Owning a horse trailer gives you the freedom to explore new trails, pack up the family, and head to the show with your award-winning steed and more. Regardless of what exciting journey awaits you, one of the most important things you can do before you hit the road is to ensure that you are creating a safe experience for you, your horse, and others on the road.
So before you head out, use the following eight safety tips for towing your horse trailer.
#1: Match Your Trailer to Your Tow Vehicle
One of the most important factors in keeping you safe on the road is ensuring that the vehicle you are towing your horse trailer with is capable of handling the trailer's weight.
Vehicle manufacturers are responsible for determining tow vehicle ratings. These ratings are based on the engine size, transmission, axles, suspension, brakes, tires, etc. Check your owner’s manual to determine what towing capacity your vehicle has.
Keep in mind that you will need to calculate your max towing capacity based on the trailer you will be towing, the weight of all passengers, animals, cargo, and anything else added to the trailer or your vehicle.
Never exceed your vehicle’s recommended max towing capacity. In some cases, your vehicle might seem capable of towing more than the manufacturer recommends. Towing capacity isn’t just about whether your vehicle is capable of moving a heavier load; it’s more about your ability to stop and the long-term wear and tear on components. If you exceed the recommended weight, you put yourself and your animals on the road at risk.
#2: Inspect Used Trailers Thoroughly
If you decide to purchase a used horse trailer, make sure you take the time to carefully inspect the trailer before hitting the road. It can be particularly beneficial to have a trusted mechanic look over the trailer for you.
You’ll want to check the brake system, the tires, the axles, and the frame of the trailer. If you notice that anything seems amiss, take the trailer in for service immediately before using it to transport animals. Something as simple as replacing a bald tire can go a long way in keeping you safe on the road.
#3: Always Double-Check Tow Connections and Test Lights
Whether you are hooking up a bumper pull or a gooseneck, always take the time to double-check the trailer’s connections to your tow vehicle. Make it a point to do a walk around before you load your animals into the trailer.
When connecting your horse or livestock trailer to your tow vehicle, wires and chains can hang low to the ground. These can wind up dragging on the pavement, particularly when driving in dips or potholes. Make sure everything is secured high enough off the ground that you won’t damage wiring or create sparks by dragging chains on the road.
With the help of a friend, test the brake lights and turn signals before hitting the road as well. A loose connection or a burnt-out bulb can put you and your horses at risk when nearby drivers are unaware that you will be slowing down.
#4: Wait to Load Horses Until the Trailer is Hitched
Never load your horses into a trailer that has not been fully connected to your tow vehicle. Disconnected trailers are unstable, and loading horses first can become a tipping risk. It will make connecting the trailer more difficult when your horses already weigh it down.
#5: Make Sure Your Horse is Secure and Comfortable
Before you pull out onto the highway, make sure that you take the time to ensure that your horse is comfortable. Double-check that everything located inside the trailer is also securely fastened into place. This step will prevent large items, such as feeding bins, water troughs, and tackle from moving around in transit which can pose a hazard to your animals.
#6: Drive Slow and Steady
When towing a horse trailer, take your time on the road. Don’t swing quickly through turns, and avoid slamming on your accelerator or brakes. Instead, slowly bring your vehicle and trailer to speed and always obey posted speed limits.
In some cases, you may even need to drive under the speed limit on interstates. Most horse trailers will come with a recommended top speed, so pay attention to this number and never exceed the maximum recommendation.
Remember, stopping your vehicle and trailer together will take a lot more time than your vehicle by itself. Leave ample room between you and other vehicles.
#7: Stop for Breaks
Towing a horse trailer can add stress to your trip. You will need to pay extra careful attention to your driving, and if you’re not used to navigating a vehicle and trailer, everything will require more effort and careful maneuvering.
Make sure that you stop every few hours to take a break. This time off the road will help clear your mind, and you can also use the opportunity to check on your horses. Make sure that they are comfortable, cool, and hydrated.
#8: Replace an Unsafe Trailer
One of the most dangerous things you can do is continue to operate a trailer that is past its prime. Faulty brakes, damaged tires, and a rusted frame can all spell trouble on the road. If you need to replace an unsafe horse trailer, visit Transwest. We carry a quality selection of horse trailers ranging from single horse trailers to large gooseneck trailers with built-in living quarters. Stop by one of our locations to learn more or schedule an inspection of your existing trailer. We look forward to assisting you in staying safe on the road.
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