As show season and warmer weather approaches, traveling with your horses to shows or trail rides will become a regular occurrence. The safety of you, the horse and the equipment is important to focus on before traveling and trailering your horse. By being unprepared and not performing routine maintenance, you can become stranded and as frustrated as a moody chestnut mare. These regular maintenance checks will ensure you have the smoothest travel possible.

Routine Items Include (each time you haul):

Inside Trailer:

  • Check for loose or protruding nails, bolts or screws and remove or repair them.
  • Check floorboards for any weakness or rotting. Replace shavings if necessary. To help lengthen the life of a trailer floor, mats should be lifted after use and the floor swept or hosed out. If the floor is hosed, be sure it is dry before the mats are replaced.
  • Remove debris from drainage holes to lengthen the life of your trailer.
  • Check for bees and wasp nests.
  • Ensure all locks and partitions are in working order.
  • Remove any old hay and replace with fresh hay.

Outside the Trailer:

  • Tires need a minimum amount of ¼” of tread (check with your state Division of Motor Vehicles for the measurement); they should be adequately inflated and have no signs of dry rot cracks. Spare tires also should be checked.
  • Jacks, lug wrenches, and safety triangles or reflectors should be in good working order in case of breakdown. (Ignitable flares should not be stored in the horse trailer because of fire potential.)
  • All lights (marker, tail, brake, directional, and interior) should be working and bright.
  • Hitch welds, safety chain welds, and snaps should be in good repair.
  • Hitch ball should be kept greased as needed.
  • Wheel chocks should be in good condition. Use them any time the trailer is unhitched from the towing vehicle.

Yearly Maintenance Checks Include:

  • Inspection of frame for cracks and wires for loose connections and frayed covering.
  • Replace any rotten floorboards or repair any damage to the flooring.
  • Repair or replacement of rotted or rusted metal.
  • Greasing of all hinges, springs, etc.
  • Inspection of ramp hinges and springs for weakness and cracks.
  • Wheels should be pulled and bearings checked and repacked.
  • Inspection of spring shackles for wear.
  • Inspection of brakes and emergency break-away cable, pin and control box.

Your horse should be as prepared as you are when hauling. Ensure that your equine partner loads well in advance of any scheduled events. A calm loading experience will minimize the amount of added stress when trailering. Horses should be trailered in a breakaway type halter in case it gets snagged during travel. Leather will break easier than nylon. If the weather is hot, open all vents and windows for adequate air flow. Adding roof vents to your trailer is an inexpensive way to increase airflow for your horses.

Safe hauling is about preparedness and proper planning

When hauling a trailer, it is essential to stay focused and safe. Follow these tips for a safe trip:

  • Don’t be distracted on your phone.
  • Never speed and use the 4 second rule when following other vehicles.
  • Drive based on road conditions not the speed limit.
  • Anticipate other drivers on the road and be prepared to stop safely at all times.
  • Avoid sudden maneuvers, like turns and lane changes.
  • Use your mirrors and be sure they are properly set up for you.
  • Learn to back the trailer with mirrors.

More resources can be found in the Understanding the Horse Trailer Rig publication by Purdue Extension.

Ashley Best, Newton County Extension Coordinator