Your horse trailer carries some very precious cargo – help keep your equine companions safe with these innovative tips and equipment.
It’s sad to say, but over the last 20 years there have been few innovations in horse trailers, as compared to the auto/truck and RV industries. Cars can now park and drive themselves, automatically slow down when approaching obstacles, vibrate steering wheels if the center line is crossed, and even display icons that tell you to “take a rest” if the system detects erratic driving. The fact that the entire horse trailer industry comprises only a fraction of the auto/truck/RV industry is probably behind the lack of new trailer developments. There are ten million horses in the United States, owned by about four million horse owners; meanwhile, 8.9 million people own RVs and $570 billion is spent on cars every year. Some RV dealerships sell more retail units in a year than the largest horse trailer manufacturer will even build.
But thanks to the auto, truck and RV industry, quite a few new safety innovations are being implemented by the more safety-conscious horse trailer manufacturers, and many can be added aftermarket.
When a trailer tire blows, the consequences can range from an inconvenience to a major accident. At the very least, a blown tire can take out a trailer fender and perhaps leave you in the tenuous situation of having to deal with it out on the road. Tires can blow from age, dry rot, imperfection, or from an un-level trailer, but mostly they blow from improper inflation. There are now systems that monitor trailer tire pressure and temperature on a screen in your tow vehicle. Some monitors such as Tire Linc will sense rapid pressure fluctuations, providing a window of time to pull the vehicle over and visually inspect the tires, possibly preventing an accident. These systems typically run from $280 to $325.
When a trailer tire blows, the consequences can range from an inconvenience to a major accident.
Tips for reducing tire failure:
- Make sure the trailer is level so its weight is sitting on all four tires. An un-level trailer will overload one of the axles and its two tires, causing the tires to heat up and blow.
- Check the tire pressure before you leave the barn, and before you head back. You’re more apt to pick up a nail on the road than at the barn.
- Tires last about six years no matter how good they appear to be. The integrity of the tire changes and glues weaken.
- Keep the psi (pounds per square inch) at or near maximum. They will ride cooler, flex less and lengthen the life of the tire.
In an age when time is a premium, the use of cell phones and tablets while driving has become the norm even though it’s illegal in most states and provinces. As a consequence, the incidence of rear end collisions has grown dramatically. This has become a major concern for those who haul horses.
TowAlert is a highly visible strobe light designed to activate more quickly than your brake lights, warning drivers in back of you that you are slowing down. Although your brake lights provide the same function, TowAlert gives you one or two seconds’ safety margin by operating independently of the brake system – this can mean the difference between getting hit or not. It has been tested in the trucking industry and statistics proved that it reduced rear end collisions significantly. TowAlert is an option on some model horse trailers (standard on EquiSpirit) but can be easily installed aftermarket. It’s distributed by Equispirit for $249.
Tips to avoid rear end collision:
- Check the trailer brake lights when heading out and before coming back to the barn.
- If possible, have an extra set of brakes lights installed on the rear of the trailer for greater visibility.
- Add a set of turn signals to the fenders so they are visible to those at the side of you.
- Add a large “Caution Horses” sign to the rear of the trailer.
- Make sure the rear of your trailer is strong enough to withstand impact; e.g. have full height doors with a ramp over them, instead of a ramp with upper storm doors.
GPS tracking system
Horse trailers disappear more often than you might think. If your trailer leaves without your knowledge or permission, a GPS tracker will let you know exactly where to find it. A quality tracking system is easy to install and use. The battery life is an important factor on a GPS tracker, and the better units will have a five-year battery life. The higher quality ones will be reliable in any weather conditions. A small device with magnets is hidden in your trailer and can be monitored from your cell phone. Avoid those with monthly fees. The TTU-72-GPS from GPS & Track is battery powered with no fees. The price is around $279.
Tips to avoid theft:
- Specialty trailer locks for both gooseneck and bumper pulls can be expensive but are very effective at deterring someone from hooking up your trailer and heading down the road. A basic padlock and key will deter the causal thief, but a serious thief can remove the lock with a bolt cutter.
- If you are without a lock for your gooseneck and it has an adjustable coupler, you can remove the coupler with a couple of wrenches and put it in your truck.
- Have a very large unique decal, such as a number, placed on the roof of your trailer that can be seen from the air.
Wireless camera monitors
You are driving down the road and all of a sudden your trailer starts shaking. You can feel there’s a problem with your horse, but don’t know what’s happening. Remote cameras will give you “eyes” in your trailer. Cameras wired into a horse trailer have been around for a while, but wireless cameras have not, because the reception has been iffy at best. However, advanced technology has solved most reception problems. You may pay a bit more, but the higher quality wireless cameras are easy to install and are reliable. Many horse owners will install one in the stall area and one on the outside rear to have a view for backing up. A good quality wireless camera is offered by RanchCam for around $625 for one camera, $800 for two.
Tips for camera installation:
- Place cameras out of reach of your horses. If this isn’t possible, a horse-friendly guard should be placed over them.
- Place more cameras in longer, larger trailers so you can monitor all the horses.
AirRide gooseneck hitch
A horse that arrives at your destination rested and stress-free is a happier and safer horse to ride. Rubber torsion suspension, which is standard on 99% of all new horse trailers, takes most of the shock out of the road and reduces stress on your horse’s legs. But what about the third axle, the one holding up the front of your gooseneck trailer and is not rubber torsion – your truck axle? You obviously can’t change out the axle on your truck, but you can easily compensate by replacing your coupler with an AirSafe gooseneck coupler, lessening the front bounce and giving a much smoother ride. These are priced at around $1,800.
A horse that arrives at your destination rested and stress-free is a happier and safer horse to ride.
Tips for safer gooseneck hauling:
- Don’t tow your gooseneck trailer with an undersized truck. Make sure the towing capacity, curb weight, and wheel base are a good match for your loaded trailer.
- Don’t overdo the tow vehicle. Too much truck can give your horses a pretty rough ride.
- Always use the safety chains. They not only keep the trailer from falling off the back of the truck in case of ball failure, but will keep the trailer from being thrown forward into the cab if you have to slam on the brakes.
Nothing beats prevention when it comes to safety. Adding some of the new safety features to your existing or future horse trailer means you’ll be much better equipped to enjoy a fun day out with your horses, without mishap.
Authors of the Complete Guide to Buying, Maintaining, and Servicing a Horse Trailer and Equine Emergencies on the Road, Tom and Neva Scheve are nationally recognized for their clinics on horse trailer safety and are the developers and owners of EquiSpirit Trailer Company. For more info, contact Tom at 1-877-575-1771, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit equispirit.com.