After several years of analyzing accidents involving horse trailers, USRider – national provider of roadside emergency assistance for horse owners – has developed a checklist to help equestrians avoid accidents on the road.
“We believe you can never over-prepare for a trailering trip with your horse,” said Bill Riss, General Manager for USRider. “Even if you are only going to travel a short distance to a local event, an accident – or some other emergency – could occur, leaving you stuck on the highway unexpectedly for an extended period.”
Working with Dr. Tomas Gimenez, retired professor of animal and veterinary sciences at Clemson University, and Dr. Rebecca Gimenez, an animal physiologist and primary instructor in technical large-animal emergency rescue, USRider has been gathering and analyzing data about horse trailer accidents for the last eight years. From this data, Drs. Gimenez and USRider have gleaned some pertinent recommendations for preventing accidents and enhancing the safety of horses while traveling.
This information has been compiled in a handy Pre-Trip Checklist for Horse Trailers. The checklist is conveniently available to smartphone users on USRider’s mobile website. Simply access www.usrider.org from any smartphone and the list is handily at your fingertips to check prior to each trip.
Items to check before starting a trip:
· Wheel bearings – Have bearings serviced annually, or 12,000 miles, regardless of mileage due to possible moisture buildup. Carry a spare wheel bearing set in case of premature failure.
· Tires – Look for dry rot, uneven tire wear, overall tire wear and damage. Be sure to replace tires every 3-5 years regardless of mileage.
· Tire pressure – Don’t forget to check spares and inside tire on dual wheels as well.
· Hitch – Ensure that it is locked on the ball and that correct size ball is being used.
· Safety cables/chains – Check to see that these are securely connected.
· Electrical connection – Make sure it’s plugged in and secured.
· Breakaway system – Ensure that this is connected and secured as well.
· Emergency battery – Check to see that it’s charged.
· Trailer lighting – Check lights for the brakes and turn signals, as well as running and perimeter lights.
· Brake controller – Test to ensure that it’s working properly.
· Carry a completed In Case of Emergency (ICE) form – This form can be downloaded at www.usrider.org.
· Trailer – Before loading horses, check the trailer for any hazards.
· Horses – Don’t forget to put shipping boots and head bumpers on horses.
· Doors – Secure and latch all trailer doors. Place a snap hook or carabiner to prevent accidental opening.
· Headlights – For greater safety, drive with headlights on.
· Drive safely – Allow greater braking distance and travel at generally slower speeds.
· First aid kits – Be sure to check the contents of equine and human first aid kits. Any depleted and out-of-date items should be replaced. A list of recommended items for first aid kits is posted on www.usrider.org.
Be sure NEVER to depend on others to hitch your trailer. “The driver is ultimately responsible. Even if someone else actually does the hitching, the driver should always go behind them to double-check that the trailer is properly hitched,” said Riss. “Trailers that are properly hitched do not come unhitched. Trailer accidents where the trailer comes loose from the trailer have a high incidence of human and equine fatalities. Worst of all, these kinds of incidents are highly avoidable,” he added.
To gather additional accident information, USRider is continuing the trailer accident study. All horse owners, trainers, emergency responders, veterinarians and others who have somehow been involved in horse trailer incidents are urged to participate in the survey. Visit www.usrider.org to download the survey form. The information being collected includes type of transport, type of towing vehicle, number and type of horses in transport, cause of accident, results of accident, extent of human and equine injuries, and type of personnel involved in rescue.