Skip to main content

Updated Horse Parasite Control Guidelines Released

The horse parasite control guidelines, first published in 2013, have been revised and updated to reflect recent research findings.

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment | Jun 25, 2019 | Basic Care, Deworming & Internal Parasites, Horse Care

Horse parasite control
The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has released an updated version of its parasite control guidelines for horses. The horse parasite control guidelines, first published in 2013, have been revised and to reflect recent research findings.

For the past several years, Martin Nielsen, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVM, Schlaikjer Professor of Equine Infectious Disease and associate professor at University of Kentucky (UK) Gluck Equine Research Center, in Lexington, has led the AAEP horse parasite control guideline subcommittee.

A key takeaway from the newly released guidelines: Different equine age groups have different parasite control needs. Fecal egg count surveillance is a necessity, but it should be applied in different manners in foals, yearlings, and adult horses.

In foals, the main target is the large roundworm (Parascaris spp), while small strongyles and tapeworms primarily infect yearlings. Adult horses typically have much lower parasite burdens than those in the younger age groups.

The guidelines identify a basic treatment foundation which should be considered for all horses every year. Fecal egg counts can then identify which parasites the horses are harboring (in foals and short yearlings), which horses are the higher strongyle shedders (adult horses), and whether the treatment worked as intended (all age groups).

Drug Class Cyathostomins Large Strongyles Parascaris spp
Benzimidazoles Widespread None Early indications
Pyrimidines Common None Early indications
Macrocyclic lactones Early indications None Widespread
Widespread: reported on multiple continents with high farm prevalences often above 80%
Common: reported on multiple continents with varying farm prevalences
Early indications: few single-farm cases of reduced efficacy (ascarids) or reports of reduced egg reappearance periods (strongyles)

Read the entire updated guidelines document at

Martin Nielsen, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVM, Schlaikjer Professor of Equine Infectious Disease and associate professor at UK Gluck Equine Research Center, provided this information. More information on Gluck Equine Research Center and UK Ag Equine Programs.

How to Recognize 5 Common Allergic Reaction Triggers in Horses

Field Guide to Equine Allergies

Learn the 5 most common triggers of allergic reactions in horses so you’ll be better able to counter or prevent them.

You arrive at the barn to discover your horse covered in small, flat- topped bumps. But he doesn’t seem to be bothered by them, so you decide to wait to see how he does. Sure enough, in a few hours the bumps subside and are soon forgotten.

The problem was a mild allergic reaction to the new shampoo you’d used for your horse’s last bath. You get rid of that bottle and go back to your horse’s old shampoo, and it never happens again.

It’s not always so simple. In some horses, allergic reactions are a chronic, frustrating and potentially debilitating part of life. They occur when, for reasons that are not fully understood, a horse’s immune system becomes hypersensitized to substances, called allergens, that ordinarily do no harm. When that happens, the immune reaction runs out of control. An overabundance of antibodies0 are produced, which, in turn, stimulate the release of a flood of prostaglandins, histamines and other substances. Once a horse has had an allergic reaction to a sub- stance, each subsequent exposure tends to increase the severity of his body’s response.

Outwardly, the signs of all of this physiological activity are usually seen in the skin and respiratory system. An allergic reaction in the skin, called atopic dermatitis, usually causes itching (pruritus) and/or re-current hives (urticaria). Other possible signs include patchy hair loss, bumps and crusting.

When allergies affect the respiratory system, the result is heaves, technically known as recurrent airway obstruction (RAO). Initially, heaves may produce nasal discharge, a mild cough and slight exercise intolerance, but as the condition advances, a horse usually coughs more frequently and deeply, and his breathing may be labored even when he is standing still.

Allergies are not common in horses, but when they do occur, early intervention can help keep a minor problem from becoming a significant health issue. That’s why it’s important to learn the most common causes of allergic reactions, the signs they produce and the most effective treatments.


Typical triggers
1. Insect bites
By far the most prevalent equine allergy is hypersensitivity to the saliva from insect bites. The most severe form of this allergy is sweet itch (also known as summer itch and equine insect hypersensitivity), a reaction to tiny biting midges (Culicoides spp.). But other biting insects–including mosquitoes, horseflies, deerflies, stable flies, blackflies and even mites and fleas–also trigger allergic reactions in horses.

  • Signs: itchiness, which sometimes results in hairless patches and inflamed, scabby skin. The areas affected by skin allergies depend on which insects instigate the problem. Bites can occur almost anywhere on a horse’s body but are most often seen on the belly, root of the mane, base of the tail and face.
  • Risk factors: Individual sensitivity to insect saliva varies widely. When it comes to sweet itch, however, some breeds seem to be more susceptible. “The Welsh Ponies, Icelandic and Shire horses are more prone to this type of allergy,” says veterinary dermatologist Christine Rees, DVM, of Veterinary Specialists of North Texas in Dallas.
  • Best treatment strategy: Topical ointments may soothe the skin and reduce itchiness: “Things we recommend to decrease itching include topical steroids or a hydrocortisone leave-on conditioner that you can apply to selected areas of the body to make the horse more comfortable,” says Rosanna Marsella, DVM, of the University of Florida. In some cases, antihistamines help.

In addition, says Rees, “You can try to desensitize the horse using allergy shots for an insect problem, but it seems like these shots work better if the horse also has pollen allergies. Getting aggressive with insect control/protection is probably the most beneficial for that horse.” Protecting a horse from biting insects requires a program that integrates several measures:

  • Apply repellents and/or insecticides. Your choice of fly spray is significant if you have an allergic horse. Some products are insecticides–they kill the fly after it has bitten; others are repellents, which discourage the fly from landing in the first place. “If a horse has allergies, it’s not enough to kill the insect after it has bitten the horse. You need to prevent the bite,” says Marsella. “Many veterinarians recommend products with permethrin, but in order to be a repellent, it has to be at least 2 percent permethrin. Most [over-the-counter] products have a lower percentage than that and therefore won’t work as repellents.”
  • Adjust your turnout schedule. Stable your horse during the hours that the flies that bother him are most active. Some species fly only in broad daylight; others are a problem at dawn and dusk. If Culicoides are bothering your horse, stable him at dawn and dusk and install fine-mesh screens to keep these insects out of the barn. In addition, says Marsella, “If you have good fans and apply repellent, this will significantly cut down on your horse’s insect exposure.”
  • Outfit your horse with fly-proof garments. Once you’ve determined the types of insects causing your horse’s problems, add the most appropriate accessories, such as ear nets, belly bands or tail covers, to your fly sheets. Some insects attack a horse’s ears or face; others go for the belly or legs.

2. Airborne agents
Just like people, horses can develop sensitivities to molds, dust, pollens and other airborne allergens.

  • Signs: Environmental allergies stimulate either respiratory or skin reactions. Most horses experience one or the other, but not both at once. Skin reactions usually appear on the face, legs and body and may or may not be itchy. The signs may be seasonal or persist year-round. Respiratory allergies tend to produce nasal drainage, a cough and labored breathing. Other nonspecific signs of environmental sensitivity include runny eyes, general malaise and headshaking.
  • Risk factors: Horses already sensitized to one allergen may be more apt to develop new allergies to others. Heaves is more likely to appear in horses older than 9 years.
  • Best treatment strategy: It’s impossible to eliminate most environmental allergens from a horse’s life, but you can take steps to minimize his exposure to them. Skin tests can be invaluable in this process, says Rees. “If a horse has a history of seasonal problems at certain times of year, I recommend a skin test to figure out what’s causing it,” she says. For this procedure the horse is taken to a university clinic, where he is sedated and a large patch of hair is shaved from his neck. Then 50 to 60 different allergens (everything from molds, airborne allergens and grasses to insect saliva/venom) are injected in tiny amounts, using a grid pattern and a key to indicate where each allergen is injected. The grid is then examined 15 minutes, 30 minutes, four to six hours and then 24 hours later for signs that one or more of the allergens have produced an allergic response.

Skin tests generally cost from $300 to $400, but the investment is well worth it if the results pinpoint the source of a horse’s problem so that a targeted treatment can be adopted. “You might be able to use allergy vaccines in these horses and get them off medications or inhalers by building up the body’s own defenses,” explains Rees. Serum allergy tests are also available but are not very useful compared to skin testing.

Management strategies for horses with RAO generally mean keeping them away from the environment that aggravates the condition. For barn-associated RAO, that means turning a horse out as much as possible, offering only clean hay that is free of dusts and molds, and feeding from the ground so that inhaled particles will drop downward rather than get drawn deeper into the airways. Soaking hay prior to feeding will also minimize dust. If a horse’s respiratory allergies are aggravated by the pollens of summer pastures, he will benefit from being kept in a well-ventilated barn during the peak season.

For allergic reactions limited to only a few areas of the skin, topical remedies are often useful. “One product I prescribe is topical tacrolimus [Protopic],” says Marsella. “This is a human ointment for atopic eczema. You can use it for spot treatment on areas that are itchy, such as on horses who rub their ears, legs, face or skin above the eyes. If you don’t want to use a spray, you can use this ointment once a day to de-crease inflammation and itching, and the effect is quite rapid.”


3. Contact
Almost anything you put on a horse, from shampoos to fly sprays or even your saddle pads and wraps, has the potential to trigger allergic skin reactions.

  • Signs: Contact allergies produce signs typical of atopic dermatitis, but the distinguishing factor is that the lesions appear only on or near the area of the body where the allergen was applied.
  • Risk factors: A horse is more likely to develop contact allergies if his close relatives are also hypersensitive.
  • Best treatment strategy: The most basic solution for contact allergies is to identify the source of the reaction and stop using it on your horse. Grooming products and even fly sprays are common culprits. Once you’ve identified the source of the problem, check the label and shop for a substitute with different active ingredients. Hypoallergenic products, and those formulated for horses with sensitive skin, are available in many categories. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations if your horse’s problem persists with multiple products.

As a preventive measure, make it a practice to try any new product on only a small portion of the horse’s body first. If the skin there still looks normal after 24 hours, then the product ought to be safe to use anywhere on your horse.

Sometimes it’s necessary to look a little harder to find the source of the allergy, which can come from unexpected places. “I had one horse that developed dermatitis over the back, in the area of the saddle pad, from a neoprene pad,” Rees says. Horses can also have allergies to wool or the lanolin in wool. “Wool blankets or pads may cause problems,” Rees says. “Lanolin is also present in some topical sprays and shampoos. Some horses that have wool allergies are allergic to the lanolin in topical products also. If your horse is sensitive to wool, read labels.”

Some bits have rubber mouthpieces that can cause reactions. “It may be the color dye in the mouthpiece,” says Rees. “Leg wraps and bandages may also contain material a horse might be sensitive to. Usually it’s something put next to or on the skin–some sort of material or cover, or a spray or lotion.”

Corticosteroids and/or antihistamines may help keep a horse comfortable until the signs subside.


4. Food allergies
It doesn’t happen often, but horses can develop sensitivities to natural foods–grasses or grains–as well as additives in processed feeds or supplements.

  • Signs: The primary sign of a food allergy is hives, with or without itching, that cover the body. Other signs of atopic dermatitis may also be present. Food allergies are usually nonseasonal, but not always–if the horse is allergic to a plant that grows only in the summertime or a hay fed only in winter, for example.
  • Risk factors: None are known.
  • Best treatment strategy: Once the source of the allergy has been identified, eliminate that product or forage from the horse’s diet. No other treatments are effective. The most common triggers are preservatives in feeds.

Eliminating legumes usually requires more care than just switching hays. “Often people don’t think about all the products that contain alfalfa,” says Rees. “They may be feeding Strongid-C dewormer, for instance. Many types of pelleted products contain alfalfa. Some medicines or treats have alfalfa in them if they are cubed or pelleted.”

Allergies to oats or grass hays aren’t common but need to be considered as well. Rees once encountered a horse who was allergic to coastal hay: “We ended up feeding timothy hay, which was the only thing he didn’t react to.”


5. Medications, dewormers and vaccines
True allergic reactions to drugs or vaccines are rare, but in a few cases the consequences can be fatal.

  • Signs: Usually, an allergic horse will experience localized swelling at the injection site and possibly an outbreak of hives all over the body. In rare cases, however, a horse may develop anaphylaxis, a systemic shock reaction. This generally occurs suddenly, shortly after the administration of the medication or agent, and the horse may collapse and die without immediate veterinary treatment. True “penicillin” reactions often result in immediate death. This is very rare. More commonly, a horse has a “procaine” reaction to intramuscular procaine penicillin because some of the procaine ended up in a blood vessel. This causes the horse to react uncontrollably–gallop, spin in circles, climb the walls of a stall. It is very frightening but is over in about a minute. There is nothing you can do except get completely out of the way to ensure your own safety. Procaine reactions are not allergic reactions, and these horses are no more likely to have a second procaine reaction than any other horse.
  • Risk factors: A horse who has had an allergic reaction to a certain drug or vaccine in the past may have a more severe reaction the next time.
  • Best treatment strategy: Discuss any concerns with your veterinarian. If a horse reacts to a vaccine, he may be hypersensitive to the product’s adjuvant, the ingredient that stimulates an enhanced response from the immune system. “Some vaccines don’t have an adjuvant and therefore produce fewer reactions,” says Allison Stewart, BVSc, DACVIM, DACVECC, of Auburn University. “If you have a horse that reacts to vaccines, talk to your veterinarian and find some that have no adjuvants.”

If your horse has reacted to a particular vaccine in the past, avoid combo products that include it. You don’t always know which portion is the problem. “Often it’s the rabies that seems to be the culprit. Some of the vaccine companies are working on new rabies vaccines that hopefully will be a little less reactive,” says Stewart. Administering antihistamines and/or anti-inflammatory medications along with the vaccine may also reduce the severity of an allergic reaction.

Even more rare are allergic reactions to drugs, such as penicillin or bute, or dewormers. “If your horse suddenly develops a horrible skin condition, it’s important to consider if he was just treated with a drug,” says Stewart. “The best treatment may be to stop using that drug.”

Researchers are only just beginning to understand how equine allergies work and how they differ from those occurring in other species. “There is tremendous need for more information and identifying new treatments to make these animals more comfortable,” says Marsella. The hope is that someday even the severest equine allergy will be fully treatable, and scourges like sweet itch and even heaves may become a part of the past.


This article originally appeared in EQUUS 394.

Guide to vaccinations

Over the past 75 years, vaccines have saved the lives of thousands of horses and rendered a number of terrible equine diseases exceedingly rare. They remain among the most effective weapons for protecting horses against the ravages of disease.


Vaccinations work by introducing weakened or killed microorganisms into the body to train the immune system to destroy specific disease-causing agents. In the vast majority of cases, this process results in long-lasting immunity.

Occasionally, vaccination causes local swelling or soreness. Rarely, a horse may suffer an allergic response that is itself a threat to his health.

Most equine vaccines are administered via intramuscular injection, which delivers the preparation into muscle tissue, where it is selectively taken up by the body and processed.

Intranasal vaccines,which are delivered via a spray into the nostrils, are also available for horses. Because these vaccines induce a strong immune response in the respiratory tract, they are used for influenza and strangles,which attack the body there.

Intravenous vaccines,which are delivered straight into the bloodstream, are available for people, but currently none are manufactured for equine use.


Not every horse needs to be vaccinated for every disease. Your veterinarian is your best resource for evaluating your horse’s circumstances. As you discuss what’s appropriate for your horse, consider four variables that influence his risk of disease:

Age. Very young horses are at the greatest risk once the immunity they acquire from their dams begins to wane. Elderly horses, too, may have a compromised immune response.

Occupation. The more demanding a career, the greater the physical stress,whether a horse is an elite athlete or a broodmare. In addition, horses who routinely travel–to shows, events or for breeding–are likely to encounter more potential pathogens than those who rarely or never leave home.

Housing arrangements. A solitary horse who seldom journeys any distance from the farm is at far less risk of disease than the residents of a large boarding stable with lots of incoming and outgoing equine traffic.

Location in the country. Certain diseases that affect horses are prevalent in particular areas.

Whatever vaccination regimen you and your veterinarian choose, periodically reevaluate and adjust it based on new threats, changes in local/regional conditions and any modifications that have occurred in your horse’s lifestyle.


The American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends vaccination, when appropriate, against the following diseases that affect horses. (They are listed below alphabetically and not in order of priority).

Botulism: food poisoning caused by the toxin secreted by Clostridium botulinumbacteria,which can contaminate feed and water. The condition is characterized by paralysis, beginning with the muscles of swallowing, and it is usually fatal.

Equine viral arteritis: a respiratory and venereal disease that can cause abortion.

Equine viral encephalomyelitis: brain and spinal-cord inflammation caused by several species of alphaviruses in the Togaviridae family that are usually transmitted bymosquitoes. The disease is characterized by fever, erratic behavior and/or stupor and is almost always fatal. Eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE) and Western equine encephalomyelitis (WEE) are present in North America; Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis (VEE) has not occurred in the United States for decades but outbreaks still occur in South America.

Influenza: an acute viral infection involving the respiratory tract. Signs of influenza include inflammation of the nasal mucosa, the pharynx, the conjunctiva, the lungs and sometimes the heart muscle.

Potomac horse fever (monocytic ehrlichiosis): a disease caused by a rickettsial organism, Ehrlichia risticii. Named after the Potomac River Valley where it was first recognized in 1979, the disease is characterized by fever, diarrhea and laminitis0.

Rabies: a fatal viral disease of the central nervous system. There is a long incubation period, and signs of rabies usually develop over many days.

Rhinopneumonitis: a highly contagious disease caused by herpesviruses (EHV-1, EHV-4). Rhinopneumonitis is characterized by fever, mild respiratory infection and, in mares, abortion. In rare cases, some strains of these herpesviruses also cause potentially fatal neurological complications.

Rotavirus A: a type of virus that causes profuse diarrhea in foals younger that 3 months of age. In addition to diarrhea, signs of rotavirus A infection include failure to nurse, depression and difficulty/inability to stand.

Strangles (distemper): a highly contagious infection of the lymph nodes, usually of the throat, caused by Streptococcus equi bacteria. The abscesses may become so large as to obstruct the airway (hence the term “strangles”) and may break internally, draining a thick, yellow pus through the nose, or externally, draining through a spontaneous or surgical opening in the skin.

Tetanus: a rigid paralytic disease caused by the toxin of Clostridium tetani, an anaerobic bacterium that lives in soil and feces but that also can infect wounds.

West Nile virus: a flavivirus transmitted by mosquitoes. West Nile virus can infect birds, horses, people and other mammals. In horses, as in people, infection usually causes little or no illness. However, for reasons not yet determined, West Nile infection sometimes triggers swelling of the brain (encephalitis) that produces limb weakness, muscle twitching (fasciculation), incoordination, behavioral changes, paralysis and recumbency. In severe cases,West Nile encephalitis can lead to coma and death.


The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) has produced a suggested vaccination schedule for horses of varying ages and activity levels–foals/weanlings, yearlings, pleasure horses, performance horses and broodmares. Here are the guidelines for pleasure and performance horses; for the others, go to The AAEP recommends that you consult with your veterinarian regarding the specific needs of your horse.

Botulism Consult your veterinarian Consult your veterinarian
EEE (in high-risk areas)
Annual, spring
WEE, EEE (in low-risk areas) and VEE
Annual, spring
EEE (in high-risk areas)
Annual, spring
WEE, EEE (in low-risk areas) and VEE
Annual, spring
Equine viral arteritis Annual for colts intended to be
breeding stallions
Annual for colts intended to be
breeding stallions
Influenza Inactivated injectable
Annual with added boosters
prior to likely exposure
Intranasal modified-live virus
Every 6 months
Inactivated injectable
Every 3 to 4 months
Intranasal modified-live virus
Every 6 months
Potomac horse fever Semiannual Semiannual
Rabies Annual Annual
(EHV-1 and EHV-4)
Optional; semiannual if elected Booster every 3 to 4 months up
to annually
Rotavirus A Not applicable Not applicable
Strangles Injectable
Optional; semiannual if risk is high
Optional; semiannual if risk is high
Tetanus toxoid Annual Annual
West Nile virus Annual booster prior to expected risk.
Vaccinate semiannually or more frequently (every 4 months) depending on risk.
Annual booster prior to expected risk.
Vaccinate semiannually or more frequently (every 4 months) depending on risk.

By Equus | 9/27/2016

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.