Hauling Horses, Part 1

Posted in: Horse Care, Horse Training

I’ve hauled several hundred thousand miles, just me, my dogs and my horses (and my dad, when I was a teenager). I started pulling my horses behind me, nearly as soon as I got my driver’s license.  As such, I’ve become quite adept at handling things that can go wrong when traveling, and how to avoid them. I am known to many as the ‘queen’ of blowouts. And not the good kind either.  No, I’m talking tire-shredding blowouts. I’ve not had to change too many tires on my own, but I have had to do it.  I figured that I should take the time to share with others what I’ve learned and the checklist I’ve developed for hauling horses cross-country and doing so with confidence.

1. Before you head anywhere, do make sure your tires have adequate PSI in them. That’s Pounds Per Square Inch for those of you unfamiliar with the terminology.  Your tires should say on them, how much PSI at a Maximum you should put into them.  If they say 80 PSI, you should never run less than 70 PSI in them.  In order to know this, you’ll either need an air compressor attachment that will show you the tire pressure or you’ll need to keep a tire gauge  in your pickup or handbag. Yes, I keep a tire gauge in my purse. You heard it here first, folks. I’m also known to keep one in my glove box. You can’t have too many tire gauges.

2. Make sure your tires are in good working order.  I have been known to haul across the country in what some would consider to be less than an adequate tire; don’t do this.  That said, I have managed to make several thousand mile trips on tires with not a lot of tread.  I can do this because my pickup and trailer are well balanced. See #4 below.  I like to check my tires for signs of strange wear. It can be an indication of a bent axle, camber being out of whack, or a faulty tire that might be going bad.

3. Always carry an extra spare.  In fact, I carry two trailer spares. Interestingly enough, I’ve had cause to use both spares. I’ll “spare” you the details. I keep one on my trailer where the spare is designed to go, and one in the back of my pickup for the stock trailer. When I’m hauling the horse trailer, I keep one in the back tack, in addition to the one under the nose.

4. If you’re like me, and you drive a 4×4 pickup, you may find that your trailer ends up sitting down farther in the back than the front.  You do not want this. You want your trailer as level as possible. And so do your horses. Depending upon your trailer there’s a few things you can do. Some of the newer trailers are adjustable through the axles so they can be raised up.  And most every gooseneck trailer comes with an adjustable coupler. That means you can adjust the height of it so that if your truck is putting more weight on the back axle (in a tandem, or two axle trailer)  than it is on the bed of the pickup, you could lower it so that more weight is put on your pickup. After all, that is why we have pickups in the first place.  And finally, you might try changing out the rims on your trailer, which isn’t cheap, but it is a good fix for a couple reasons.

       A.   In an ideal world, horse trailer manufacturers would be banned from making a horse trailer rim that is only 15 inches.   They’d also be banned from only putting a 5 ply tire on trailers.   Let’s be realistic people- you’re putting expensive animals into that vehicle. You need it to hold up. *Note* Most aluminum trailer/higher end trailer companies don’t do this.

I don’t want a 5 ply tire on my car, let alone my horse trailer. I only put (at a minimum) 10 ply tires on my trailers. Ideally, when you’re purchasing a trailer or looking for rims, You want a 16” rim (or 17” rim) whichever will take the same size tire as your pickup.  (Exceptions- Dually truck tires don’t fit on trailers because their rims are different). That said, the tires do work on the trailer in a pinch, if you need a tire or an extra spare- yet another wonderful reason to have rims on your trailer in the same size as your pickup.

     B.  When it comes to 4×4 pickups and bumper pulls: I am not a fan of a bumper pull, though I realize sometimes that’s what you already have because it’s handy, easy to pull, and/or you can’t afford a gooseneck.  If this is the case, you are going to want to get/use a drop auxiliary hitch, to help your trailer be as level as possible. And for the sake of your safety and horse’s safety- if you’re going to be going lots of miles, by all means make sure you have a tandem (2 axle trailer) and please, at the least, change out the rims to a bigger rim.  It will do two things- allow you to put a bigger, heavier tire on the trailer, and if you’re in a 4wd pickup, it will help raise your trailer up so that it rides level. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to stand on all fours, weight over my haunches, riding down hill for one thousand miles.

5. Know how to change a tire.  Every woman should know how to do this; but it never ceases to amaze me how many women don’t know how. I’d venture to say there might be some men around that don’t know how either. But that’s neither here nor there. If you’re going to be hauling horses, you should know how to change a tire.

To be continued…

Posted in: Horse Care, Horse Training

About Jenn Zeller

Jenn Zeller is the creative mind and boss lady behind The South Dakota Cowgirl. She is an aspiring horsewoman, photographer, brilliant social media strategist and lover of all things western. After a brief career in the investment world to support her horse habit (and satisfy her...

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