Driving a horse trailer is significantly different than driving a passenger vehicle or sports car down the road. As a horse transporter, you have the responsibility to make sure the trip is safe and comfortable for the horses in tow as well as for the other vehicles on the road.
We spoke with Brad Heath, owner of Double D Trailers in North Carolina, for trailer driving tips. His advice comes from the company’s blog “10 Tips for Safe Driving With Your Horse Trailer.” From the blog, we’ve highlighted a few tips to get you started.
Just like you see airline pilots walking around their planes before taking off, you should take the time to conduct a pre-trip inspection.
Society’s fast pace can make it tempting to skip this step to save five minutes, but those five minutes might save your or your horse.
Check the lights, the brakes and the tires to make sure that all are in working order. Walk around the outside of the trailer and ensure that nothing has broken or been damaged since your last trip. Look carefully at the trailer's interior to ensure that it is clean and "wasp-free" before loading horses.
On the Road
A truck and trailer do not handle the same as a smaller vehicle. The weight of the trailer means you’ll need more stopping distance and acceleration time. Even though the trailer tires follow in the truck’s path, wider turns are necessary.
“Don’t be bullied into going faster by the traffic behind you,” Heath said. “Find a safe place to pull over so cars can pass if a long line develops behind you.”
Make sure your mirrors are adjusted so that you can see down the side of your trailer and to the traffic behind you.
Distracted driving is all too common on any roads, and is especially dangerous on narrow country roads. The best way to ensure a safe trip is to pay attention to other drivers and to your trailer at all times.
“Check using your mirrors, keep the radio low and be on alert for any funny sounds or shakes transferred up to your tow vehicle,” he said. ”This may be an indication that your horse fell down or is in some other sort of distress.”
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you might have pull-thru access, or you might not. For some drivers, backing a horse trailer is nerve-wracking. Heath pointed out that it’s simply because they haven’t spent the time learning to do so. He shared a tip for learning to back your trailer.
“Put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel to start. If you want the trailer to move to the left, move your hand to the left and vice versa. If you want to make sharp turns while backing, turn the steering wheel before you move the vehicle. If you want to make a more gradual turn, turn the steering wheel as the vehicle is moving,” he noted in his blog.
To read all 10 of Heath’s tips, visit www.doubledtrailers.com/10-tips-for-safe-driving-with-your-horse-trailer/.