How Fast can you Hitch your Trailer?

iBall
The iBall helps you hitch your trailer.

How long does it take you to hitch your trailer? Most of the time I can get it in a few tries, but some days it seems like I’m always a little too far to the left or have

iBall
The iBall shows you exactly where you need to back up to align your hitch and ball.

corrected too far to the right. It can be enormously frustrating. And having someone direct you doesn’t always help because my idea of three inches to the right may not be quite how the describe it.

Enter the iBall. You may remember that I mostly use the iBall as a wireless trailer cam. I like to watch how the horses ride while I drive and this is a plug and play system that works quite well.

Despite my success at using it inside the trailer, for some reason it only recently occurred to me to use it for its intended purpose: hitching the trailer. Let me tell you, it rocks. No more guess work. It cuts the frustration time down to practically zero. Now I won’t leave home without it.

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To Tie or Not to Tie

It’s no secret that I hate trailering. It’s not that I’m a bad driver, or that my horses are bad at trailering. I just have a very active imagination and I worry about how they are traveling and what could go wrong. Maybe it’s because I live in an area where people are more likely to cut you off while you’re pulling a trailer, completely oblivious to your inability to stop quickly.

This video takes a literal look at how horses travel depending on how they are tied. It definitely gives me pause. I always tie my horses in the trailer, although they are tied loosely. I’ve never tried removing the partition in my trailer, either.

I now trailer with an “IBall” camera keeping watch over the horses. I think I’ll need to experiment with how I tie them.

How about you? Do you tie your horse in place? And do you watch how they travel?

Motorists call RSPCA over horse transport

Horse on trailer
You can understand why motorists called the RSPCA after seeing this “horse” being driven along in a flatbed trailer!

I came across a pretty amusing news article the other day. The RSPCA received a bombardment of phone calls about the cruelty of a horse that was being transported on a trailer. No horsebox, just a rusty old flat bed trailer. Angry motorists rang in to report the endangered horse.

Luckily, the culprit of the animal cruelty turned out to be a pretty nice couple who were transporting their fake plastic horse from Birmingham, back to their home in Cambridge. Phew! Perhaps motorists thought the poor horse was heading up to Newmarket in preparation for the 1000 Guineas!

I actually pass a life-sized model of a horse every day on my way to the barn. The people who own it move it around it’s paddock periodically and dress it according to the weather. The first time I saw it, I certainly did a double take.

The scary part is that some people actually do put their horse on a flat bed! The video below is a real horse!!

Horse on flatbed
This is not a plastic horse. Hard to believe that someone would do this. The horse seems pretty sanguine about it. Click on the photo to watch the video.

 

Before you share your trailer . . .

trailering
It’s risky to loan or rent your trailer. Protect yourself by using a legal contract.

I’ve written before about the conundrum of receiving payment for share rides or charging to ship other people’s horses. In a nutshell, if you receive payment for the use of your trailer, you become a commercial hauler in the eyes of the insurance industry. You may void your insurance entirely — a real problem if there’s an accident.

Loaning out your trailer has similar ramifications. It’s all fine until it isn’t. And then it really can be a problem.

If you decide you want to loan or rent your trailer, you should consider investing in a Horse Trailer Use Agreement or Horse Trailer Rental Agreement from Equine Legal Solutions. It may seem like overkill but it’s always better to have all the contingencies spelled out — and understood — before there’s a problem.

Designed for horse trailer owners who desire to lend or rent their trailers to someone else, these forms will protect the horse trailer owner in the event that something happens when another party is using the trailer. Both forms include clauses that require the user/renter to accept responsibility for any damage that occurs during their use/rental of the trailer, as well as the user/renter having adequate insurance and driver’s license/endorsements for towing the trailer. Also included are checklists to ensure inspection of the trailer before use, tasks required before the trailer is returned, and a list of contents. The rental agreement includes deposit and payment information.

The new equine legal forms can be purchased for $39.99 each, or together in a package for the discounted price of $74.99.

The Zelda Cam

Trailer Cam
Using the EyeBall trailer hitch cam I can keep an eye on Zelda. It’s not the clearest image but it tells me the most important thing — that she’s still standing.

I have an irrational fear of trailering long distances. Well, maybe it’s not irrational — in the 20-odd years I’ve had my own trailer, twice I’ve had horses fall. Luckily, they were both fine, but the anxiety around trailering had plagued me and has only gotten worse. I feel so responsible when they are in the trailer! Ironically, I hate trailering at highway speeds the most, even though both times the horses fell I was on back roads going about 20 mph. I just feel intensely vulnerable driving on the highway with big trucks and speeding cars. It’s not that I worry about how I drive, it’s everyone else! If I could tap my heels together three times and wish us there, life would be grand.

My husband did an awesome job of checking my trailer and repairing anything that needed fixing

So, when I decided to bring Zelda to Vermont this summer, I had to deal with driving her there. Here’s the good news: the trip prompted an overdue trailer maintenance session where my husband checked it over from stern to stem. He checked the brakes and the bearings, replaced my flaky brake control, and pulled out the mats and checked the floor. I knew it was in tip top shape. But my stomach was still turning somersaults just thinking about the drive — about 2 hours and 45 minutes with a stretch on Route 91.

The Eyeball attaches via a magnet and sends an image via Bluetooth to the unit plugged into my cigarette lighter.

Then my husband came up with a great idea. We could use an Eyeball Trailer Hitch Cam inside the trailer to keep an eye on Zelda. This is a very simple device that was designed to help people hitch their trailer. It seems overkill for hitching, but it’s a wonderful, easy way to add a trailer cam to your set up with plug and play components. It’s not the clearest image, but it lets you check to make sure your horse isn’t having a problem standing up.

I cannot tell you how much more comfortable I felt being able to watch her during the trip. Even though we drove up in one of the worst rainstorms I’ve ever driven in (after a summer of practically no rain), we got there safely. I will say that when the Flash Flood Warning alarm went off on my iPhone my daughter and I looked at each other and thought about just pulling over to the side of the road for two weeks, but we kept on driving, albeit rather slowly.

We made it to Vermont (and back) in good form. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (I guess) and the local trailering I’ve done since I got back has been a snap. I don’t think I’ll ever really like highway trailering, but adding the Eyeball has made me a lot less anxious.

 

The Trailer Isn’t the Problem.

Freedom Trailer
When I first got Freedom he used to weave so badly that the whole trailer would shake. I remember stopping for food once and realized that people in the parking lot must’ve though I had a wild animal in there!

What will your horse remember the next time you load?

Screenshot 2016-07-08 21.34.43Source: The Trailer Isn’t the Problem. I highly recommend that you click through and read the excellent post from Anna Blake, who manages to get to the crux of the issue in just one sentence.

Her excellent post got me thinking  about the trailering issues I’ve had with my horses (usually at the beginning or our relationship). My Trakehner, Kroni, once refused to get on a trailer to the point where we missed a competition! He was always a little sticky until I bought a new, bigger trailer that he considered worth getting on. Until then, I had some, shall we say, interesting loading experiences.

The worst were the ones when people “helped”. They helped by bringing brooms, whips and lunge lines, all of which made him more determined not to step foot into a box that was surrounded by so many frightening things. I remember after one “helping” experience, I had pretty much decided we would never leave the property again.

In his case, I think my original trailer (which had been perfect for my QH) just wasn’t big enough. He wasn’t afraid. He just wasn’t interested. He perked up considerably when I got my new trailer and self loaded like a champ. One year, at the last hunt of the season, he fell in the trailer on the way home. I heard some kicking in the back, but not a lot. I was about 10 minutes from home and when I opened my trailer, he wasn’t standing on the the left where I’d loaded him. There was only a dangling halter. He had gone under the divider and was standing, shaking like a leaf, on the right side of the trailer. Remarkably, he was uninjured.

Even more remarkably, the next time I asked him to load — about 2 months later — he walked on like a champ.

Freedom was a nervous rider. The day I picked him up, he walked on okay, but he was weaving so violently that when the trailer wasn’t moving, it shook like I had a pair of fighting elephants inside. When we stopped for lunch I could see people staring out the window of the restaurant in alarm, wondering what was going on in there.

He got better when traveling with a friend. However, the first time I loaded him by himself, he walked on fine, and then panicked. I thought there was a good chance he’d try to jump out over the front bar, so I got in and started driving. He was fine when the trailer was moving, but since we were on our way to a hunt and I hadn’t been smart enough to pack everything before I loaded, I had to keep driving back so I could jump out grab something and start driving before he flipped out again.

After a good long hunt, he got on the trailer and stood pretty happily during the tailgate tea. All of a sudden the trailer (and it’s full hay bag) was looking pretty good.

He wasn’t perfect after that, but he has continued to get better. Now he travels by himself like a pro and walks on without a fuss. The only thing he still won’t tolerate, is if he’s traveling with a friend and that horse gets off first. But he’s come so far that I don’t ask him to do that.

How about your horses?

 

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky

Zelda enjoying the sun
Zelda basking in the sun this morning and monopolizing the hay. She seems unaffected by her trailering ordeal yesterday.

Zelda is a very lucky horse. Or maybe I’m a very lucky owner. Yesterday we had an experience that could have been much, much worse. But we were lucky.

The hunt yesterday was about a 25 minute drive from my barn. All on back roads. It was a cold morning, only in the low 20s, and I had my doubts about hunting at all. I guess I should have listened to that tiny voice. Instead, I loaded up Zelda and set off. About 10 minutes into the drive, I heard banging coming from the trailer.

Uh oh. That is NOT the sound you want to hear. I can’t tell you exactly where it was that it happened, but it made me pause. Then I heard it again. A thrashing sound. I pulled over into the Super Stop & Shop parking lot and opened the side door of the trailer. Just as I had feared, Zelda had fallen down. The velcro trailer tie had not released and her new leather halter had not broken. She was stuck with her head at an angle and her front legs under the front bar of the trailer stall. She was very still and I thought she must have hurt herself. I think she was waiting for me to help her. Thank goodness, she’s not a horse that panics easily.

Getting her loose was my first priority. I was able to get the halter off (in retrospect, I’m not sure why I didn’t unfasten the velcro), and lowered the front bar. Getting her up was the next goal. She scrambled to her feet almost immediately once she had some space and I hoped that she didn’t try to charge out the front of the stall through the side bar. But she didn’t. I got the bar up, the halter back on. She was standing solidly on all four legs. There was no blood. I started breathing again.

Zelda started to munch on some hay.

I sat in the car hyperventilating. My shins were killing me and I realized I had bruised them leaning against the running board. I wasn’t sure that I could drive home. I wondered how long I could sit in the car and go nowhere. Every few minutes I got out and I checked on her. She was still eating.

I checked the back of the trailer. I wondered if she had peed and maybe the liquid had frozen. About 7 years ago, Kroni fell in a trailer when that had happened. It was also in November when the temperatures were in the low 20s. The floor of the trailer had turned into a sheet of ice.

That wasn’t the issue, though. The trailer was dry and clean. I hadn’t put shavings down as it was a short trip, but there was nothing wet, nothing slippery. And yet she had lost her footing. A Google search reveals that horses frequently fall down in trailers. Some are wedged solidly in, requiring sedation and several people to remove them. Some end up on their backs, with their legs in their air. Many are injured.

After about a half hour, I worked up the nerve to drive home. It was an excruciating drive, but uneventful. When I pulled into the barn, I could finally feel the tension leave my body. Zelda backed out looking completely unconcerned. She wanted to graze. I checked her over and couldn’t find a scratch on her so I gave her some warm, soaked hay cubes with some bute and I watched her for almost forty five minutes.

Zelda and I really dodged a bullet yesterday. Trailering is one of my least favorite things, but mostly I worry about other drivers, of brakes failing, or something like that. I wasn’t worried that she would fall. She rides well in the trailer and we were going slowly — no sudden stops, no sharp turns.

This mat features a button-covered surface that provides more traction.
This mat features a button-covered surface that provides more traction.safe

My husband researched the issue while I took care of her. His conclusion? That rubber mats become extra slippery in the cold weather. Some people recommend bedding deeply in shavings (although not everyone). I think I will do that next time, even for a short ride. But I’m also going to order mats with a non-slip surface. My husband found mats with a button surface (for traction) which are used in wash stalls. I’m going to talk to the manufacturer this week about using them for trailers.

In the meantime, I may be done for the season. I’m not sure I can work up the enthusiasm to trailer to the last two hunts. I think I may just hack my horses locally while I recover from the “what ifs”.

Today, Zelda was her usual self. It was much warmer today and she basked in the sun, monopolizing the hay. She isn’t holding the experience against me, but I still feel awful — your horse trusts you to take care of them. They load up in those metal boxes mostly without a second thought. And we get so used to trailering them that it’s easy to forget that it’s a dangerous activity that can have dire consequences.

Have any of you had a horse fall in the trailer? What have you done to keep it from happening again?