Trailering A Horse (5 Easy Steps)

trailering a horse

Trailering a horse comes with a lot of risks so its of immense importance that you know what you’re doing before you set off with your horse to new adventures. If you are trailering a horse for the first time, make sure you bring an experienced person along when you hook up the trailer and only go a short distance the first time. Having your own horse trailer and towing vehicle give horse owners the freedom to move their horse as they please to horse shows etc without the cost of hiring a horse hauler.

Pick a Strong Tow Vehicle

Photo: Tundras

Your towing vehicle needs to be strong as you want to stay under 75% of the maximum recommended towing capacity. Most horse owners in the United States use trucks for hauling horse trailers with a towing capacity over 9000lbs (approx 4000kg), this is needed in the US as there are lots of mountains with hills and lots of traffic, and most of the older style trailers are made of steel which makes them much heavier than European style horse trailer. In Europe however many horse owners haul their horses with a normal SUV or sedan with a towing capacity of only 4400lbs (2000kg). European horse trailer makers use aluminum as the main material for their trailers which make the weight of the trailer lighter and there is less hilly terrain. To be safe though we always recommend going for a higher towing capacity than you need to made sure you and your horse gets to your destination safely. Especially if you are travelling long distances. 

Buy a Suitable Horse Trailer

There are a range of trailer makers which all offers slightly different designs and features. If you are buying a used horse trailer make sure you have it thoroughly checked out by a trailer mechanic. 

Type of Horse Trailers

Things to look out for: If the trailer floor safe? Any rust? Rust can make the trailer leak and become unsafe.  What type of trailer do you want? A Straight load trailer is more common in Europe while Americans love their slant load trailer. A stock trailer tend to be a bit more affordable  but we recommend investing in a enclosed trailer with good ventilation for your horse’s safety. If you tow with a pickup truck then a Gooseneck trailer is an option which gives you a bit more space for tack inside the trailer and some people find them easier to haul with. Or if you are hauling with an SUV then a bumper pull trailer is the way to go. It is important that you train your horse to back out and backup on the ground before loading it unless you are hauling in slant-load trailers. Also look at the horse trailer weights to make sure you are well under the limit for your vehicle. You also need to estimate approximtely 1000lbs per horse and 200lbs for tack and accessories.  You also want to have the tires checked regularly and keep a spare tire with you as a flat tire on the freeway with 2 horses inside is not fun.

Install Electrical Breaks

It is against the law in the US to haul a horse trailer without electrical breaks installed. Most trailer repair shops offer this service and it costs anywhere between $180-$500 depending on where you live. Also make sure all brake lights and indicator lights are functioning properly. Even if you haul and put your car in a lower gear when going downhill, you still need trailer breaks as there is a lot of force pushing on your car when the trailer is fully loaded with horses. 

Train Your Horse to Trailer

Photo: Josh Nicol Horse rearing near horse trailer

This is one of the most important steps and horses are prey animals and herd animals and if a horse panics you can end up in a very dangerous situation if you don’t get out of the way quickly. Some popular groundwork exercises you can do with you horse is lunging it with a flag (extension of your arm) outside the trailer on both reins to make the horse concentrate on you. Horses responds very well to pressure and release, once you stopped using the flag and ‘release’ the horse onto the trailer where it can rest and relax, then the trailer becomes a positive experience. If you are inexperienced however its a good idea to get help from an experienced horse trainer. Other popular tools for trailer loading a horse is a lunge whip, lunge line and horse treats. An inexperienced horse tend to find slant loads more inviting and easier to get on as they are more open and they can usually turn around and walk out rather than backing out. 

Drive Max 55mph

Always drive the speed limit and maximum 55mph on the freeway. Its important to break early and slowly when hauling horses as any sudden turns can make your horse fall over and injure itself. The horse’s body weighs a lot and its not natural for them to balance on a trailer so its important you help them out and make the trip more comfortable by driving slow in corners.

Safety Tips

  • Horses can kick the door once they are on the trailer, so once you close the butt bar then close the door carefully and stay away and be prepared that a young horse could kick.
  • Horses throw themselves backwards when you open the butt bar, this is common with young horses or problem horses. Always open the butt bar carefully and get out of the way quickly if you don’t know the horse
  • Horse jumps into the trailer, this can crush you if you are walking in front of the horse. If you are loading the horse into a straight load then try to teach the horse to self load so it doesn’t jump into you if it panics
  • Use a flag instead of a whip, a flag is usually just as effective and you are not hurting the horse
  • Use a trailer tie as a safety measure in case the horse panics or falls over
  • Keep a hay bag in the trailer, this will keep the horse calmer and occupied when being hauled
  • Open vents in the trailer for airflow
  • Put shipping boots on your horse to protects its lefs
  • Put shavings in the trailer, this makes the trip more comfortable and protects the floor if the horse pees
  • Take breaks if you are trailering over many days – long trips are tiring for the horse
  • Buy a camera to watch your horse, there are many affordable options
  • Regularly service your trailer and tow vehicle. Make sure floor is safe etc. and tire pressure is correct
  • Wear gloves and a helmet if you are trailering a difficult to load horse 
  • Even though trailer a horse can be dangerous, its also important that once you have gone through all the safety aspects then enjoy the trip and have a good time! Taking your horse to shows or trail riding off property is super fun and can be done safely and successfully if you take your time setting you and your horse up for success. This article is for educational purposes only and is only a general guide how horse trailer can be done, there are of course more aspects to consider which may have not been mentioned in this text.

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