Whether you are a seasoned equestrian or a new horse owner, trailering your horse can be a daunting task but does not have to be uncomfortable for you or your horse.

Many factors influence equine welfare while trailering. However, the right vehicle, proper trailer maintenance, careful driving, and thorough preparation will help ensure a safe and successful journey with your horse.

Ensure your horse is familiar with the trailer before hitting the road, and practice loading and unloading several times at home. To keep your horse safe, it is imperative to gather relevant paperwork and carry the necessary equipment you or your horse may require.

Even with the best preparation, travelling to new facilities, competitions, or clinics can cause travel stress in horses. Trailering also increases the risk of dehydration, ulcers, gut issues, and respiratory problems.

This article will review trailering tips to keep your horses happy and safe on the road and discuss how to support equine health while travelling.

Horse Trailering Safety

Equine and human safety should remain the top priority when trailering. Before trailering your horse, check that you have an appropriate rig and know how to drive it safely.

Regular inspection and maintenance of your rig will help ensure your vehicle and trailer are safe for towing, even when you need to transport your horse unexpectedly.

Vehicle

Towing vehicles need adequate power to climb hills and safely accelerate while pulling your horse trailer. These vehicles also need reliable brakes to safely bring the rig to a gradual stop and electrical systems that connect to electric trailer brakes.

Towing Capacity

Determine the vehicle towing capacity required to safely transport your horse and any tack, gear or supplies you need on the road.

Engine size and gear ratio provide towing power, while heavy-duty suspension and well-adjusted braking systems support stopping ability.

Trailering horses is very different from towing other payloads. Loaded horse trailers have a high center of gravity, and horses constantly shift their weight during travel.

Staying at least 10-20% below your vehicle’s towing capacity is essential when pulling live weight. [1]

Size

Vehicle weight and size should be appropriate for the trailer. For example, half-ton trucks are too small for large six-horse trailers but preferable for two-horse bumper pulls.

However, drivers might not be able to feel movement in a small trailer if they pull it with a one-ton truck. [2]

Features

Some vehicles have enough power to tow your trailer but lack the safety features necessary for trailering horses. For example, cars with short wheelbases and all-wheel drive sometimes offer less stability.

Vehicles also need a sturdy hitch attached to the frame. Hitches and balls should appropriately match between your trailer and vehicle to allow for the trailer to travel level with the ground. Safety chains should also be used to provide additional security to the hitch attachment and are often required by law.

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Trailer

Owners should account for their horse’s breed when selecting a horse trailer. Trailers need adequate height, length, and width to accommodate the horse’s body size. Some manufacturers offer “warmblood” models designed for larger horses.

Appropriately sized stalls allow horses to stand solidly on all four feet and shift back and forth to brace during travel. The stall width should also provide enough space to enable lateral movement on each side of the horse. [3]

Flooring

Trailer floors should be strong, textured, and resistant to moisture. Rotten wooden boards and slick flooring pose significant safety risks. Covering the floor with rubber mats provides extra cushion and grip, while wood shavings help absorb urine and feces.

Dividers

A solid divider or partial divider should separate horses. Solid dividers protect horses from being stepped on by travel companions but limit space for the horse to brace in a narrow trailer.

Standing stalls need a butt bar behind each horse that prevent them from pushing against the trailer door or backing out when it opens. Well-padded trailer walls, butt bars, and dividers help avoid injury from a sudden stop or turn. [4]

Loading

Loading ramps with a gentle slope and secure footing help prevent horses from slipping when entering or exiting a trailer. If you purchase a step-up trailer, choose one that is low enough to limit the risks of injury while loading or unloading.

Ventilation

Enclosed trailers should have overhead, side, and rear vents for airflow. Trailers quickly heat up with horses inside them, and inadequate ventilation can increase the risk of respiratory problems. [5]

Safety

Other safety features on horse trailers include trailer lights, brakes, and a spare tire. Owners should check that their trailer lights work and their tires are properly inflated before every trip.

Improper or uneven tire pressure is a common cause of towing problems. [2]

Driving

If you are new to trailering horses, seek instruction from experienced haulers