Be prepared and prevent accidents and injuries

If your horse is competing in shows, rodeos, or racing, ensuring that he or she is safe while traveling to events is a key concern. Trailer accidents are not uncommon and many of them can be avoided by following a simple maintenance strategy. No matter what kind of trailer or transport you’re using, or how far you are traveling, taking these steps can protect your trailer from damage and your horse from injury:

Routine checks

You may feel that since you use your trailer often, you don’t need to go through a regular safety checklist. But even though you are familiar with all of its quirks and squeaks, you may not realize there’s a problem until you’ve already embarked on a journey with your horse in tow. And by that time, it’s way too late. Create a schedule of when you are going to do this check and stick to it. Keep your horse and trailer in tip top condition by:

  • Checking tire pressure—looking for signs of wear, rips, and other issues
  • Making sure you have a spare tire that’s in workable condition
  • Checking lug nuts to ensure they are tight on all wheels
  • Checking hitch for loose bolts and any cracks or signs of wear
  • Ensuring safety chains are crossed and hooked to the frame of the vehicle (not the bumper)
  • Checking the cable length of your breakaway to ensure it’s shorter than safety chains (but not so short that it will break free on a tight turn)
  • Checking floorboards for rotted or weak boards
  • Ensuring that all lights are working
  • Packing emergency equipment on board

Safely loading and unloading your horse

Not all horses are easy to load and unload; particularly those that may be skittish or suffering from an injury or illness. Before any scheduled events, practice bringing him or her onboard and off again to increase familiarity and comfort. This also helps decrease the transition time it takes for you to get him or her loaded, which can be a real benefit when you’re rushing to a show. Some other rules to follow when it comes to trailering your horse include:

  • Removing all tack before loading
  • Using a leather or nylon halter with a breakaway piece
  • Making sure your horse’s legs are protected using leg wraps
  • Never loading a horse on a trailer that’s unhitched
  • Making sure chest bars and escape doors are open before loading your horse to allow for easy exit

Long distance traveling with your horse

While it’s always exciting to venture to new places with your horse, there are some special considerations to take into account to ensure a healthy and injury-free trip. Long journeys inside a trailer can take their toll on equine athletes, so it’s best to ensure that you have adequate breaks planned and that you are stocked with hay and water. It’s recommended that you don’t travel more than 18 hours at a time without a break. Other important things to be aware of when trailering long distance:

  • Stops should be 30 to 60 minutes in length
  • Horses should be unloaded if the trip is going to extend past 18 hours
  • Most horses won’t urinate while the trailer is moving so rests are essential to ensure they are able to do so
  • If you are unloading, make sure you are in a safe location to prevent your horse from getting spooked
  • Park your trailer in a shady spot and open up to allow the flow of fresh air
  • Be aware that horses that travel for 24 hours or more can lose up to 6 percent of their body weight and only regain 3 percent
  • Your horse may feel stiff and tight after traveling so be sure to allocate recovery time

Showing your horse and participating in other competitions is both exciting and exhausting, for everyone. To ensure that you and your equine partner arrive safely and in good health, take the time to check your trailer on a regular basis.

To help your horse stay loose and injury free, talk to me about equine massage therapy. Using this non-invasive technique, I am able to improve circulation, relieve the tension that builds up during a long haul and relax muscles.