Prepare Your Horse Trailer for Travel Season

Before the start of the summer travel season, it is critically important for horse owners to perform basic yet essential maintenance on their trailers.This will be time well spent because it will ensure that their trailers will be in optimal shape to provide safe passage for precious cargo during the upcoming season.

"A good roadside assistance program is something all horse owners should have but hope they will never have to use," said Mark Cole, managing member for USRider, a national provider of roadside emergency assistance for horse owners. "To that end, our mission is to continually educate horse owners about trailering safety."

To provide a reliable and accessible source of information about trailering safety, USRider maintains an Equine Trailer Safety Area on its Web site.  

"We have carefully developed this area to be a resource with helpful and practical topics--all free and available to members and non-members alike," added Cole. "Our Web site is designed so visitors can print out information as a handy reference. We also post safety bulletins as new information develops."

Some of available resources include a list of items every horse trailer should have on board, short trip and long trip precautions, and trailer inspection procedures.

Here are some tips to prepare your trailer for the upcoming travel season:

  • Remove and inspect all wheels and hubs or brake drums.
  • Inspect suspension for wear.
  • Check tightness of hanger bolt, shackle bolt, and U-bolt nuts per recommended torque values.
  • Check brake linings, brake drums, and armature faces for excessive wear or scoring.
  • Check brake magnetic coil with an ohmmeter. The magnetic coil should check 3.2 ohms (+/- 0.3ohms). If shorted or out of tolerance, replace.
  • Lubricate all brake moving parts, using a high temperature brake lubricant.
  • Remove any rust from braking surface and armature surface of drums.
  • Inspect oil or grease seals for wear or nicks. Replace if necessary.
  • Inspect and grease wheel bearings.

In addition to these recommendations, horse owners are advised to check all trailer tires, (including spares) for signs of dry rot, correct air pressure, faulty air valves, uneven tire wear, overall tire wear, and damage. Use a high-quality air pressure gauge to inspect tire pressure before each trip. Always replace tires if worn or damaged. In addition, tires should be replaced every three to five years regardless of mileage. When replacing tires, always replace the valve stems. USRider recommended that only high quality tires specifically designed and rated for trailers be used--never use retread or automobile tires on a horse trailer.

It is also important to service the wheel bearings every 12,000 miles or annually (regardless of mileage) due to moisture build-up. Keep a spare set of wheel bearings in your trailer in case of premature failure. Be sure to inspect trailer wiring and lighting; inspect door latches and grease the doors; inspect the floor (be sure to remove any rubber mats so the entire floor can be examined); and inspect and lubricate mechanical moving parts, such as the hitch and suspension parts. If the trailer has been sitting for a while, check for wasp nests, spider webs, and any other creatures that might have taken up residence.

Cole also reminded equestrians to check the contents of their equine and human first aid kits.

Those hauling horses are also encouraged to program emergency contact information into their cell phones under the listing designation "ICE," which stands for In Case of Emergency. This can aid emergency workers in identifying victims and determining who needs to be notified in case of an accident.

Horse owners should also ensure that their emergency contact information is stored in their tow vehicle. To facilitate this, USRider has developed an In Case of Emergency form and posted it online for horse owners to print out. Simply fill in the blanks and store copies in the tow vehicle as well as in the trailer. Additional recommendations, including a Power of Attorney form, are posted on the USRider Web site.

For additional safety tips, visit the Equine Travel Safety Area on the USRider Web site.  

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