Horse Trailer Essential Checklist
Don’t forget, not only your horse needs preparation for the competition season! Check out our towing vehicle and horse trailer safety checklist – Equimat North America wishes all your equine adventures will all be happy ones! Remember Equimat Ultimat Supersoft are the only therapeutic horse trailer mats in North America – easy to install, clean, disinfect and so much better for your horses!
1. Inspection of Towing vehicle, Trailer and all Tires. Know your tires! Have a specialist tire shop look all tires and spares over for wearing and cracking. Balance is as important in your trailer as your vehicles. Make sure you have two spare trailer tires that are /in good condition and real replacements, not temporary short haul spares. Tires tend to be bought at the same time so often have issues from age or wear at the same time – we know from experience! Inspect beyond your tires for deterioration. After a thorough wash inside and out with the appropriate cleaner, go through the trailer and ensure there are no broken parts or areas of corrosion. Aluminum wears quickly be if not kept clean. It is inexpensive to sort wear when it starts but a major cost if you need to repair major corrosion.
2. Insurance and road assist. If you are showing outside your province, state or country make sure your emergency plan is for RV or Trailer assistance and valid in areas you are travelling. Check your insurance through membership in equine societies like Equine Canada or USEF is valid for your entire travel route. Many plans like AAA or CAA require special policy extensions to apply to trailers (even RV cover may exclude horse trailers). Ensure you have cover for horse emergency care. Many policies do not cover costs for moving horses from site of trailer break down or emergency stabling! Imagine breaking down on a major highway and discovering no one will help you if you are faced with a breakdown that disables further travel and you have horses on board.
3. Grease moving parts. All trailers have several grease knobs on various moving parts. It’s a good idea to grease your trailer according to the manufacturer’s specifications. For example, it’s recommended to grease the doors, windows, etc. once a month. Since the trailer has aluminum, I have good-quality grease that is approved for use on that surface.
4. Only use Equimat Trailer mats. If you have the outdated conveyor belt or recycled tire black mats our strong advice is replace them with Equimat Ultimats. The other mats have zero therapeutic support, are abrasive, heavy and a nightmare to lift for inspecting your trailer floor bed. Mats should be lifted at least once a month as accumulated urine and manure damage the flooring, regardless of whether your trailer floor is wood, aluminum, or steel. Wash your trailer thoroughly and let air dry completely after each journey. Once out, let the floor dry completely and sprinkle lime or baking to neutralize the ammonia and bacteria build up.
Equimat Ultimats have an underside tredplate that allows air to circulate and are lightweight. Ultimat Standard weighs just 16 lbs. and Ultimat Supersoft (recommended) just 22 lb. so easy to lift and place back down plus reduce overall trailer weight which is a major hauling concern. Our interlocking mats have locks all round so stay in place and will not shift or roll up as old style matting dangerously tends to do. See https://equimats.com/products/horse-trailer-mats/
4. Lug nuts. Check your trailer manual as it should specify how often you need to check the tightness on your wheel lug nuts and exactly how much torque they should be tightened to.
5. Brakes and Bearings A professional job and done as frequently as recommended by your manufacturer. Minimum is at the beginning of each season and after long journeys.
6. Lights. Make sure all lights are working properly and no bulbs are burned out. This includes internal trailer lights Carry extra replacement bulbs and parts. Make sure to have at least one LED solar charge, portable light for use in emergencies or just great convenience for night checks at horse shows or those early morning braiding and grooming sessions. A small light that you can attach with a strap around your head is also useful when you need to use both hands and holding a flashlight would be cumbersome.
7. Roadside emergency kit. In addition to spare tires and parts for towing vehicle and trailer, carry two large fluorescent triangles, flares, 2 solar powered/rechargeable LED lights for lighting up to change tires, membership card and numbers for roadside assist. You may not be in mobile phone reception so have a CB or radio communication device to get help.
8. Map and contacts your journey and list trailer and truck emergency garages along your route. Ensure both your trailer and vehicle manuals, proof of insurance and full horse emergency information is in a laminated and organized binder with current information (vets along routes, horse “hotel” contact info, passports for humans and animals if crossing borders, horseshow contact information as may be nearby competitors who can assist if you are stranded.
9. Carry both human and horse first aid kits in the trailer. Inspect at start of season you have a fully stocked kit and all contents are within expiry time make sure they are all back and restocked including any first aid items.
10. Towing Vehicle Maintenance and Fuel Levels. Like the trailer, review all safety and maintenance information for your vehicle. Of critical importance is ensuring all fluid levels are filled to the top with correct (oil, window cleaning, etc.). As my father used to say “Keep the top half of the fuel tank full; you may encounter unexpected delays causing you to run out of gas or diesel or experience some other breakdown (eg. Idling for hours in an unexpected traffic jam).
For extra insurance, make sure you have a full emergency gas or diesel can with the correct fuel for the vehicle you are driving. Many new diesel engine vehicles require DEF or diesel engine fluid as a special fuel additive so check you are full. Check you have sufficient DEF for length of journey (see your vehicle manual) and carry as from experience have found it is not available at all service stations. This is critical as on many new truck when the DEF is below required levels, the vehicle computerized system interfere with operation of vehicle (may stop or slow) until the required DEF levels are reset.
Avoid the stress of being unsure of the next exit by searching for the best route for your journey in advance. Make sure it is and having a printed copy With even the best planning before you start your trip, the next service station on your route may not be open or perhaps inaccessible for your rig.
11. Travel with an alternate driver. In a perfect world try have a horse savvy travel companion that can share the driving and provide assistance in an emergency.
12. Carry extra food and water for both people and animals. Have non-electric requiring entertainment to keep bored children amused during a breakdown.
13. Take regular breaks. Horses need to rest at regular intervals as do drivers. Never drive to the point of being tired and immediately stop at first safe pull over location if you sense you are losing focus. Ideally, plan your journey to include regular stops at trailer friendly locations you have identified BEFORE you leave. Take a power nap; do not rely on stimulants such as caffeine. Many truck stops have rooms for resting and showers to refresh the driver. Offer horses water at stops and refill hay nets. Best trailers have drop down window grates for easily providing water.
14. Hydration For summer shows or seasonal winter tours in hot locations, make sure both human and horse electrolytes are in stock. Real electrolytes from a vet and from a pharmacy are preferred to sugar drinks that give temporary energy bursts that are followed by a drop in your blood sugar that may cause fatigue and dangerous loss of concentration. Make sure you carry water from home in containers and a bowl that will fit through the trailer window to offer what at rest or stopovers, See next blog for special advice on hydration.