Updated: Aug 19
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I feel it is important.
Distance trailering (over 4hrs).
I’ve been distance trailering for 25+ years. (Yikes, maybe I am getting old). I’ve been hauling horses cross country for 22+ years. Along the way I’ve learned a few things. So here are some tips and tricks.
Never run below 1/4 tank of fuel. I generally stop with 50+ miles left on my tank and I carry extra fuel with me. You don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road in the heat with horses on board. In rural areas fuel can be a long ways off and sometimes when you get there they are out…no I have never run out and I don’t plan to.
Don’t skimp on maintenance. Breakdowns happen but they happen far less often with good maintenance on your truck AND trailer. Thankfully I have good humans in my life that keep me maintained and repaired (Jaedon, Landon, Teddy, Steven, Dawson, Dad, uncle Doug) and other humans who have saved me when failures happen (Julie, Ryan and others I am sure I have forgotten).
Keep basic tools. Sockets, screw drivers, vice grips, etc. Always have wiring supplies (I’ve rewired the trailer in the snow with no cell service after a blow out), fuses, duct tape, zip ties, bailing twine/wire, bungee cords, ratchet straps, toe strap, flares, fire extinguisher, grease, lock tite, super glue, etc. I keep a spare serpentine belt.
TWO spares minimum. Sometimes a blowout will take out another tire with it. My tires are replaced a minimum of every 4 years regardless of wear. I have a jack, trailer ease, wheel chocks, impact, breaker bar all with me. Sometimes all you have is you to get it done. You can do it. Before leaving put anti seize on all your lug nuts and make sure they are tight. Don’t forget when changing your tire to loosen the lug nuts prior to lifting tire off the ground. Check your tires at every stop. Walk around your truck and trailer at every stop looking for potential problems.
Carrying extra coolant is a good idea.
Use your engine compression to slow you down on a downhill grade. Use your brakes sparingly, those things overheat and catch fire. I have never done it but I’ve seen them on fire going down passes. Exhaust breaks are the BOMB. You can get after market ones.
Air ride, air ride, air ride. The air ride systems for trucks, hitches and trailers improve the stability of the vehicle immensely.
Carry a good old fashioned paper map. Cell signal and gps signal are not always reliable.
Keep a flashlight in your vehicle and trailer. Don’t rely on your cell phone light. It’s probably not bright enough and you may need to talk on it and see what you are looking at simultaneously.
Carry blankets for you in case you are stranded.
Keep your cell charged.
Keep a sharp knife handy.
Check in with someone at home regularly so if you don’t check in, they know to look and have a general idea of where to start.
I do have a CB in my truck now. It’s A) entertaining B) you can hear of any issues around where you are and C) if you don’t have cell service you can probably still get someone to answer and help. You can get small handheld ones that plug into your cigarette lighter port. Don’t skimp on the antenna.
Drive during cool hours if you can. It’s easier on your tires, vehicles and animals.
I carry at least three days worth of feed and water for the horses. If you get stranded it buys you time. You can get camping water containers that hold 5+ gallons if you don’t have a water tank In your truck or trailer. Bringing water from home is important. Some horses won’t drink if the water doesn’t taste “normal”.
Bed your trailer deep. It helps with heat and shock absorption.
Put therapeutic boots on your horses. It helps with heat, support and shock absorption.
Somedays we are on the road 16-18 hours. But the horses always get at least 10 hours off the trailer at night. Remember every hour of riding in the trailer is equivalent to 2hrs of walking. Factor recovery time in if you are expecting your horse to perform. If hauling multiple days in a row, I try to do a long day first and each subsequent day shorter.
Your horse has to have some physical fitness to haul distances. If they don’t, the trip will be exponentially harder on them.
Increase feed a week prior to leaving. They aren’t going to eat well. They will lose around 6% of their body weight for every 12hr day.
Add any probiotics, electrolytes, meds several days prior to leaving. They all get salt and magnesium at minimum. I generally add probiotics and sometimes pain relief.
Wet their hay. Haul with hay and water in front of them and offer water at every stop. After 4hrs on an empty stomach they will begin to develop ulcers. Add the stress of trailering and you can guarantee tummy troubles.
Alfalfa, in small amounts, is your friend. It soothes their tummy, adds protein to help their muscles and has a higher moisture content.
Stop every 3-4hrs for at least 15-30 minutes. You don’t need to get them off the trailer. In fact loading and unloading in unfamiliar environments can be more stressful than staying in their “stall”. If you are hauling them tied, untying during stops is a good idea. They need to stretch their neck.
Haul them loose. I take the halters completely off so they can’t hang them on anything. But if you leave the halters on use leather or breakaway. I’ve hauled stallions side by side loose. They are working hard. They need to use their neck to help balance and they need to be able lower their head and neck below their withers.
Haul them backwards if you can. Tie open extra dividers or remove them if you have empty stalls. Giving them extra room helps on long trips.
Ventilation is a must. Open the windows. If it’s cold, blanket.
Talk to your vet about rescue meds. I keep sedation and pain meds with me. You can be a long way from help in an unfamiliar place.
Carry emergency supplies to wrap legs, stop bleeding, etc. I even carry a suture kit.
If it’s hot, you can throw ice on the shavings at every fuel stop. The evaporation, coupled with airflow, will cool the trailer.
Plan your layovers in advance. Try to find horse motels with paddocks to allow your horse to stretch and roll. In an emergency many county fairgrounds have the ability to stable your horse. https://www.horsemotel.com
In an emergency they can stay on the trailer overnight while you catch some z’s.
Take a friend if you can. A navigator and second set of eyes and hands is extremely helpful.
Don’t forget your coggins and health certificate. I keep a digital copy on my phone and a paper copy in both the truck and trailer.
I do not wrap legs. The heat doesn’t dissipate and can overheat tendons and ligaments that are already working hard. Fly masks are a good idea to protect eyes, but I’ve also had hay get stuck in them. So I don’t always haul with them.
I keep fly spray in the trailer. Flies carry disease. You are in new areas with new disease. Keep the flies off your horse.
Make sure vaccines are up to date. You don’t want them picking something up in a new environment especially when they are already stressed from trailering.
Keep track of your mile markers. If you have to call for help, mile markers give your rescuers a location.
Carry some cash. There are still some rural places that don’t deal in credit cards.
Check air pressures and fluids every day before getting on the road.
Check all your lights and signals prior to getting on the road each day.
Watch your gauges while driving. Adjust your driving accordingly.
Jaedon says carry extra oil and transmission fluid for your hauling vehicle. He said the transmission fluid can double as power steering fluid in an emergency.
Pack your patience. Traffic sucks and city drivers DO NOT have a clue nor do they care. Leave a gap and then double it. Keep creating gaps even though it’s frustrating. No one else is looking out for you. Be nice to the truck drivers and they will be nice to you.
Enjoy the scenery. Our country is beautiful.
I’m sure I’ll think of something else but it’s a good start for anyone who hasn’t done distance hauling.