What You Need to Know Before Hauling a Horse

Trailer Window
A horse relaxes in the trailer after the completion of a safe journey. Here’s how to make sure your travels are safe and relaxing, too. Photo: Lesley Ward


A fragile treasure needs to be layered in bubble-wrap and carefully nestled in a protective box for shipping. While you can’t wrap your horse in strapping tape and packaging material to protect him, you can take steps to ensure he will arrive safely at his destination.

Begin by inspecting your trailer thoroughly. Your checklist should include:

  • Flooring – The supporting framework and the flooring itself should be examined before each trip. Urine and manure corrode metal, even aluminum, and degrade structural integrity. Lift the mats and look for signs of weakness, rust, and rot. Check along seams, edges, and fasteners where moisture tends to accumulate. Cleaning and air drying your trailer after every use will prolong the life of your floor.
  • Latches and hinges – Make sure hinges and latches will keep trailer doors closed and your horse inside where he belongs. An occasional spritz of lubricating spray will protect and make them easier to operate.
  • Tie rings – Your horse needs to be tied securely whether he’s inside or outside your trailer. Tie rings can be pulled loose over time so make sure they are firmly attached.
  • Gates, Dividers, and Butt Bars – Trailer gates, stall dividers, butt bars, and chains are often fastened with metal pins. Road vibration and rollicking travelers can cause them to become unseated and should be checked. Swing and latch gates and bars to make sure they are moving easily and attaching securely so you don’t have to deal with any surprises while you’re loading your horse.
  • Tires – Check tire pressure before each trip both to prolong the life of the tires and to make sure they are safe on the road. Visually inspect the tires for damage and undue wear and replace them when necessary.
  • Brakes – Most trailers are equipped with electric brakes connected to controllers inside the tow vehicle. Test them with your trailer empty by driving at a very slow speed, not much more than a crawl, and set the controller to activate the trailer brakes just before the vehicle’s brakes engage. If they are working properly, you’ll feel a grab when the trailer tires slow. When the trailer is loaded, the brake controller should be set to activate the vehicle brakes first.
  • Lights – Make sure your turn signals and brake lights are functioning and nighttime running lights are coming on so that your trailer is visible to other drivers.
  • Hitch – The importance of having a properly secured and suitable hitch cannot be overstated. Make sure the trailer is securely fastened, the locking pin is firmly in place, and the safety chains are connected tightly to the tow vehicle. If you have a bumper pull trailer, the chains should cross under the hitch. Once your horse is loaded and you’ve rolled to the end of your drive, hop out and give your entire rig a quick once over to make sure all is well.
Photo: Lesley Ward


With your trailer and horse ready to roll, it’s time to get on the road. However, hauling a live animal is not the same as an everyday commute. Follow these guidelines as you drive:

  • Leave plenty of time to arrive – Rushing and hauling never mix. Always be calm and attentive when you’re driving your rig. Arriving safely is always more important than being on schedule.
  • Give your horse a smooth ride – Accelerate slowly. Roll to a stop instead of stopping suddenly to help your horse maintain his balance. Take each corner wide and slow. If you feel your weight shift in your seat during a turn, your horse’s weight is being shifted too.
  • Drive with your eyes a mile down the road – Anticipating upcoming traffic, a changing signal, or road hazards means less stress on your horse. Watch out for stale green lights and decelerate as you approach intersections. Braking hard or suddenly swerving can upset the stability of your trailer and increase your horse’s risk of injury. Give yourself more distance than you think you need between yourself and fellow drivers.

These special considerations will help protect your precious cargo and ensure that you both arrive safely.

Want more info on trailering? Here are more articles for you:
Video: Inspecting a Horse Trailer
What Your Horse Needs to Know Before Getting in a Trailer
How to Find the Right Horse Trailer


  1. Every item number is good advise. I see so many trailers, where the lights are not working, or rusty and holes around the edge. I worry for the safety of the horses inside, and the driver, and people on the road.


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