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The Cape Fear Equestrian
Trailer Safety

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By Jennifer Lenfestey
June 2002

As the number of events and activities increase in the area, so do the number of horses on the road.  Be sure you take the appropriate measures to get you and your horses there safely.
 
The biggest concern for safety is the trailer itself.  What type of trailer you use is mostly preference, some prefer goosenecks and other bumper pulls.  Goosenecks distribute the weight of the load evenly, causing less wear and tear on the engine, transmission and brakes of the truck.  Bumper pulls can be pulled by a wider variety of vehicles, like large SUVs and small RVs.  Bumper pulls are more economical for single horse owners and larger goosenecks suit the larger horse operations.  When choosing a trailer, you should also consider the color.  The inside temperature of lighter colored trailers can be up to 30 degrees cooler than darker trailers. Remember that all trailers should be equipped with a spare tire and first aid kit.
 
Drop down windows have become very popular, allowing easy feeding and extra ventilation.  They are not made for your horse to hang his head out while going down the road.  Besides the obvious danger of your horse being struck by other vehicles and road debris, small unseen particles can cause serious problems to your horse's eyes and respiratory tract.
 
When hitching your trailer to your vehicle, come up with a routine and do it the same each time.  This will allow you to quickly and efficiently hook up and go without missing important steps.  You should always use the correct ball size for your hitch and check all of the lights before every trip.  Another precaution would be to recheck your hitch and lights after every stop made along the way to be sure something or someone has not caused anything to come undone.
 
There are several things to consider to haul your horse comfortably.  Bedding is one thing you can add to help cushion the impact as well as absorb urine and odors.  A bedding made 6 inches deep with either wood chips or straw is the most suitable.  Shavings are smaller and lighter, therefore blow around getting in your horses eyes and nose cutting down on air quality.  Air quality can be a big concern when hauling for a long period of time.  Another concern for long distance hauling is how you tie your horse.  Your horses head should be tied long enough to drop down enabling mucus to be drained.  Bacteria counts tend to increase in the trachea within 6-12 hours of constraint and can take 12 hours to decrease after being turned loose.
 
Everyone wants their horse to arrive in style, but when it comes to clothing, less is better.  Horses can become stressed in a trailer which can cause an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and muscular tension, therefore causing a rise in temperature.  You should be most concerned with keeping your horse cool and safe, especially in the warmer months.  As for leg wear, shipping boots are better than leg wraps.  Leg wraps can be applied too tight causing damage to the legs, or too loose causing a tripping and tangling hazard for your horse.  If your horse tends to kick or scramble around in the trailer or is riding with a horse who is, then he needs protection, otherwise your horse should do fine without.  Whatever you do plan on putting on your horse for the trip, be sure you familiarize him with the items weeks before.  He'll have enought to contend with in getting used to and riding in the trailer.  Having to deal with strange feeling and smelling items on him will just be another added stress he and you could do without.

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