow vehicle. To check to see if the ‘break-away’ battery is still working:
While the trailer is properly hooked up, pull the safety key out. Then try to move the vehicle a few feet. If you can feel the brakes working, you’re fine. If you don’t feel any breaking, chances are your battery is shot or you have other wiring problems.
As for the flooring:
At least 3-4 times a year you should pull the mats out of the trailer. Wash the floor and the bottom of the mats. While the mats are out, inspect the floor. Even aluminum floors can have problems if urine is left to sit between the mats and the floor. If everything is ok, wait until both the mats and the floor are completely dry before putting them back in the trailer.
Lastly: Lubricate your hitch, hinges on doors, ramps, etc. (WD-40, PB Blaster, spray grease, etc.)
Lastly last: Birds, wasps, and other animals can nest in a trailer when it’s not in use. We thank readers for reminding us that checking under and all around the trailer for nests is crucial to safety. No one wants crushed baby birds or frantic horses stung by resident hornets.