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Training Mythunderstandings
Long Distance Trailering and Preparations
by Ron Meredith

The type of trailer you will be using greatly affects how hard a seven to ten hour trip is on your horses. A light bumper pull trailer bounces much more, tiring the horses, possibly causing some stocking up in their legs and dehydration. A heavier gooseneck trailer provides a smoother trip.

Before the trip you want to make sure that the horses have eaten normally and had access to all the clean water they will drink. If you have any horses that have never been trailered, teach them to load and take them on a short trip prior to your long trip. Always turn and stop very slowly the first few times so the horses can get their balance.

Complete all your towing vehicle and trailer preparations prior to loading any horses. Be sure to top off all the fluids, especially brake fluid, oil and water. Check and inflate all the tires on your towing vehicle and your trailer. Don't forget to check your spare. Trailers are far more prone to blown tires than vehicles. Existing problems are more likely to appear on longer trips than around town. Traveling over steep grades makes overheating your vehicle a bigger possibility but is not a concern for the horses.

Be sure to take enough tools to change tires plus at least a screw driver and a crescent wrench. Jumper cables, a flashlight and spare water and oil for the towing vehicle would be well advised. Pulling a load will cause your towing vehicle to run hotter and possibly use some oil. Take some blocks of wood or bricks to place behind the wheels and under the hitch should you have to stop on an incline. A floor jack or heavy bottle jack makes changing trailer tires easier. Don't forget that you may want to jack the trailer up with the horses on it so allow for a heavier jack than you need for an unloaded trailer.

Verify that your hitch will lock, ramps and doors will close, and your lights work on the trailer well before you are ready to leave. Minor problems with lights are usually due to poor grounds, loose wires and corrosion where the bulbs insert. I carry spare bulbs but if you need some on a trip they are the same kind used in Tractor-trailer (big truck) lights. Check the flooring for weak spots. Never haul horses in a bare floor. The minimum requirement is to have rubber mats. For long trips it is nice to use some type of bedding. Straw, shavings and hay are all fine.

If your trailer has individual stalls for each horse, it is safest to tie each horse using a tie with a quick release or tying a quick release knot. To tie a quick release knot, run the end of the lead through the trailer ring, make a loop and put the loop under the lead rope and then through it. If the rope releases when you pull on the end you have it right. Be sure the rope is long enough for the horses to touch the butt bar or door behind them so they won't pull back or lunge forward into the manger if there is one.

If you are using a stock trailer you can either leave the horses loose so they can move around or tie them, depending on how they get along with each other and how well they tie.

I like to hang hay nets so that the horses can nibble enroute. Be sure to tie them high enough off the ground that the horse can not get its feet into it.  Some people believe there is a risk of choking if horses are allowed to eat enroute but I have never had a problem. Take extra hay, enough grain to at least mix with any new feed they will receive and if at all possible, a supply of the water where you are coming from for the trip. Some horses will not drink water than smells or tastes different.

In addition to a halter on each horse, take a lead rope for each one just in case you have to unload them for any reason. Don't forget at least one bucket for water. I also carry a long (20-30ft.) rope with a snap on it, a stud chain or twitch (in case you have to restrain a scared or injured horse), a dressage length whip and a bucket for grain to coax a horse back into the trailer. Some furesone spray, a roll of vet wrap and some sheets or a roll of cotton make a minimal vet kit.

I hope these precautions don't worry you. In twenty years of horse breeding and hauling, I have never had more than a minor cut on a horse or needed the precautions. On a trip where I hauled a yearling who had never seen a trailer from Michigan to California, I just knew she would refuse to load but she always jumped right in because my gelding riding with her did. I've never even been onsite at a trailer accident, but its always nice to know you're prepared.

After you have loaded all your supplies and completed all preparations, load the horses and drive off as soon as they are loaded, starting out smoothly and taking the first few turns and stops easier than normal. After that the horses are generally used to riding.

Whenever you stop for fuel, let the horses stand quietly in the trailer. Check them over and offer them water. They probably won't drink most of the time. Plan to stop once or twice and eat a leisurely meal. While you are eating, the horses will have a chance to rest. Road vibration and balancing on turns and stops can be tiring for them. In the heat of summer you would want to park in the shade when you stop but you shouldn't have to worry about that this time of year. (If you ever take a trip across the desert, avoid traveling during the heat of the day.)

Although I have always heard that some horses will not urinate in the trailer and need to be unloaded if they won't, I have never had that problem. Most will relieve themselves if you let them rest while you eat. Even if they don't, ten hours probably would not be a problem.

Professional haulers only unload horses once every twenty-four hours, but their rigs are roomier and travel smoother than a trailer. For a trip that only lasts one day you don't need to unload them but you do need to let them rest when you stop to eat. It is safer not to unload them unless you have a place to put them or at least one handler per horse.

Before you leave check with a veterinarian and make sure you aren't required to carry health certificates and proof of negative Coggins. Every state has different regulations and there are quarantines in effect in several states due to contagious diseases and Rabies.   You may also want to take copies of your horses registration papers if they have any. My race trainer was once stopped hauling my trailer with my horses in it. Since he wasn't the owner of the trailer and didn't have any paperwork on the horses, they were going to hold him until they could contact me. A health certificate from your vet might be just as good since it will have your name and address and a description of the horses on it.

I think I've covered about everything, but if anything is unclear or you have more questions send them to info@equineinfo.com.  
Article located at: http://www.equineinfo.com/horsemanship/trailertips.htm

2000 Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre. All rights reserved.
Instructor and trainer Ron Meredith has refined his "horse logical" methods for communicating with equines for over 30 years as president of Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre, an ACCET accredited equestrian educational institution.
Rt. 1 Box 66
Waverly, WV 26184
(800)679-2603


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