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Horse Trailering

How to Hook Up Your Bumper Pull Trailer


You’ve done your research and bought the trailer that best suits your needs and is appropriate for your tow vehicle. Now it’s time to hitch up! It’s extremely important to complete the hitching process in the exact same order every time you do it. This will help prevent you from missing a crucial step, whether it’s hooking the safety chains or removing the blocks from the wheels.

  1. Line Up

    It can be much easier to hitch up your bumper-pull trailer if you have a friend helping to guide the ball under the coupler (the part that latches securely on the ball attached to your tow vehicle), but you can’t always count on someone else being there when you need to travel off the farm.

    There are some tricks you can use when you have to hitch solo. These include aligning the middle of the rear windshield wiper of your SUV with a specific painted mark on your trailer to line up the coupler with the ball in the bed. Additionally, backup cameras on some SUVs and trucks make hooking a snap.

    If you find yourself repeatedly struggling with hitching alone, there are handy products you can purchase to help align your ball with your hitch, or you can simply use a broom or other long-handled tool just behind the hitch on the trailer to help you find your sight line to hook up.

  2. Lower and Lock Hitch

    Once you get the ball under the hitch, crank down the jack until the hitch lowers onto the ball, then lock the hitch. Sometimes the coupler needs a kick or a knock so you can lock the cuff in place with the pin.

    When you’re lined up, lower the coupler onto the ball by turning the jack.
    The coupler may need a kick so it drops down on the ball securely and you can slide the cuff in place.

    Lock the cuff and use the pin to further secure it from opening while in motion.
  3. Plug in and Check Lights

    Next, plug your electric into the outlet near the truck’s license plate. You need to check your electric every time you hook up your trailer to make sure everything’s working properly.

    A quick way to check all of the trailer lights at once is by turning on both the running lights and the emergency flashers.

    Turn on headlights and flashers after plugging in to make sure all bulbs are working.

  4. Safety Chains

    Safety chains on a bumper pull should be crossed; this prevents the trailer tongue from dropping to the ground if the trailer comes off the ball.

    Criss-cross safety chains under the hitch to catch the coupler if it comes off the ball while you’re driving.

  5. Emergency Brake Cable

    Next, hook your emergency brake to the tow vehicle. This cable on a bumper pull can run through your truck or SUV frame and hook back to itself. Should your trailer ever come loose from the tow vehicle, the cable will tighten and pull the pin from the battery box (close to the hitch coupler), activating your trailer’s brakes and preventing a runaway trailer.

  6. Remove Chocks

    Lastly, pick up any wheel chocks and blocks used to support the jack before driving away.


  7. Final Inspection

    It’s a good idea to take a complete lap of your rig every time you hitch, laying eyes on everything from tire pressure to safety chains, and touching every door to ensure they’re latched properly. Truly, you can never be too cautious when hauling horses.


When it’s time to unhook your trailer, you will do the steps in the reverse to ensure you have not left a chain on or forgot to unhook the electric.

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Sarah E. Coleman

Based in Lexington, Ky., Sarah Coleman has a soft spot for chestnuts with chrome, including her off-the-track Thoroughbred, Chisholm. The pair competes in the hunters.

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