How To Clean Your Polylast Floor

Are you considering getting a Polylast floor installed and wondering how to clean it? Microban® Antimicrobial Technology is infused into Polylast™ during the manufacturing process to help prevent the growth of damaging bacteria, as well as inhibit stains and odors caused by bacteria.

But how do you clean dirt, droppings, grease, or other debris off of your Polylast™ floor to keep it looking like the day it was installed? That’s easy! When Polylast™ is installed in your horse trailer, the floor is coated with a protective layer, guarding it from liquids. Leaving the Polylast flooring porous this allows any liquids to drain through the small holes drilled through the floor allowing it to drain onto the ground and never sit and settle. Since the Polylast is seamless there is no undermat buildup. When the time comes to take your horse out, simply shovel out the manure and rinse with a hose.

When Polylast™ is installed in your barn stall, wash rack or, restaurant kitchen it is often sealed to a smooth finish. For these installations simply shovel any horse manure or shavings and scrub the Polylast™ floor with dish soap then rinse with water. It’s that simple! The comfort, ease of keeping it clean, extending the longevity of your trailer floor and, the safety for both you and your horses is immeasurable! Polylast comes with a 10 year warranty making it an even more valuable addition to your space.

Prepare your trailer for spring towing.

With spring just around the corner our thoughts turn to riding, riding, and more riding. While not nearly as enrapturing, save some consideration for that lonely chariot outside, which gets our beloved steeds to and from events, shows, and trails. Every trailer that has been parked or stored for the winter should undergo a methodical inspection and maintenance routine before hitting the road each year. Safety should always be of primary concern, but comfort is important as well – every time a horse has an unpleasant trailering experience, he or she will go through that much more stress on the next trip.

If you were diligent about preparing your rig for winter, it should be clean, but may still need a bit of freshening up from all those months spent under Old Man Winter’s care. Regardless of the amount of use the trailer saw over the winter, the change in conditions is enough to warrant a thorough visual inspection of the exterior and interior of the entire unit. I use a simple approach to the interior: If I wouldn’t want to run my bare hand over something, then I probably don’t want to load my horse in there either.

Pay particular attention to the following:

  • Electrical components are particularly sensitive to moisture and corrosion over long periods of time. This often arises in the form of mysterious little gremlins who diligently prevent our lights from working, but long periods of idleness can also negatively affect trailer braking systems, often to the point of rendering them inoperable. Before loading for the first time, and once you’ve checked the unit over for road readiness, hook up and take the trailer for a short drive to ensure the brakes are working correctly. If you have any doubt, have the braking system checked by a reliable mechanic. I cannot overstress this point – the braking system on most trucks is not singularly capable of bringing a fully loaded trailer to a safe and controlled stop.
  • Check the electrical plugs on both the truck and trailer, both should be free of corrosion. Don’t use WD-40 on these plugs, as it will make dust and dirt stick to them. Many hardware and automotive stores sell specific contact cleaner designed expressly for this purpose – it’s cheap, lasts a long time, removes the corrosion instead of just covering it up, and leaves a protective film behind to reduce future oxidization.
  • The breakaway switch should be checked for proper operation before every long trip, and at least once a month during the regular towing season. With the electrical cord unhooked (and the trailer battery fully charged), pull the ripcord from the breakaway device. Ease the truck ahead a few feet. The trailer brakes should fully engage. If not, check the breakaway switch, the trailer battery, and all associated wiring. Every trailer equipped with brakes must have a functioning emergency braking system; and that system must be capable of independently holding the trailer brakes fully applied for no less than 15 minutes. Most newer types of trailer brake controllers incorporate some sort of digital switching or current detection in order to facilitate smooth and dependable operation. These sensitive circuits can be easily damaged by sudden current changes. Whenever the breakaway switch is activated, the battery in the trailer sends a full charge of current directly to the brake magnets. This surge can destroy a complex brake controller, so it’s imperative the electrical plug is disconnected from the tow vehicle before testing the breakaway switch. In addition, part of the test is to ensure the trailer battery is in good condition. If the electrical plug is attached to the tow vehicle, the trailer could receive current from the truck’s charging system, which would not provide you with a true test of the emergency braking system.
  • Mold, rust, and corrosion will cause problems later, so a good cleaning inside and out is always a wise step – both for our comfort and for the horse’s safety. Mold can invite respiratory ailments, and can cause issues even during a relatively short ride. While rust and corrosion can compromise structural body components, the same process can also leave indelible cosmetic blemishes on trailer finishes. Look for signs of leaks particularly from doors, windows, body joints, roof vents, and rivets or bolts. Water entering from a loose connection will leave a residue trace on the wall, so they’re usually fairly easy to spot after the trailer has been sitting for some time.
  • Tires can typically lose anywhere from 3-5 PSI per month from minor bead imperfections, porosity, and other compromises. Never operate a trailer which has been stored for an extended time without ensuring all tires are inflated correctly, including the spare. Take time to inspect the sidewalls, particularly if the unit has been parked in a damp environment. Tires are the principle contact your trailer has with the road, and they bear the weight of the trailer plus its precious cargo.
  • A wondrous variety of creepy, crawly, and industrious critters can homestead on, in, or under our trailers as they hibernate. Depending on your particular locale, this can range from relatively innocuous insects to things with fur, four legs, and a bad attitude. Look for signs of pest infestations and deal with the removal and clean up as soon as you find them.
  • Canadian winters can vary from a few exceedingly wet months in coastal regions to seven months or more of sub-zero temperatures and/or snowfall that would make a skier swoon. Each area has its own caveats and concerns for trailers, but the most common issues are leaks; damage from ice, snow or wind; and mechanical issues such as seized brakes, electrical gremlins and rusty moving parts. Ensuring everything is working correctly in the spring will minimize the likelihood of more serious issues later in the towing season, and may prevent costly breakdowns, delays, or even accidents.
  • Carefully inspect floor mats for curls, jagged edges, and tears. Horses can and have become seriously injured from having ill-fitting mats lift up or move while in transit. The same care should be afforded to wall matting, padding, and other surfaces that receive regular wear and tear. This is good place to mention that bedding on the floor is required by law. There are a few very good reasons for this. Bedding allows for better traction, can absorb some of the road noise and vibration, and minimise damage from urine and manure. During dry periods lightly mist the bedding with water to reduce airborne dust.
  • Invest some time on the tow vehicle as well. An under-hood check should be done with a bit more critical eye than usual.
  • Check all belts, hoses, electrical components and batteries; any sign of unusual wear, leaks or minor fault should be fixed before placing the tow vehicle into service for the towing season.
  • Spring is a good time to schedule major component servicing, such as tune-ups, having the transmission and differential fluids changed, and the cooling system checked and flushed if needed.
  • Take stock of your emergency kits now as well; ensure yours contains the most frequently needed replacement parts such as light bulbs and fuses. For trips that will take you and your horses farther from home, consider stocking extra drive belts for the engine, spare jugs of coolant, engine oil and any other consumable items that may be hard to find when you’re away from home (or late at night!).The Other Stuff
    • Check and replenish the first aid kits – one for you, one for the horses. 
    • Check BOTH fire extinguishers – one for the truck, one in the trailer. Both should be very easy to get at and inspected annually before each trailering season.
    • Be sure to have a jack and spare for both the truck and the trailer.
    • Carry a large can of tire inflator. These can be purchased at any automotive supply.
    • Keep a set of reflectors stored in the truck. Those large triangular ones the big trucks use are inexpensive and easy to use. They can be purchased at any truck dealership or industrial supply.

    Every unit is a bit different, so the advice I’ve offered is generic. Certain units may require special care or attention to particular details. If in doubt, always go with the manufacturer’s suggestions or the opinion of a mechanic familiar with your type of trailer.

    While some of us are comfortably conversant with repacking wheel bearings, adjusting brakes, and the more involved procedures aimed at safety and road worthiness, others cringe at the thought of checking tire pressures. For the both groups, I routinely suggest letting a professional have a go. For the do-it-yourselfer, joining a licensed mechanic can offer renewed perspectives on how we conduct our own procedures. I frequently gain hints and tips whenever I visit my favourite shop, and usually have a host of questions ready before I arrive there. Even the least inclined neophyte can glean some tips, regardless of how much they may want to avoid learning them!

  • Thoroughly inspect your trailer’s floor. Mats should be pulled up to allow you to examine the floor from above, and the mats themselves should be scrutinized fur curls and jagged edges. With the trailer blocked to prevent movement, jack the rear of the trailer high enough to allow you to crawl underneath to carefully inspect the bottom of the floor and exposed wiring.

    The accessory or breakaway battery in many trailers is a dry-cell single use type, and can become discharged over time even without any apparent use. The average useful life of these cells is two years, so it’s important to have the battery tested every year before the busy towing season begins. A simple but very effective modification involves replacing the dry-cell breakaway battery with an RV or marine deep-cycle battery, and having the trailer accessory circuits wired directly to this battery. This not only has the distinct benefit of significantly higher emergency capabilities, but boasts the ability to be recharged by the tow vehicle’s own charging system (single use dry-cell batteries cannot be recharged and must be replaced much the same as standard flashlight batteries). Another benefit to this arrangement is that most automotive batteries will last five years or longer, so in the long run this investment definitely pays off. If your trailer already has a deep cycle type battery, then it should be checked at least once a year with a proper load tester, a device that simulates the maximum load the battery was designed to withstand.

  • Flooring is seldom on the list of things we want to check out, but I’d rather crawl under there during a warm spring day than on a cold rainy night, or find out about that weak board after a horse steps through it. Be prepared to get smelly and dirty while performing this one, as the floor seldom gets any attention. The smell will wash off, and the rest of the dirt and grime will too. With the trailer securely blocked to prevent any forward or backward motion whatsoever, jack the rear of the unit high enough to get underneath, allowing you to inspect the bottom of the floor, cross-members, suspension, and any exposed wiring. Pay particular attention to welds and other joints, as these are often prime areas for cracks to start. If I do find a crack in a structural component I think not only of how to fix it, but why it failed in the first place. Some may be from poor design or materials, but they can also be a sign of metal fatigue or from simply overloading the trailer. I can’t stress this part strongly enough: If you do discover a crack or other structural failure, the trailer should be carefully assessed by a qualified trailer repair shop. Many good welders and/or fabricators can determine the reason for the failure and repair the damage while increasing the capacity of the failed area. Once again, a timely repair is often much less expensive than replacing a failed component.
  • The take home message is simply one of preparation to prevent a small problem from creating an emergency later on, to avoid irritating issues, and most importantly, to maximize the safety for our equine friends. I like to include the following statement in all of my trailering clinics: There is nothing in a horse’s instinctual response mechanism that can help him or her in the event of a crash or other trailering emergency. In other words, we are utterly and completely responsible for our horses’ well-being.

The Ride Inside

Here are seven ways to control your trailer’s interior environment to enhance your horse’s safety, comfort, and well-being.

As you shop for a trailer, consider the interior environment. Get inside. Close the doors and windows. Is it quiet? Is it too hot? Too drafty? Is it dark? Can you change the environment for the better? Can you open vents and windows if it’s too hot? Can you easily keep out drafts without limiting ventilation? Your trailer’s interior environment matters to your horse. A light-colored, well vented, comfortable trailer will not only invite him in and enhance his well-being on the road, but can also help keep him healthy and safe.

Here, we’ll give you seven ways you can control your trailer’s interior environment: (1) insulate your trailer; (2) evaluate the vents; (3) install safe windows; (4) consider interior color; (5) consider exterior color; (6) add interior lighting; (7) add a fan. Here’s a closer look.

#1 Insulate Your Trailer

Insulation keeps the outside out and the inside in. An insulated trailer will be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Outside noise will be deadened, and your horse will be more protected from highway sounds. All these factors will enhance his experience inside the trailer.

Insulation is highly recommended for extreme temperatures, hot or cold. If your trailer has a dual wall, the insulation between the walls helps to keep out the heat, so the inner wall stays cool. Note that if the walls are insulated, it could be overkill to insulate the roof. The vents, windows, and doors will allow a nice airflow to keep your horse happy.

In cold weather, insulation will help keep your horse warm. However, in cold weath- er, you need to manage an insulated trailer differently than you would a non-insulated one, or the benefits of insulation can be neutralized.

Insulation allows heat to build up from your horse’s body heat, unless it can escape through a vent or window. If your trailer is highly insulated and fairly airtight, closing all the windows and vents in cold weather can cause the environment to become hot and steamy, and even damage your horse’s respiratory system.

Even if the weather is very cold, it’s better to open the vents and some windows to allow airflow, then blanket your horse to keep him warm.

#2 Evaluate the Vents

Your trailer’s ventilation system should be adequate enough to provide your horse with the cleanest environment possible. Vents are designed for this purpose, but they can’t do the job alone.

Even if your trailer has lots of windows or open stock sides, roof vents serve a twofold purpose: They allow air flow to come into the trailer from above, and they allow heat to escape out the vents when the trailer isn’t moving.

An overhead vent for every horse in the trailer is the best option.

The most efficient vents are two-directional. They can be opened toward the front to bring in more air or toward the back to bring in less air. This allows you to regulate the airflow that comes in from the top. Adjust the vents according to your speed and climate.

#3 Install Safe Windows

Windows can enhance your horse’s comfort and health by providing light and temperature control.

Light is important. A dark trailer is intimidating to your horse. As a prey animal, he fears he may become trapped by a predator. When your trailer allows light to enter, it becomes more inviting to him. An open stock trailer, with slats is also more inviting.

Some enclosed trailers have optional extra side windows that light the trailer interior all the way around to the front.

Windows also add more ventilation control, especially in insulated trailers. Adjust the windows in relation to the stall’s interior climate to get the optimum interior temperature.

Most windows are made from either Plexiglas or tempered safety glass. Plexiglas windows tend to expand and contract, so they might not easily open and close in extreme heat. Bus-type windows are most common. However, in the trailer’s nose, a crank-out window is more watertight aga inst driving rain. Windows in the horse area should close from the outside so you don’t have to squeeze into your trailer with your horse to close them.

Bar guards protect your horse if he loses his balance and hits the window with his head, or rears and strikes the window with his hooves. Make sure the bars have no sharp edges. Look for round bars that are recessed into or placed flat against the window opening. Bars should be spaced closely enough that your horse can’t catch a hoof in them.

Make sure the windows are sealed around the frame to keep excess moisture out of the inner walls and to keep leakage at a minimum.

Screens keep outside debris from blowing into a moving trailer; road debris can harm your horse’s eyes and lungs. Screens also discourage wasps and bees from making nests inside your trailer when it’s stored with the windows open.

#4 Consider Interior Color

A light-colored interior is inviting to your horse. Horses have very good night vision, but their eyes take longer than ours to adjust to light changes. A dark trailer looks like a dark, hollow cave to him. There could be a mountain lion in there!

A trailer with a light-colored interior (and lots of windows) is inviting to your horse. In our experience, when horses are loaded into a trailer with a light-colored interior, no matter what size or style, they walk in by themselves without balking.

Horses seem to especially like light gray. Light gray is probably calming because it’s light, but not glaring. We’ve found that white is an inviting color, too.

#5 Consider Exterior Color

It looks so good to have a matching truck and trailer. Your personality shows through your choice of color and design for your rig. Upscale, matching rigs have a look of success and prosperity. But there’s more to consider than how your trailer looks on the outside. You need to consider how your trailer’s exterior affects your horse’s comfort.

Dark exterior colors absorb light and heat, which makes the surface hot. If your trailer isn’t insulated, the hot metal greatly affects interior temperature. If your trailer is insulated, the insulation will help protect the inside wall from the outside wall, but still, the temperature will be compromised.

Light exterior colors reflect light and heat, which makes the surface cool. White is the most reflective and coolest exterior color but silver and pewter work as well. Your horse will

appreciate a light exterior color, especially on hot, sunny days.

If you’d like to match your trailer to your dark-colored truck, you can add custom striping.

A light-colored roof is extremely important, no matter what color the rest of your trailer may be. Again, white is more reflective than any other color, including bare aluminum. Most new trailers have light-colored roofs, but not all, so be discriminating.

When buying a used trailer, you’ll have to shop carefully to find a light-colored or white roof. Note that some trailers have a color stripe between the top edge of the exterior walls and the bottom edge of the roof, but the roof itself is a light color. You might not be able to see this from the ground.

#6 Add Interior Lighting

There are no disadvantages to interior trailer lighting, and the advantages are many.

Interior trailer lights can be helpful when you load your horse on dark mornings before leaving for a trail-riding destination or horse show. They’re also great for packing your trailer the night before.

Interior trailer lighting is good for your horse, too. By turning on interior lights, the passing outside lights, such as traffic lights, are less disturbing to sensitive horses.

Interior lighting makes is easier to check on your horse at night. If your trailer doesn’t have living quarters or a dressing room, you might even be able to glance in your rear view mirror into your trailer’s front windows to keep an eye on your horse while driving.

Interior lamps should be flat against the wall or ceiling, where your horse can’t bump into them. A light over each door is best. Each light will have its own switch. It’s convenient to have a master switch on the outside of your trailer that will turn the lights off and on together.

You’ll need to plug your trailer into your tow vehicle for the trailer lights to work unless you have an optional recreational-vehicle style battery to run the interior lights when the trailer isn’t hitched. Be careful — if you accidentally leave on your trailer lights, you can drain your tow vehicle’s battery and/or the RV battery.

#7 Add a Fan

Oscillating interior fans can improve your trailer’s airflow. Fans are becoming more important as many parts of the country experience hotter climates. They can especially enhance equine comfort when your trailer carries four horses or more, all producing body heat and warm breath.

Fans are most useful when you’re moving slowly or stopped in traffic on a hot day.

Locate the fans high enough to be out of harm’s way. Install bars or screens to protect the fans from the horses and vice versa

Horse hoof health tips.

You said it wouldn’t happen again, but here you are: Your horse is confined and your checkbook is out, as you wait for your farrier to come and fix your horse’s ailing hooves. Meanwhile, you’re missing out on another weekend of team roping. Could this scenario be avoided? Yes. Organize your approach to horse hoof care, farriers say, and your riding time is more likely to be uninterrupted by emergencies, equipment failures, and last-minute fix-ups. Following are farriers’ top seven secrets to keeping your horse sound.

Secret #1: Check your horse’s hoof history. 
Check back through your records and bills to see what problems your horse has had in the past. Did some keep coming back? Is your horse prone to infections or injuries such as bruising at certain times of the year? Ask your farrier and veterinarian what you can do this year to avoid those problems.

Image placeholder title

Secret #2: Plan ahead. 
• Farriers have lives, too. Ask your farrier well ahead of time if he or she is on call during the year-round–or if you should have the name and number of an apprentice or colleague on hand just in case. Make sure that he or she knows your plans for the roping season. If you say, “I’ve been waiting for years to go to that roping and we’re leaving June 1st” your farrier will know how important the trip is to you. Your farrier might reply, “Too bad-I’ll be away the month of May, so I won’t be here to check him before you go.” If you know your farrier’s availability in advance, you’ll know when to prepare a backup plan, in the case of emergency. But if you find out at the last minute, this information can throw you into the panic zone.

• If you have a trip planned that’s much more ambitious than your normal schedule, ask your farrier for a checkup appointment the week before you plan to leave and another a few days after you return. Paying a small fee for a maintenance checkup is worth it, especially if your horse’s feet show a bruise or infection that might cause problems at the roping. Also, have your farrier check your horse when you return to make sure that no excessive damage or wear has put your horse at risk. A bonus: If your horse comes home sore or even lame, you’ll already be booked for a checkup. (Note: If your farrier suggests that you call your vet, heed the advice and reach for the phone.)

Image placeholder title

Secret #3: Know thy shoes.
• Ask your farrier to give you the specifics of your horse’s shoe size and style, and the manufacturer (for example, “St. Croix Toe-and-Heeled, Size 1”). Note whether your horse’s shoes are clipped (specifically side clips or toe clips) or unclipped and whether his hind shoes are squared at the toe. If you’re away from home or if your regular farrier is unavailable, a stand-in farrier will then know right away how to shoe your horse. And if you report that your horse wears, for example, “clipped aluminum GE egg bars with Impact gel pads and Equithane wall filler,” a potential farrier might ask that you find a more experienced farrier who’s accustomed to working with complex shoeing packages. Get information about both front and hind shoes: It’s not unusual for horses to wear different types and sizes of shoes on hind and front feet.

• Tip: If you haul long distances to ropings, consider paying your farrier to fit up spare shoes to take along, just in case.

Image placeholder title

“Organize your approach to hoof care and your roping time is less likely to be interrupted by emergencies, equipment failures, and
last-minute fix-ups.”
-Fran Jurga

Secret #4: Check wear patterns.
• Ask your farrier if you can keep the old shoes the next time your horse is due for new shoes. (Ask that they are marked left or right, or you’ll be confused!) Study the shoes carefully. Where’s the most wear? Looking at a worn shoe will show you if your horse “breaks over” (brings his weight over) at the center of his toe, or to the outside or inside. Some horses will show excessive heel wear.

• Turn the shoes over and look at the foot surface; you may find abrasion marks where the heels “expand” across the steel or aluminum surface. Some wear it is normal, but excessive grooving may be a red flag to discuss with your farrier.

• Look at the nail holes–are they enlarged? Shoes with heavy wear will have deformed nail holes, caused by nail movement in the shoe (and hoof wall). This is often the result of long miles on the hard ground, but also can be caused by your horse repeatedly stomping at flies or kicking stall walls.

• Keep worn shoes in a plastic bag, or photograph them. As the summer goes on, compare your horse’s current wear pattern with the shoes you’ve labeled “normal.” Is the wear the same? Changes in wear patterns are subtle early warning signs that your horse is changing his gait or loading pattern (how he distributes his weight over his hooves as he moves). He may be swinging a leg out to avoid a bruise or swelling, or landing toe-first to avoid heel pain. Point out any changes to your farrier, and ask for his or her advice.

Image placeholder title

Secret #5: Check for worn-out shoes.
• An active roping season can make quick work of a horseshoe. You may be riding on pavement more often, or riding in rocky warm-up areas more than the soft terrain of an arena. Warn your farrier well in advance if your horse’s shoes look thin or if the clinches are weak. Be prepared to haul your horse to the farrier, if needed, but don’t ride on thin shoes held on by weak clinches.

• Consider investing in farrier tools, so that you can safely remove a loose shoe. I recommend a pair of pull-offs, creased nail pullers, and a rasp, available from a farrier supply store. (Two are Brighton Feed and Saddlery,, and Harry Patton Horseshoe Supply, Your horse can become badly injured by stepping on a bent shoe or broken nails–but if you try to remove the shoe without the proper tools, you risk removing a chunk of hoof wall or bruising his hoof.

Secret #6: Protect your horse’s feet.

• You might think that going shoeless is the ideal state for your horse–and your budget. Most of the time, that’s right. But an active roping schedule can put too much stress on some horses’ bare hooves. Ask your farrier whether your horse might need shoes for the heavy roping season.

• Don’t abuse your horse to show off how tough his feet are. If his feet are tender, the walls have worn lower than the sole, or you notice him “dancing in place” and shifting weight from one front foot to the other, stand him in an ice bath or cold running stream while you call your vet.

• Invest in an EDSS First Alert Kit ( This kit contains Styrofoam pads you apply with duct tape to protect your horse’s sore feet until your vet arrives. Don’t ride a hurting horse.


Here’s the good news: Riding doesn’t necessarily stress your horse’s hooves, in fact, the opposite is probably true. Too little exercise limits circulation to your horse’s feet and curtails horn growth, particularly if he lives in a confined space, and/or is overweight. If his hooves are properly cared for before, during and after a ride and if your riding schedule is consistent and reasonable to ensure that your horse’s fitness matches his schedule you both should sail through roping season. Here are some bonus tips to keep him sound.

Pre- and post-ride checklist

Image placeholder titleWalk your horse without the saddle. Make sure he walks freely and willingly. Look him over from head to tail–and down to all four toes. Note any cuts or scrapes that might cause soreness or irritation.

Clean your horse’s feet with a hoof pick to remove any irritating rocks and packed dirt/manure.

As you clean your horse’s feet, run your hand around the nail clinches in the hoof wall. The wall should be smooth. If you feel a rough bit of metal, a clinch is “raised” or “popped,” and the shoe may be loose. A horse can also cut himself on a ragged clinch.

Check the shoe heels. If you find one that isn’t directly under your horse’s heel, he may have a “sprung heel.” That is, his heel is hitting the shoe’s edge as it expands and contracts. Your farrier will need to remove, re-level, and reshape the shoe, and then nail it back on. Riding on a sprung heel can cause corns or more severe hoof injury.

Run your hand around your horse’s coronets at the hairline, and feel for bumps, swelling and/or heat. (If you’ve clipped your horse’s pasterns, consider applying bell boots to protect his coronets.)

Run your hands down each of your horse’s legs, feeling for heat, swelling and/or tenderness,
especially on the inside.

Check old injury sites/hoof cracks, and make a mental note of their condition before you ride, for comparison when you return.

When not to ride:

Don’t ride if your normally obedient horse resists when you try to pick up a foot, seems tender to your touch, you see swelling or redness at his coronet, or you see red marks on his hoof sole. Don’t ride if you see any signs of a loose shoe. Don’t ride on an injured or cracked hoof.

When to turn back:

Stop at the first sign of lameness, altered gait, or repeated stumbling. Dismount, loosen the cinch/girth and get your horse home.

Expert tip:

Photograph your horse at different times through the year. You’ll notice how his body shape changes as his haircoat and fitness level change his feet will show changes, too. Take close-up photos of each foot and shoes. You may be surprised to notice how his hoof shape and hairline junction contours change. A jammed heel may come down, or a bump in the hairline over a wall flare may subside or worsen, a warning sign of unequal pressure on the wall, or abnormal footfall. Photos of such changes will be valuable if he ever suffers a serious hoof injury or contracts a serious hoof disease, such as laminitis. Your farrier needs to know what’s normal for your horse, so he or she can better judge abnormalities. For instance, it’ll be helpful to know that your horse’s right front foot was always a bit steeper than his left one, or that his heel bulbs had been prominent before the injury or disease.

Image placeholder title

Secret #7: Become equipment savvy.
• Clean all your tack, boots, wraps, and trailering gear well and often. Horses change shape with fitness level and age, so don’t assume that tack will or should fit the same from year to year. Make any replacements or adjustments in advance of the heavy roping season. Dirty, ill-fitting, uncomfortable tack can cause your horse to change his gait and/or loading patterns, which, in turn, can create hoof problems.

• Avoid attending a competitive roping in new tack, support boots, and other gear. Take the time to gradually break in new equipment for an optimal fit. Be especially gradual with martingales and tie-downs, as your horse may need extra time to adjust to their feel. Start in the practice pen, and let your horse tell you what feels right and what doesn’t.

• During breaks, loosen the cinch/girth and other strapped tack, and check for irritation. Carry a spare, so you can switch at the first sign of a welt or rash. Even if your new cinch/girth technically fits your horse, it can irritate him if it’s left on too long on a hot summer day. To avoid discomfort, your horse may shuffle at the jog or widen out his front end. This can lead to early fatigue, stumbling, abnormal head carriage, or interference (his hind or diagonal legs may overreach, causing him to strike a front hoof with a hind one, which can cause an injury).

• If you sense your horse trotting unevenly or resisting the canter, dismount and check all your gear. You may be amazed to find that removing a martingale or tie-down will improve your horse’s energy, gait, and even soundness.

• Check your horse’s legs and inside boots and straps. Neoprene sports-medicine boots can create heat against your horse’s skin, and sand particles trapped under boots and wraps can be irritating.

• Fit your boots to your horse, don’t borrow someone else’s horse boots, and trim any excess from straps. Keep hook-and-loop fasteners clean so straps lay flat. Flapping straps from brushing boots or even an ill-fitting bell boot meant to protect your horse from interfering can backfire, causing your horse to widen his stance behind or shorten a stride, leading to early fatigue or stumbling.

What is living under your horse mats?

How safe is your horse trailer? Horse mats and bedding in a horse trailer can be a breeding ground for bacteria and insects if not thoroughly cleaned after every use. If done properly this means shoveling out and disposing of the shavings, pulling out the heavy and dirty mats and, scrubbing both the floor and the mats and allowing them to dry.



Replacing your mats with long lasting Polylast rubber flooring could be a safer and valuable option. No more dirty mats. No more shavings. A safer and cleaner floor for your traveling horse. Polylast has Microban technology that helps prevent the growth of bacteria. Polylast is easy to clean with just your garden hose. Just shovel off the manure and rinse with your hose. It comes in a variety of colors and will build value into your horse trailer.

13 Things Horse Owners Should Do Now To Prepare For Spring.

Baby, it’s cold outside…but it won’t be forever. Before you know it, winter will be a fading memory and the season will be in full swing. We asked championship riders and professional trainers what horse owners should do to get ready for spring and compiled their answers for you. If you want to ride like a pro, try preparing like one.


1. Schedule spring vet appointments. Make sure your horses are set to be seen for routine vet exams, vaccines, and dental care by booking the appointments now.


2. Keep on top of farrier work. Winter brings its own hoof-care concerns. Whether you keep your horses shoed and or have them go barefoot in the winter, maintaining healthy hooves will make the spring transition much smoother.


3. Get fly gear ready for spring. Don’t wait for pests to be a problem. Gather fly gear and check its fit and condition now so it’s ready to use when your horse needs it.


4. Create your calendar. If you’re riding competitively, make a list of all the events you want to attend during the year and put them on your calendar. This will help you plan training and logistics while keeping your goals literally in sight.



5. Clean your tack. We’re not talking about a quick once-over, but a good, deep cleaning. Get it gleaming in a way you don’t have time for during the busy season.


6. Wash the warm-weather blankets. You know how hard it is to get the blankets washed when they’re in daily use, so grab a good book and take a trip to the laundromat for a mass cleaning.


7. Keep riding your horse. An elite athlete doesn’t stop training during the off-season, and neither should your horse. Riding all winter prevents injury and keeps them physically fit for competition. Even if your horse is on vacation for the winter, they need exercise. Turn-outs may not be big enough; get them out and active.


8. Feed mineral salt. Stress and dehydration are big winter concerns. Offering mineral salts to keep them drinking and promote good health so they’re ready for spring training, is an excellent option.



9. Work on your horse’s body condition score. Now is the time to make tweaks that will improve their score before competition season. Do they need fattening up? Slimming? Work with a vet or equine trainer to formulate a plan to take you through the rest of the year.


10. Set up a chiropractic visit. Having a chiropractor evaluate your horse before you bring them back to work will make sure their body is aligned correctly. Correct alignment prevents soreness and allows your hose to carry himself properly and use his body well.


11. Do some serious cleaning. If you touch it in the warm months, clean it now–and don’t overlook things like horse brushes. To clean those, dunk them in a bucket of soapy water and let them dry so they’ll be ready to care for the spring coat.


12. Get clipping. If you body clip your horses, make sure to get them fully clipped before the end of January. If you wait until February, the summer coat will already be growing.


13. Do trailer maintenance. Clean and perform necessary maintenance on your ride so you’re ready to roll when it’s time.


Got a tip of your own? Tell us what you think horse owners should do in the winter to prepare for spring.

Yearly Trailer Maintenance, Right on Schedule.

We rely on our trailers to transport our horses safely and reliably. So it stands to reason that we should pay close attention to their maintenance and soundness. But in the busy life of the modern equestrian, trailer upkeep can easily be pushed down on the list of “things to do.” But remember–this is our horses’ safety on the line, and putting off trailer maintenance can be putting your horse at risk of serious injury. To make the chore more manageable, we’ll help you break it all down with tips on regular maintenance.

Preflight Checklist

It’s wise to make a laminated comprehensive trailer checklist and refer to it a week prior to leaving for a trip. Included should be a reminder to inspect:

Tire and spare tire for wear This is very important to do frequently, because once tires begin to show a wear pattern, it can be difficult to stop, even if you’ve fixed the cause. Examples of wear include baldness in the center of the tire, which is caused by over inflation; wear toward the edge of the tires, which is an indication of under inflation; side wear, which can mean your axles are not in alignment or you’ve overloaded the trailer (do not overload in the future and have your tires realigned).

Flat spots are the results of skidding tires (adjust your brakes and avoid slamming on the brakes).

Tire and spare tire for pressure  You could have a flat tire on rubber torsion suspension (now standard on most horse trailers) that will not appear flat, so it needs to be checked. If left unchecked, it could overload the other tire on the same side, and you end up with two flats and only one spare tire.

The tire pressure should be indicated on the certification or VIN label.

To make sure you’ve got the right figure, check the psi rating (pressure per square inch) located on the side of the tire. Keeping tires at their maximum rating insures that they will flex less, thus ride cooler, and they will be less apt to blow from the heat. We suggest using a tire pressure gauge to inspect pressure on a regular basis.

Brakes and brake adjustment Test the trailer brakes by moving your rig a short distance before loading the horses and brake hard if the brakes grab and skid, slide the fine-tune setting on the controller until the brakes engage simultaneously, or slightly ahead of the tow vehicle brakes so that the entire rig brakes as if one unit.

Breakaway battery Check this with a battery tester. If it is a rechargeable battery, make sure it’s charged.

A more thorough test is to lift each tire off the ground with a trailer-aid jack, pull the pin out of the breakaway switch, then try spinning the wheel. The brakes should have the wheels locked up. If the wheels spin, then the battery or wiring is faulty. Recheck the battery after testing to make sure it’s fully charged.

Lights and turn signals Have a friend watch your brakes, turn signals, and running lights while you operate them from the tow vehicle to make sure they are all working, If they are not, check fuses, junction box, plug connector, overall wiring, and/or bulbs.

Door latches, hitch bolts Check for wear and tear that could cause a failure. If the horse area doors are secured by a small door handle latch only, make sure the door latch works easily and the spring loaded catch latches securely.

Bearings Wheel bearing care should be done by a professional mechanic unless the axles are EZ lube axles, which allow you to grease them with a grease gun without removing the wheels. However, that EZ lube axles are easy to over grease if you’re doing it yourself. Over-greasing can blow out the bearings.

Floor If you have an aluminum floor, look for signs of corrosion. If your floor is wood, check for dry rot (soft or crumbling spots) and under the trailer for signs of deterioration on the cross beams supporting the floor.

Windows If the trailer has sliding windows, check that they slide easily. If they are drop-down windows, make sure they work and latch securely to the trailer. Make sure screens are in place to prevent debris from flying into the trailer.

Lug Nuts Check that your lug nuts are tight and properly torqued. If you want to do this yourself, consult a mechanic the first time. Or you can just have this job done by a mechanic.

For a quick inspection, walk around and feel each lug nut with a tire iron to see if any are loose. Note: Bolts tend to loosen more easily on aluminum rims than on steel.

Also include a reminder (on your list) to conduct basic cleaning chores and inspect the inside for wasp nests or other insects. These are things that, if done ahead of time, should be rechecked the day of use.

Finally, inspect the interior horse area for any sharp edges or hazardous protrusions and finish up with a general walk-around to look for any obvious defects.

Once a year (perhaps at the beginning of the show or trail riding season), you should have a professional inspect the condition of the trailer brakes and adjust them if needed, check and grease the bearings, and make sure the wiring and the electric braking system between tow vehicle and trailer are in good working order. Also, have them check the undercarriage for wear or damage to the frame.

Once hooked up on the day of use, another laminated “pre-flight” list should have you checking to make sure the coupler is secured, the breakaway system is hooked up correctly, safety chains are attached, and all turn signal, brake, and running lights are working.

After the Trip

Upon your return, be sure to clean any manure- or urine-soaked bedding and lift the rubber mats to check the trailer floor.

Don’t store the trailer with either soiled bedding or clean bedding in it, because it could draw moisture and cause extreme condensation on the interior sidewalls, floor, and roof of the trailer. The urine and manure can damage the floor and attract insects.

If there is only manure in the trailer and moisture has stayed completely on solid mats, occasionally it’s all right to sweep it out without removing the mats.

But every second or third time you use the trailer, you should wash it out and lift the mats. Let the floor dry before you put the mats back over the floor. If you are going to store the trailer for a while, then definitely the mats should be lifted and the floor washed. Store it with the mats turned up and resting on their sides so the floor can dry completely.

If you have an aluminum floor, lift the mats and wash it with soap and water at least once a month, or even better, every time the trailer is used, regardless of whether your horse has soiled the mats or not.

Many trailer manufacturers using aluminum floors have strict cleaning policies. If these specifications are not followed, they could void the warranty.

Check the floor often. Aluminum floors will corrode if not properly cared for.

Aluminum floors require frequent scrubbing because they are affected by the alkaline in urine and manure, which will start to corrode aluminum over a relatively short period of time if not cleaned with soap and water. (Note: Some mats are very heavy and might be inconvenient to lift for cleaning after every trip, especially if you’re traveling weekly. You should consult your owner’s manual for floor care for your particular trailer.)

Most wood floors are pressure treated against water and weather, and they hold up remarkably well with less maintenance than aluminum floors. If the mats cover the entire floor, most of the urine and manure will stay on the mats, but the trailer should still be swept out after every use and hosed out every few trips.

Using a power washer and liquid detergent, wash and rinse both sides of the rubber mat as well as the floor and walls of the trailer. Be sure the mats and floor are dry before replacing.

Check the tires for wear and tear after each trip. It might seem excessive, but a flat tire on a horse trailer is not just an inconvenience, it’s a danger.

Changing trailer tires on the side of the road is extremely unsafe and difficult. And few roadside vehicle assistance programs (other than USRider, an equine-based program) will change a trailer tire for you with horses on board.

If you have a trailer with living quarters, we recommend that it remain plugged in to an adequate power source when not being used to keep your facilities fully charged.

Conduct a walk-around to check for any obvious defects that might have occurred during your trip. Take a close look at your chains, breakaway system, the hitch, and the electrical plug to make sure they weren’t damaged in the transport.

For instance, chains can drag on the ground or the electrical cord can come loose. Take out all the hay, and make sure there isn’t any hay left in the cracks around mangers and floor.

Ongoing Considerations

Keeping your trailer clean and dry can prolong its life. One simple way to do this is to close the vents so rain can’t come in while the trailer is being stored. Trailers are expensive, and even though you might not have plans to use yours for a while, wash it regularly as this helps preserve the life of your investment.

Be sure you wash the roof, too. The sides of the trailers will get dirty if it rains and dust and debris from the roof runs down.

Wash the trailer more frequently if it has been exposed to salt or liquid de-icer. Jack the trailer up and hose off the undercarriage as well.

Check the hinges, doors, and dividers inside the trailer every three months.

Annual Maintenance

If you want to keep your trailer in top shape, have it serviced on an annual basis or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. Since trailers do not have odometers you should keep track of miles logged while towing it.

Owners should have their service personnel check brakes, wheel bearings, tires, axle attachment bolts, and the welds of the trailer.

Service personnel will make sure the dividers are working properly and check all of the hinges and latches. If it has a living quarters, they will check the batteries, power converter, and plumbing to make sure there aren’t any leaks. They also do a general walk-around to check for any unforeseen problems.

Living quarters should be winterized in areas where it drops below freezing.

Also, ask your service expert to check the seals on the roof to make sure there aren’t any leaks, and check the A/C vents on top for birds’ nests or damage.

Take-Home Message

If you’re ever in doubt of any maintenance issues, consult your owner’s manual for a complete list of maintenance steps since every trailer is different, or call SCTrailers for advice.

A safe, well-maintained trailer will give you years of use and maintain its value should you ever decide to sell.


Dexter “never lube” axles eliminate the need to grease the bearings. Rubber torsion axles (on most horse trailers now, but not all) require minimum care because they eliminate springs, shackles, and bolts that wear out. The 3M VHB Tape has shown in research to reduce noise (by 41%) and vibrations (by 30%) as compared to trailers built with traditional mechanical fasteners.

Choosing a trailer that is built with the right materials can eliminate long-term maintenance. Look for powder-coated latches instead of regular painted latches. Seek out baked-on enamel aluminum instead of painted aluminum. Buy galvaneeled and galvanized steel instead of raw steel.





Although it might not be possible for many horse owners, storing a trailer inside and out of the weather is ideal. Some trailers weather the outdoors better than others, depending on the age, quality, and technology of construction.

For instance, a seamless roof will be less likely to leak over the years as one that overlaps materials. Baked-on enamel aluminum is apt to weather the elements better than certain painted aluminum skins or painted steel sides.

Therefore, keep your trailer in a dry building that is free from birds, animals, and other equipment that could damage the trailer.

If indoor storage is not possible, keep the tires and trailer covered with porous RV-type covers (a non-porous tarp can collect moisture between it and the trailer, causing damage) to prevent rain, dirt, pollution, and the sun from damaging the trailer, especially the tires.

If the trailer is built well, with the elements in mind, it should take the weather well, except for the rubber tires. Sun tends to rot the rubber over a period of time.

Treat a painted or fiberglass-reinforced plastic trailer with paste wax twice a year (consult your manufacturer’s guide) to protect the finish. Waxing the inside walls of the trailer can protect the surface from bangs and kicks.

SCTrailers offers maintenance services, inspections and, advice if you are ever in any doubt.


How to Reduce Transport Stress in Horses

Learn about the best ways to reduce stress when transporting horses by land or air.

Before Transport

Tranquilization and Familiarization
Many horses have been familiarized with transport from a young age. Even many that have never been transported before will often readily allow themselves to be loaded and confined in a transport vehicle. A small minority of horses could be difficult to handle during transport. Tranquilization by a veterinarian might facilitate loading and assist with the safe handling of the horse during transport. However, the medication can interfere with temperature regulation so should be done with caution.

Quick Tips to Reduce Transport Stress Before Travel

  • Train the horse to load, unload, and haul quietly. This will drastically reduce the stress levels right from the start of travel. Loading is by far the most stressful single aspect of transport (other than ultra-long duration hauling).
  • Make sure your preventive health program, particularly vaccinations, is up to date. Vaccinations take two to three weeks to provide protection.
  • Make sure you have the proper health records for any regulatory requirements, especially if crossing state lines or country borders.
  • Select a van or trailer that suits your horse’s size and temperament, preferably one that allows the horse to lower its head as this can make a significant difference. Make a safety check of the trailer.
  • Inspect the transport vehicle for cleanliness and sanitize, if necessary.
  • If hiring a commercial transport company, make sure the grooms and other caretakers are experienced in handling horses and their care.
  • Plan the route to minimize duration, along with any extremes in weather or environmental temperatures.
  • Ensure that the flooring remains nonslip for the entire trip. Provide absorbent bedding to help soak up any urine and manure excreted.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation in the transport vehicle.
  • Avoid prolonged stationary periods in traffic or at refueling stops. A trailer in the sun can be more than 20 degrees warmer inside than outside. Traffic delays during the summer, with associated fumes, can be disastrous to the horse. Unload, if safe to do so, if a prolonged delay is apparent.
  • Provide a well-fitting halter; leather is ideal.
  • Bring sufficient feed and water.
  • Have an effective means of restraint.
  • Plan for rest or recovery periods. Offer water every four to six hours, or every three to four hours in hot weather. If possible, pick up manure and urine at the same time intervals.
  • Check that veterinary help is available, if required.
  • Notify the point of arrival of the journey plan and any special requirements.

Water and Electrolytes
Unless a horse has a history of dehydration, excessive or uncontrolled administration of electrolytes could actually have adverse effects on water and electrolyte balance in the horse. Check that a horse that is to be transported has been drinking normally in the days leading up to transport, and especially immediately before transport. The pre-travel administration of oral or intravenous fluids is not usually recommended unless the horse has a history of developing dehydration during travel.

Body Weight
It is normal for a horse to lose weight during transport. The amount of weight lost can range from 0.45 to 0.55% of total body weight (about five to six pounds in a normal mature Thoroughbred) per hour of transport. This weight loss might reflect reduced dietary intake during travel, dehydration, manure and urine excretion, and sweating. Horses can lose 45 pounds (20 kilograms) on international flights, and horses with shipping fever could lose 75 pounds or more en route. Horses traveling more than 12 hours have been found to lose up to 5% of their body weight. Weight loss in transit tends to be regained over the following three to seven days in healthy horses, and possibly over longer periods in horses with shipping fever.

It is recommended that horses be weighed before travel to establish a baseline for comparison with weight status on arrival and in the recovery period. Since scales are likely to vary, weigh two large sacks of feed and record their weights. Keep the sacks intact to weigh on the scale at your destination. You will then be able to compare departure with arrival weights, compensating for differences in scale accuracy. Weight tapes, when applied correctly, tend to be accurate within 40 pounds.

Respiratory Health and Disease
One of the fundamental rules of transport is “sick horse on, sicker horse when getting off.” The importance of avoiding the shipment of horses that are even slightly sick (other than for transport to a hospital or clinic) cannot be overemphasized. This is especially true for horses with respiratory illness. Horses with fever or nasal discharge and those with a history of exposure to other horses with infectious respiratory disease (such as strangles or viral respiratory infections) should not be transported.

Unnecessary medication should be avoided, especially before travel. Adverse reactions are always a possibility with any therapeutic substance. Tranquilizers should be administered only by a veterinarian and are not recommended unless necessary.

Transport Vehicle (Trailer/Van) Inspection
Prior to departure, the transport vehicle should be carefully inspected to be sure that it is safe and road-worthy. Special attention to competency of flooring should be paid in all trailers. Ensure that:

  • All lights are in working order.
  • Brakes are fully operational.
  • Doors fully open and close and can be locked properly.
  • Vents fully open and close.
  • The trailer floor and any loading ramps have been thoroughly checked.
  • If rubber mats are used, make sure these are flush with floor to avoid any tripping during loading and traveling.
  • The trailer’s emergency brake box has been tested and is in working order.
  • Tire pressure is adjusted according to the manufacturer’s suggested levels.
  • The spare tire is accessible and properly inflated.
  • The vehicle is stocked with an appropriate trailer and truck jack as well as tire chocks (a wedge placed behind a vehicle’s wheels to prevent accidental movement).
  • The hitch is functional for the trailer and the vehicle.

Route Plan
The route for road transport should be carefully considered. Plan the time of day for transport to avoid extremes of heat or cold. Night travel can be advantageous because ambient temperatures will be lower during hot weather, traffic is likely to be lighter so as to avoid stops and starts, refueling might be faster, and horses could be more relaxed during the evening. Plan the route so that it is possible to stop regularly to check horses and offer them water every four to six hours. Locate veterinarians along the way in case of a medical emergency during transit.

Flight Plan for Air Transport
The duration of confinement to the air should be minimized as much as possible. Loading and unloading of planes should be facilitated in every way possible. The shortest route to reach a distant destination is always preferred. The duration of ground stops should be minimized and auxiliary ventilation systems should be used to maintain excellent air quality. Typically, the worst air quality occurs during ground times. Planes are much better ventilated when aloft. Relative humidity and temperature rise quickly in a stationary closed vehicle, especially in warm climates and sunny conditions.

Emergency Preparedness
Consult your veterinarian for his or her recommendation for what to include in a first aid kit prior to travel. Some essential items should include sterile bandage material, adhesive wrap and tape, leg wraps, scissors, rectal thermometer, antiseptic solution, latex gloves, and PVC tubing cut into lengths of eighteen inches to two feed (for emergency splinting).

Blankets and Bandages
Bandages and bell boots for leg and coronary band protection can be useful if horses are accustomed to wearing them. If not (i.e., foals or yearlings), shipping boots or bandages could be a liability instead of an asset. Train the horse to wear protective bandages if you plan to use them. If the horse is blanketed (not advised unless it is cold), select a blanket that will not overheat the horse and cause sweating. Remember the horse will be using his muscles to balance and there could be limited ventilation once the vehicle is fully loaded with horses.

Recovery Period
Despite every effort at preventing shipping fever or other transport-related disease, some horses will become ill during or within the first three days following transport. It is advisable to plan for a convalescent period of at least three days after shipping to allow for treatment of horses that could be ill. Contact a veterinarian if the horse exhibits nasal discharge, refuses feed, or has an elevated rectal temperature.

During Transport

Duration of Journey
Journeys of three hours or less than 500 miles are unlikely to be associated with transport-related diseases, dehydration, or fatigue due to energy expenditure and reduced feed intake. Road transport time per day should not exceed 12 hours from the time the first horse is loaded on the vehicle. After 12 hours of transport, horses should be removed from the vehicle and comfortably stabled for at least eight hours. This time period is necessary for tracheal clearance and rehydration.

Behavior and Injury
Horse behavior should be monitored regularly throughout any transport. Additional skillful help might be required if a horse becomes extremely agitated. Any depression or injury in horses should be noted and appropriate first-aid action taken wherever possible.

Feed and Water
Clean water should be offered regularly—approximately every three to six hours—during prolonged ground or air transport. If possible, it is advisable to bring water from home as some horses are reluctant to drink water that is not from the home sources. In warmer conditions, high humidity, or when horses are sweating, water should be offered more frequently.

It is important that horses eat during long journeys. However, it is also imperative that the environment on the transport vehicle have as little contamination of the air with respirable particles as possible. In particular, the breathing zone around the horse’s muzzle should not be heavily contaminated with particulate matter. Because hay nets must be placed very close to (or within) the breathing zone, it is essential that hay be as dust-free as possible. It is therefore recommended that hay be thoroughly soaked in water before being loaded on the vehicle or fed in a net to horses.

Head Posture
Horses should be given as much freedom of movement of their heads as is safe. Restraint in the head up posture for prolonged intervals can severely compromise lung clearance mechanisms and predispose a horse to shipping fever. Hay nets should be placed as low as possible while still assuring that horses cannot entangle their feet in the nets. Alternatively, horses travel well in small box stalls in which they can extend their heads to the floor to consume hay.

Orientation During Transport
Orientation of the horse within a transport vehicle has been identified as a potential source of stress. Several studies have examined horses facing toward or away from the direction of road travel. With some variation, the studies suggest that horses facing away from travel experience less stress and better ability to clear their airways and adjust posture. While most horses seem to prefer this, there is evidence that some individuals prefer head forward and might show greater signs of stress if forced to ride backward. It is not known whether the horses respond this way because they have become accustomed to it or for other reasons. Decisions regarding restraint and orientation during travel should be made on a case-by-case basis. Greater caution is required when opening the doors of a trailer with an unrestrained horse inside.

Ventilation and the Environment
There are a number of factors about air quality that impact the respiratory system. The properly designed trailer or van will allow for adequate ventilation without a gale force draft directly on the horse or a total drenching if it rains. That said, it is almost impossible not to have the airflow in a trailer recirculate rear to front along the floor, bringing noxious fumes up for the horses to breathe. The pressure profiles along a moving trailer largely dictate that there will be lots of rebreathing. More open-stock trailers potentially offer significant advantages for ventilation and reduced heat load during the summer.

Ensure that potential factors that can negatively impact air quality within the trailer/van are minimized. The exhaust system of the vehicle should be inspected yearly. If the truck has a vertical exhaust similar to that on a tractor-trailer, it should be taller than the ceiling of the van or trailer and not be flowing in the immediate vicinity of an intake vent. Note that diesel exhaust can be more harmful than gasoline exhaust, and keeping either engine in proper maintenance can decrease its emissions. (Health concerns about diesel exhaust relate not only to cancer, but also to other health problems such as lung and heart diseases.) Breathing of exhaust fumes can be an irritant to the respiratory system and excessive fumes in an enclosed compartment can cause death due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Deaths of horses in trailers have been reported when the wind currents during transit directed the exhaust directly into closed trailers.

Urine-soaked bedding or poor drainage from the trailer can also have a negative impact on air quality. When urine breaks down, a substantial amount of ammonia fumes can be generated. Excessive inhalation of ammonia fumes can cause respiratory irritation that predisposes the horse to respiratory problems. Recent research suggests that in the case of long road journeys there is benefit in removing feces and urine-soaked material during periodic stops.

After Arrival

Horses that travel well will be bright and alert with a normal rectal temperature upon arrival at their destination. Unload horses as soon as possible to avoid additional confinement and other stress factors. They should voluntarily drink and be keenly interested in eating within one to two hours of arrival. Hand walking or turnout in a small paddock for an hour or so upon arrival after a long journey is recommended.

Ideally, dietary adjustments are made over seven to 10 days to decrease the likelihood of digestive upsets. A normal horse passes approximately one pile of manure every three to four hours. Any decrease in manure output should be reported to a veterinarian.

Rectal temperature should be recorded morning and evening. When possible, weigh horses upon arrival and then daily at the same time for the next three to seven days. Comparison with a pre-transport weight is useful to quantify actual weight losses and to assess the effects of shipping. Horses with signs of shipping fever (see section above) will be readily identified by this monitoring system. Some horses will not show signs of shipping fever until two to three days after transport. Occasionally, horses might have colic or diarrhea after shipping. Seek veterinary assistance immediately if transport-associated disease is suspected.

Recovery Times
A specified recovery interval should be part of the pre-shipment plan for horses making long journeys. For road journeys of six to 12 hours, a one-day rest period is likely to be sufficient. When horses travel longer than 12 hours by road or are transported by plane, a recovery period of 2 to 3 days should be planned. Research at UC Davis in horses transported 24 hours by road in a commercial van has shown that physiological parameters, especially white blood cells, take 24 hours to return to normal levels for horses transported in box stalls and an additional day for horses cross-tied during the trip.

Horses traveling long distances for performance events should arrive five to six days prior to the competition date to comply with medication withdrawal rules in the event of travel-associated illness. Horses with shipping fever might need three to four weeks to resume athletic activity.


  • Carolyn Stull, MS, PhD, of UC Davis is a Cooperative Extension Specialist and lecturer at UC Davis. She has authored numerous articles on the welfare of horses and livestock and was a major contributor to this Horse Report.
  • Anne Rodiek, MS, PhD, has recently retired as a professor in equine studies and has performed research in horse transport, breeding and nutrition for over 30 years.
  • Jim Jones, DVM, MS, PhD, a specialist in equine exercise physiology and sports medicine, has been researching transport stress for many years with colleagues at the Japan Racing Association. His most recent work focuses on heart rate variability as a sensitive indicator of stress in traveling horses.
  • Desmond Leadon, MA, MVB, MSc, FRCVS, RCVS, is head of clinical pathology at the Irish Equine Center and formerly international director of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. He has a long-standing interest in the long-distance transport of horses.
  • Michael Ball, DVM, runs his own practice at Early Winter Equine Medicine & Surgery in Ithaca, N.Y.

We thank these individuals for their contributions.

The Long Haul

Before you hit the road for a lengthy trip, get answers to the 10 questions most often asked about trailering horses long distances.

You just learned about your big promotion—greater responsibility, more money…and a move across the country. Or maybe you learned that you qualified for your first championship show…which requires a cross-country haul. Perhaps you’ve been invited on a once-in-a-lifetime trail ride…that’s a few thousand miles from home.

If you’re like most horse owners, these kinds of excursions are no big deal by airplane without your horse. But hauling your horse that many miles? Now that’s another story.

Even if your horse is a seasoned traveler, there’s a big difference between trailering to shows and rides in the neighboring town and traveling across the country—or to another country. In this article, I’ll explain how a long trip impacts your horse’s health and the risks he’ll face. Then I’ll answer the 10 most common questions I hear from my clients about long-distance hauling to help you minimize risk when planning your trip.

Transport Stress: What Happens?

Most studies confirm that the longer your horse spends on the road, the greater the threat to his well-being. Trips less than three hours in duration are unlikely to cause transport-related diseases. At the 12-hour mark, risks increase dramatically. So what exactly happens in your horse’s body to create that risk?

From the moment you load your horse in the trailer, his body responds by releasing the stress hormone cortisol into his blood stream. Cortisol levels continue to increase for the duration of travel, and may take 24 hours or longer to return to normal once he arrives at his destination. Cortisol has multiple effects on your horse’s body that can increase his risk for transport-related diseases. In general, it stimulates “act now” emergency mechanisms and shuts down less-immediately-critical functions of the body.

One of the most significant impacts of cortisol is its impact on your horse’s immune system. Specifically, the ratio of neutrophils to lymphocytes (two different types of white blood cells circulating in your horse’s system) increases in response to cortisol. This leaves your horse less able to fight infection and at risk of developing shipping fever, a potentially life-threatening respiratory infection that progresses rapidly once it starts. Signs of shipping fever can appear soon as four to six hours after departure, and this disease occurs in as many as six-percent of long-duration hauls.

Your horse also becomes dehydrated during transport because he drinks less, eats less, and sweats more. Dehydration increases risk for colic, as well as other metabolic abnormalities that can threaten your horse’s health.

Finally, long-distance travel puts strenuous demands on your horse’s musculoskeletal system. Blood tests show increases in creatine phosphokinase (CPK) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), two enzymes that are released from the muscles, following transport. This indicates your horse’s muscles are working hard to help him keep his balance while riding in the trailer. It takes 24 hours or longer for these values to return to baseline levels, leaving your horse stiff and sore following a trip.

Your Top 10 Long-Haul Questions, Answered

Question #1

Is it better if I haul him myself, or should I use a commercial shipper?

When you buy a new horse from a distant seller or are moving your horse to new barn in another state, you might consider a commercial shipper. That is, a professional who hauls horses and other livestock cross-country for a fee. These haulers often drive bigger rigs that provide a smoother ride and more space for your horse—think box stalls—than your own trailer, and have multiple drivers that can result in a more efficient trip.

Commercial rigs may be better insulated to protect your horse from extreme heat or cold, have fans for optimal ventilation, and might even be equipped with video cameras that allow your horse to be monitored at all times. Tempting option, for sure. That said, if you go commercial, select your shipper carefully. Look for a company that hires experienced horsemen as drivers (versus truck drivers with little or no horse experience) who can keep a close watch on your precious cargo. Ask how often the trucks will stop to rest and how they manage feed and watering schedules. Finally, beware of any commercial shipper who tells you they’re not worried about health papers that comply with interstate-travel requirements. You don’t want to find your horse in a jam halfway across the country.

Question #2

What about flying? Is it an option I should consider?

You might be surprised to learn that horses are the most frequent fliers next to humans. A three- to five-day trip across the country in a truck can be accomplished in a single day of air travel. There’s no doubt about it—flying is an option that can be much easier on your horse. Unfortunately, it’ll be harder on your pocketbook.

If you’re traveling to an important competition, one option to consider is to fly your horse to the competition to ensure he’ll be in the best possible condition when he arrives, then ship him home when he can have plenty of recovery time following the trip.

Question #3

What kind of paperwork do I need?

Paperwork requirements vary widely depending on your destination. As a general rule, you’ll need proof of a negative Coggin’s test that checks for antibodies for equine infectious anemia and a health certificate issued by your veterinarian within a specified amount of time (depending on the state). If you’re traveling out of the country, paperwork requirements become more complicated. Check with your veterinarian at least a month prior to your anticipated travel date so you can schedule tests and obtain the paperwork you need. While you’re at it, make sure your horse’s vaccinations are up-to-date—particularly against respiratory viruses such as influenza or rhinopneumonitis. It generally takes two to three weeks for vaccinations to be effective, so vaccinating at the time your vet comes out to do travel papers is likely to be perfect timing.

You might wonder: Do I really need these papers? If you’re traveling out of the country, you won’t get across a border without required papers. Period. If you’re traveling within the United States, you might make it across state lines, but law-enforcement officers look for vehicles with out-of-state license plates pulling horse trailers. There’s a good chance you’ll be pulled over at some point in your journey and asked for documentation. Fines are steep if you can’t produce required paperwork, so it really isn’t worth the risk.

Question #4

I’m hauling to a competition. How much time does my horse need to recover from the trip?

Plan at least one day of rest for a six- to 12-hour haul, and two to three days of rest for a trip that lasts longer than 12 hours. The average horse loses five to six percent of his body weight during a 24-hour trip due to a combination of dehydration and reduced feed intake. Although half of that weight loss is recovered within the first 24 hours of transit, it can take as long as seven days for your horse to fully recover. So if he’s facing a particularly long or difficult trip, plan at least a week before your horse will be completely back to normal.

Question #5

I’m traveling from an area where it’s cold to somewhere very hot. Should I body-clip my horse before we leave?

This might not be a concern in the summer months, but winter and spring shows can force horses to encounter major climate changes. Because of your horse’s large body size, he’s much more likely to be too hot than too cold. For that reason, body clipping prior to a journey that’ll take him from a cold climate to a warmer one is always a good idea.

Additionally, avoid blanketing during long-distance travel, especially if your horse will travel with other horses whose body heat will warm the trailer. Blankets not only run the risk of causing your horse to overheat, they can cause serious injuries if they slip or your horse becomes tangled in a strap. A well-insulated trailer will help protect your horse against outside temperature extremes (both hot and cold), and proper ventilation is a must. Consider installing fans if you’ll be traveling when it is very hot. (See “Trailer Innovations” on page 78 for the latest in trailer innovations for ventilation and cooling.)

If you’re hauling yourself, a strategic travel route and schedule can go a long way toward managing temperature concerns. Avoid southern routes during summer months, and try to travel during early-morning or evening hours—avoiding the extreme heat of afternoon.

Question #6

My vet told me it’s a bad idea to put bedding in my trailer, but all my friends insist I should. What’s the right answer?

Whether to bed your trailer is a tricky question—and the correct answer varies with your circumstances. Bedding is a potential source of respiratory irritants and can increase the risk for shipping fever—one of the deadliest potential complications of a long-distance haul. That’s why your vet recommends that you avoid bedding if you can. →

Bedding does, however, provide traction if your trailer floors are slippery and might make your horse more comfortable (especially if he’s one who refuses to urinate on a hard surface).

One thing is certain: If you do bed your trailer, use the least-dusty bedding material you can find, and consider spraying it lightly with water before you load up to help keep dust to a minimum.

Question #7

Should I wrap/use shipping boots on my horse’s legs for trailer trips?

Wraps or shipping boots can help protect your horse from injuries during loading and unloading, or from trauma during hauling. However, for a long-distance haul, boots and wraps can cause more problems than they solve if they loosen or fall off en route. The only time to bandage for a long-distance trip is if you’re hauling your horse yourself, stopping overnight, and planning to change bandages daily. You should also only apply boots or wraps if your horse is comfortable wearing them. If you’re traveling with a commercial hauler, leave boots and bandages at home.

Top Safety TipWhat’s the No. 1 thing you can do to ensure that your horse stays healthy and happy during a long haul? The same thing that’ll protect him from injury any time you travel: Training.
Spend time before your trip teaching him to load and unload, and make sure he’s comfortable in the trailer. Familiarize your horse with trailering in general to reduce his stress levels and his risk for injury. No amount of preparation can take the place of experience.

Question #8

Should I tie my horse in the trailer?

One of the best ways to protect your horse’s respiratory tract during a long-distance haul is to allow him to put his head down while he’s traveling. This means leaving him untied if your trailer will safely allow it. Ideally, he’ll have a box stall to travel in rather than a single compartment where he can move about at will and easily put his head down to eat. The availability of box stalls is one of the reasons why sending your horse with a commercial shipper might be better for his health than hauling him yourself. The extra costs associated with this luxury are usually dollars well spent.

Question #9

How often should I stop?

Your horse should have a 15- to 20-minute rest period every four to six hours during a long haul when the trailer is stopped and parked, ideally in a shaded area if it’s hot. During this rest period, offer water, replenish food supplies, and do a general safety check. If possible, it’s a great idea to pick out manure and urine spots to help keep air inside the trailer fresh. If you’re sending your horse with a commercial shipper, be sure to ask how often they stop to rest.

Question #10

My horse doesn’t drink very well, and is a picky eater away from home. Is there anything I can do to encourage him to drink and eat on the road?

Experienced haulers say your horse is more likely to drink after the trailer has been standing still for 15 to 20 minutes and he’s had a chance to rest, so keep this in mind. Always offer water at the end of a rest period. Consider soaking hay to encourage moisture intake, and offer a wet bran mash or beet pulp once or twice a day. Take water from home if you can so you’re your horse won’t be put off by unfamiliar flavors. If it’s not possible to bring water with you in the trailer, considering adding flavor (such as a couple of tablespoons of powdered lemonade or Kool-Aid) to his at home water source prior to your trip, then use it to mask the flavor of unfamiliar water on the road.

Winterizing your horse trailer.

It’s that time of year when we all start to ask ourselves, “how can it already be this time of year?!” Whether you spend the warmer months camping, attending horse shows, or both, it can feel like every winter arrives sooner than the last. Before you know it, the leaves are falling, temperatures and dropping, and it’s time to pack up the trailer for the season.

But don’t snuggle up with a mug of hot chocolate just yet.

If you want to jump back in your trailer with no hassle next spring, you’ll need to winterize it properly now. Below, we’ll walk you through five practical steps to winterize a trailer so you can prevent damage from ice, store your trailer safely, and rest easy all season.

5-Step Checklist to Winterize a Trailer

1. Drain water tanks and pumps
Ice is the enemy when it comes to winterizing your trailer. As water freezes, it expands and can blow open your tanks, pumps, and the lines that connect them.

So if your trailer is going to be exposed to temperatures below 32 degrees for any sustained period (even just a few hours overnight), make sure to drain all of the water out of your trailer’s tanks.

If you have a pump, you also need to run it for 10 seconds, after the tank is empty, to push out any lingering moisture.

2. Learn how to manually override your brake controller
It’s crucial to get familiar with your tow vehicle’s brake controller, no matter the season! The brake controller sits in your tow vehicle, and powers the trailer brakes whenever you press your foot on the brake pedal. If you haven’t already, read your brake controller manual and learn how to test your brake controller’s functionality.

The manual override is usually a “squeeze bar,” slide, or button on the brake controller box. It allows you to lock up your trailer brakes directly from the controller, without hitting your tow vehicle brakes.

If your trailer is going to be on cold roads at any point this winter–even if you’re just driving it home for the season–the manual override can help if you start skidding or sliding over ice or wet roads. The override will brake your trailer and yank your truck back, stopping the slide.

Note to drivers: avoiding icy roads altogether is also an important safety step! If you don’t absolutely need to take your trailer out in freezing temperatures, why risk it?

3. Get antifreeze service for trailer living quarters
For RVs, travel trailers, or any other trailer with living quarters, a professional can run antifreeze through the water pipes to protect them from cold temperatures.

This method to winterize a trailer generally involves hooking up a bypass line to avoid the hot water heater, draining moisture from all valves in the trailer, as well as other technical processes. It can be done once at the beginning of winter.

When you’re ready to take out the trailer again in the spring, your trailer professional can “de-winterize” it by flushing out the antifreeze.

However, if you’re planning to use your trailer’s living quarters (including the water systems) during the winter, then don’t winterize. Instead, keep the heat running when temperatures are near 32 degrees or lower to prevent water from freezing in the pipes.

4. Wash off road salt
Road salt is great for de-icing pavement and horrible for your trailer’s value.

Before stowing your trailer, wash the frame and undercarriage with hot water and soap to remove any dirt or road grease. If you have to use the trailer on salted roads, wash the frame and undercarriage thoroughly just as soon as you arrive home, to remove the road salt.

Power washing is most effective, and hot water works better than cold.

5. Cover your trailer and park it off grass
Your trailer is clean, drained, and winterized. Now you just need to store it safely for the season.

First, covering your trailer will protect it from the elements–but as we’ve discussed before, not any old trailer cover will do, especially for horse trailers. Standard horse trailer covers are generally manufactured too short so they leave tires, bearings, and fenders exposed. Instead, buy an RV trailer cover to protect your trailer from its tires to its roof. Find them online and order based on your trailer’s dimensions.

Second, avoid parking your trailer on grass. Grass traps moisture and pests, which can wreak havoc over the course of the winter. Look for a gravel, asphalt, or concrete parking spot. If you can’t find one, put wood planks over grass to park the trailer on.

For any questions about winterizing your trailer or truck please call us at 704-305-8268!