WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #168
Stay safe the same way pilots do: Never take off until you've
checked off every prep step.
BY JENNIFER VON GELDERN
When you haul your horse, the day of departure tends to be
hectic, whether you're off to a competition or a trailhead. If
you're mentally frazzled, or just running late, it's easy to
overlook important preparation, driving, and parking procedures.
You might even be tempted to take a shortcut or two. However,
doing so can put your horse at risk for illness or injury. Keep
him comfortable and safe with this pre-trip checklist - plus
driving and parking tipsfrom hauling experts Tom and Neva
Before You Go
Perform a health check.
On the morning of your trip, record your horse's condition to
determine whether he's healthy enough to travel. (You'll also
have a baseline to check against as you haul.) Check to see
whether he's eating and drinking normally, and has left the same
number of manure piles as usual. Check his vital signs
(temperature, pulse, respiration, gum color). If anything seems
amiss, call your veterinarian for advice. However, if all seems
normal, you're ready to roll.
Once you're on the road.
Continue to monitor your horse's temperature, his feed and water
intake, and number of manure piles. If you spot anything abnormal
for him, call your vet. (Tip: Keep a laminated card with your
vet's phone number in your tow vehicle at all times.) Also, in
your cell phone's contact list, mark with the letters ICE (In
Case of Emergency) the names of those to be notified in case you
have an accident and are unable to call them your self. First
responders will check your phone and know whom to notify. Mark
your vet's name or someone who knows how to take care of your
horse with ICE HORSE.
Make sure your trailer is truly on the ball and that the hitch is
locked around it.
Check that the emergency brake, both safety chains, and
electrical cord are properly attached. With a helper, make sure
your tow vehicle's and trailer's brakes, lights, and turn signals
Apply leg/head protection.
Most injuries occur during loading and unloading. Wraps or boots
will protect your horse's legs and coronary bands (the top edges
of his hooves) from trauma. If you're inexperienced at wrapping
legs, apply shipping boots instead. (An improperly applied leg
wrap can cause injury, or it can unravel, creating a risk of
tripping and/ or entanglement.) Then apply a head bumper to
protect his poll, should he rear and bump his head. If you have
an open stock trailer, also apply a fly mask to help prevent eye
injuries from insects and flying debris.
Check your trailer.
Check your hitch. Secure bars or dividers. Once you've loaded
your horse in a straight-load trailer, fasten the butt bar or
divider securely behind him. Then, if there's a breast bar up
front, check that it's fastened. In a slant-load, make sure the
dividers are secure. If not fastened securely, these
bars/dividers will fail to support and confine your horse during
travel. If your horse is loose, the resulting imbalance can cause
your trailer to sway or fishtail, which ultimately may cause a
traffic accident. Also, he could bolt as soon as the trailer door
is opened, putting himself and others at risk for an injury.
Tie your horse.
Tying your horse's head keeps him from moving around in the
trailer. (For loose-horse risks, see above.) But do so after
securing the butt bar or divider. Otherwise, he may pull back,
get a hind leg (or both hind legs) outside the trailer, and
severely injure himself. Here are some trailer-tying tips.
ò Use an adjustable-length trailer tie with quick-release snaps
at both ends (available at tack shops and from catalogs). Avoid
stretchy versions, which can be lethal if released under
* If your trailer tie has only one quick-release snap, attach
that end to the trailer, not to the horse's halter. That way, if
he panics, you can reach he snap safely and easily-and once you
release him, you can grab the rope. If you must tie with a lead
rope, tie with a quick-release knot.
* Tie your horse at a length that allows him to stand
comfortably, reach his hay, and touch his rear boundary with his
hind end, but doesn't allow him to put his head under the bar or
over the divider, or a leg over his rope.
* Attach the trailer tie to your halter's lower-left side ring,
rather than the bottom one under his jaw, to prevent accidental
Secure your trailer.
Once your horse is loaded, close and fasten all trailer doors,
including the main tailgate or rear doors, access doors, and
tack-room or tack-compartment doors. At the end of the driveway,
re-check everything you did in the "Check your trailer" step
before pulling away. Anytime you stop on the way, check
everything again. On the road, stop and investigate any strange
sound-your and your horse's lives could be at stake.
* Drive the minimum speeds to avoid creating a traffic hazard.
* Allow plenty of stopping time. At speeds below 40 miles per
hour, allow at least one second for each 10 feet of your rig's
length between your vehicle and the one ahead of you (i.e., four
seconds for a 40-foot rig); at greater speeds, add one second for
safety (i.e., five seconds for a 40-foot rig). Allow more time if
the road is slick with rain, snow, or ice. To calculate distance,
wait until the vehicle ahead of you passes a clear landmark, such
as a highway sign. Then count off the seconds until you pass the
* Avoid slamming on your brakes, which could injure or terrify
your horse, or worse, cause an accident.
* Adjust your speed to hit green lightsyour horse will appreciate
the smooth ride. ò Use your turn signals so other drivers can
accommodate your change of direction.
* Make your turns wide and slow to help your horse balance
through them. As you finish your turns, give him a few seconds to
rebalance before accelerating.
* Find a level area for stability. If you must park on a slope,
position your rig perpendicular to it.
* Place a chock (a tire block available at tire dealers, auto
stores, and discount department stores) under your trailer wheels
to help prevent accidental rolling.
* If your horse is inside your trailer (or tied to the outside of
it), leave it hitched to your towing vehicle-a panicked horse can
overturn an unhitched trailer, even if its wheels are chocked.
Tom and Neva Kittrell Scheve design horse trailers for safety and
toughness (visit equispirit.com). Neva, with research and
development assistance from Tom, has also authored three books on
OCTOBER 2011 HORSE AND RIDER