Top Ten Tips for Safe Horse Hauling
Information for this article supplied by Jake Bowman, business manager for The University of Findlay’s equestrian program. . . and a frequent horse hauler!
Although you may not be going “over the river and through the woods” this holiday season, you may be making the trip home with horse trailer in tow. Many of our students at UF take their horses home over break and, for some, it’s not a short trip.
Safely hauling a horse can be challenging any time of year, but winter can have the added headaches of snow, ice and cold temperatures. Here are ten suggestions I’ve developed from personal experience and talking with others who frequently make road trips with one or more “passengers.”
(1) Make sure your vehicle is well maintained. Your tires should be in good shape and it’s best to have two spares. (I take a homemade tire ramp with me that lets me roll the “good” wheel of the trailer onto it and avoid having to use a jack.) Verify that your lights and brakes are working and have brakes adjusted so your trailer doesn’t wind up pushing your truck.
(2) Horses get cold when wind whips through a trailer. If you own a stock trailer, cover the openings with Plexiglas or another wind-blocking material.
(3) It seems like a no-brainer, but remember to check the weather forecast for all locations on your route. Sometimes, waiting a day or even a few hours can mean the difference between an easy drive and trying to fight your way through a blizzard. There are a lot of free weather apps for your phone, which can give you an update on changing conditions.
(4) For an overnight trip, arrange a place to stop where you and your horse can both unwind. This should be a place with accommodations for a horse and not just a rest stop on the highway. If you don’t know of such a place on your route, check online for farms that may provide this service. Your horse will thank you!
(5) Take an extra few minutes at fuel stops to let your horse rest inside the trailer. Balancing and bracing in a moving trailer is very hard on a horse’s legs and he’ll appreciate a chance to relax for a few minutes.
(6) Provide plenty of fresh water, but know that some horses just quit drinking while they’re being transported. Also, they may not like the water in another area. If you notice that your horse isn’t drinking, you may want to wet his hay to make sure he stays hydrated.
(7) Shipping boots can be expensive, but if you already own them, they can support and protect your horse’s legs. If you know how to wrap legs correctly this can also help, but if you’re not sure how to do it, better to go without. Some horses throw their heads up when loading and unloading and can benefit from a leather head guard. You can purchase one at a tack shop or online.
(8) If you have to travel alone, have someone on hand to help you load your horse. Even with easy loaders, it’s helpful to have someone who can put up the strap behind the horse once he’s in the trailer. You may prefer lead ropes over trailer ties, just don’t use both.
(9) Emergencies can happen and you need to be prepared to handle a large animal that may be frightened or hurt. Ask your vet for the correct dose of a tranquilizer and have it with you along with syringes and needles. You may also want to ask your vet about taking a pain medication with you as well.
(10) Even in winter, ventilation is necessary to keep your horse from getting too warm. If there are open spots in your trailer, you can blanket your horse. I’d rather see a horse be a little chilly than too warm and sweating.
Traveling with your horse can be a great way to ride and enjoy the terrain in different parts of the country. Some advance planning can help make your trips safe and actually enjoyable.