Chat Transcript – Neva and Tom Scheve

EquisearchStaff – Good evening and welcome to tonight’s chat. Tonight we are pleased to present Neva Kittrell Scheve and Tom Scheve.

?Shelly Mix. All Rights Reserved.

KellyHi! I have a question about pulling–what is the best size truck to pull a tagalong with?

LenaHi and welcome — would you comment on full partitions vs the simple bar separator in a 2-horse trailer?

EquisearchStaffNeva Kittrell Scheve is the author of The Complete Guide to Buying, Maintaining, and Servicing a Horse Trailer, with her husband Tom Scheve, published by Howell Book House. They also produced The Hawkins Guide: Equine Emergencies on the Road with James Hamilton, DVM, and The Hawkins Guide: Horse Trailering on the Road, published by Bluegreen Publishing. Neva and Tom have been involved in the horse trailer business since 1983, and own and operate the EquiSpirit Trailer Company. They are both dedicated to designing horse trailers that emphasize safety for horses and handlers. Tom and Neva also write for and consult with national magazines such as Practical Horseman, The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Horse and Rider, Southeast Equine Journal, and EQUUS. Neva gives seminars and clinics on horse trailer safety to local and national groups and at such major events as Equitana USA, Equine Affaire, Horse World Expo, and Carolina Horse Expo.

TomScheve – What’s the best sized truck? I’ll answer this with a question. . .What size is it? Does it have a dressing room? Do you know how much it weighs?

LenaA follow-up to Kelly’s question, what’s the least truck/car you can safely get away with?

KellyI’m in the market for a truck for a two-horse trailer, no dressing room. Don’t know how much it weighs, , ,

TomScheve – Kelly, most any full size truck–1500 or 150, depending on the make–with a 5. L and a 3.72 rear axle ratio should pull in the 6500-7000 pound range.

TomScheve – And, I suggest you get a towing guide from the dealer you’re buying from. That will list the pulling capabilities.

TomScheve – A two horse–depending on the size of horses and the trailer–could weigh anywhere from 4000 to 5500 pounds.

Neva Scheve – Lena, we almost always recommend partial dividers. Full partitions can restrict legroom and cause scrambling. Horses are more comfortable when they can spread their legs to keep their balance.

KellyThanks–I keep getting conflicting reports about light truck pulling capacities. I guess I should stick with full-size

LenaNo problems with the neighboring horse?

RuffianIs it better to tow with an automatic transmission or manual – or does it matter?

Neva Scheve – I would like to expand Tom’s answer about the tow vehicle guide. Every manufacturer publishes a Tow vehicle guide, which tells you how each vehicle is rated to tow. It is all in print

Neva Scheve – Lena – horses do not usually bother each other with a partial divider. But you should always have leg protection whenever you haul.

HeadMareBe right back — have to tell the others how to get here

LenaIs it better for a horse to ride in a slant or straight?

TomScheve – Ruffian, we feel the automatic is safer because it’s recommended. Usually, the ratings in the tow manual are higher for automatics. The manufacturer builds the transmission to meet a certain torque. We believe auto is safer because there’s little or no chance of you stalling the vehicle as you pull out on the road. You can start out a little smoother with an automatic–you’re not adding the human factor of working the clutch.

KellyMy trainer insists that it’s best that, if you have a full partition, it’s better to just take it out all together–do you agree?

jim hi — what is the minimal truck size/ power for a 2-horse trailer?

TomScheve – Kelly, I assume you mean a full lower partition. We agree. A lower center partition will restrict a horses leg closer to the bottom of the trailer. It closes them in. On older trailers with lower partitions, you find them knicked up from horses hitting them while trying to get their balance.

pegasushi everyone is this the trailer chat???

EquisearchStaff – jim, we discussed this. Scroll up and check out the transcript for the answer!

EquisearchStaffWelcome pegasus! You got it. This is the chat for all your trailering questions!


pegasusok I have a question

Kelly – Is there a rule of thumb for how to tie a horse in a trailer? How much head freedom should they have?

Neva Scheve – Lena- although popular opinion seems to say otherwise, we are convinced that horses should be hauled straight. Smaller horses can get along better in slant loads, but average to large size horses do not fit very well. When horses are restricted, they must compensate to keep there balance and can actually get sore. Horses use their necks for balance and when they are cramped it can cause problems. Horses are better when they can absorb the acceleration and deceleration from front to back, or back to front. When horses are on a slant they are using only the front right and hind left. This in uneven for the horse. We do not ask horses to halt at x- slightly at a slant or do a sliding stop – slightly at a slant.

Neva Scheve – Kelly, a horse should be able to stand in a normal comfortable manner with enough room to keep him from being claustrophobic

pegasusI have a question


EquisearchStaffGo ahead pegasus

Neva Scheve – The horse should be tied so that they can not get their heads under or over a divider, but long enough to step back and touch the butt bar so they are aware of their space.

pegasusok I am about to buy a horse and was wondering what kind of trailer should I get??? This trailer will only be used for one or maybe two horses. I have no experience with trailers and any help would be great.

TomScheve – After the Horse and Rider Trailer Terrors story, many people wrote in about horses putting their heads out trailer windows–and possibly being decapitated. There are a lot of stories out there like that. The information from the article came from a source in California where people were trailering. While we don’t have photos, we did our best to track down the contacts and information. I’ve seen horses crammed in trailers with their heads sticking out so far many things could happen. There are lots of things that could harm a horse in that position–cigarettes, flying objects . . .

RuffianWhat should you do if your trailer starts to fishtail at speed?

TomScheve – Pegasus, with one horse, I’d suggest a straight load, tag-along trailer.

jimTom, have you and Neva thought of doing a piece on “safe trailering techniques” about how to handle horses getting on & off trailers? Lots of mistakes happen then!

TomScheve – The straight load will allow you access to your horse if you have a problem with it.

TomScheve – Depending on the straight load, you could give the horse one whole stall.

pegasusok do you recommend any brands that are good quality but not too expensive????

Neva Scheve – Pegasus, I would add to Tom’s answer that whatever trailer you buy, it should have enough room, light, ventilation, and be structurally sound.

LenaHow you would ship a mare and foal?

TomScheve – Make sure you do your research. Research construction–aluminum vs. steel. Also, think about what kind of horses you have and while you’ll be trailering.

Kelly – Is a stock trailer generally safe for shipping horses?

pegasusok thank you very much

Neva Scheve – Jim – Yes, we have developed several chapters in our book about safe trailering techniques. You are right. A lot of problems happen there

Neva Scheve – Kelly – I believe a good quality stock trailer is a good option.

TomScheve – What kind of horses you have will determine what kind of horses you’ll have in the future. The size of the horse (depending on your discipline) will mean a lot toward what kind of trailer you should have. Then, pick the trailer that fits your horses and your needs.

EquisearchStaffSounds like there is so much to consider when buying a trailer!

TomScheve – Then, decide on the tow vehicle you need. Once you know the trailer weight, you’ll know what tow vehicle you need.

pegasusyes it does

TomScheve – If you need more help, check out our book, search the internet, or e-mail us directly.

pegasusok thank you very much

Neva Scheve – Lena – I like to ship a mare and fool in an open box stall situation. I like a tow horse trailer that the dividers can be removed. The doors should be able to be locked for safety of course.

LenaHow do you recommend blocking the entry into the front?

jimare some horses more secure with the back doors of the trailer closed? My horse seems worried about vehicles behind the trailer.

Neva Scheve – Jim – Some horses don’t like the sound of cars and trucks coming up behind them. If your horse is worried, he may be more comfortable with the doors closed.

EquisearchStaffIf you have a two-horse, straight-load trailer, you should always put the horse on the left side when only shipping one horse because of the slope in the road?

Neva Scheve – Lena, blocking the entry would be a good safety precaution.

Neva Scheve – Lena – I misunderstood your question – It would depend on the trailer. If you can take everything out and lock the doors it would be best. If you can’t do that, you could put several bales of hay in the front.

TomScheve – Most highways are higher in the center to displace water off to the side, so water doesn’t sit in the road. If you only have one horse in a two-horse, straight load trailer, it is best to keep the horse on the road-side (as opposed to curb-side) stall.


KellyDo you have any tips on teaching a young horse (a weanling) how to load?

Neva Scheve – Kelly – I don’t like to put myself out as trainer, but instead I like to recommend trailer features than can add to the safety and well being of the horse. A trailer that is light and open inside, will be more inviting to a horse, especially a young inexperienced one. A good solid low angle, non-slippery ramp is the best option instead of a step up. Horses can slip when unloading from a step up or a steep ramp and cause long term damage.

RuffianMy ISP keeps kicking me off. Did you answer my question about how to handle a trailer that’s fishtailing?

ginnyI just ordered my first trailer, EquiSpirit of course, what would be your 1st recommendation on my practice hauling sessions.


TomScheve – We’ve been in the trailer business for a long time. When we started selling trailers of different brands, we noticed there were a lot of problems and a lot of differences in trailers. It made us think about what worked. Everyone we talked to had a story–what they needed, what had happened before, what they needed. I was our customer. I needed a trailer that would work for our horses. We then added a lot of details and advice from others when starting our own trailer company. We learn a lot from the people we meet in clinics.

StaffPractice hauling sessions sound like a good idea.

TomScheve – Ginny, first, hook up the trailer empty, hook the truck up to it, plug everything in, check your trailer (the ball, coupler), then drive it down a driveway (not on the road yet) to adjust electric brakes.

Neva Scheve – Ruffian – A trailer can fishtail for a number of reasons. If the trailer starts to fishtail, do not step on the brake. Reach down to the electric brake controller on the dash of the truck and activate the trailer brakes. This keeps the forward motion and slows the trailer. Push the controller lever on short bursts until the trailer comes back under control.

tomI know a lot of people who think it is safer not to tie a horse in an open stock trailer, could you shed some light on why they might think this?

TomScheve – Testing your brakes means getting a feel for how your brakes work. And testing all the lighting and turn signals.

TomScheve – Take it out on the road and drive with the trailer empty. Then, work with loading the horse on it. Then, you have a whole other set of circumstances with the horse.

KellyWhat type of trailer/specs would you recommend for a couple of big Thoroughbreds–16.3 and 17.2?

RuffianThank you. I’m going to put my flaky computer to bed. Tom and Neva, it’s been a pleasure to read your good advice.

Neva Scheve – Ginny – To practice backing, put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and turn your hand in the direction you want to back of your trailer to go.

Ways2GoThere are two of us here. We are interested in this topic ‘cuz we recently bought a 3-8 horse van.

EquisearchStaffRuffian, thanks for joining us tonight!

Neva Scheve – tom – I don’t like the idea of horses being able to move around too much in a trailer unless it is a very large rig. The horses can cause a dangerous driving condition and loss of control of the combination.

TomScheve – Kelly, I would recommend a straight load. I believe it could be a tag-along or a gooseneck. Both are good safe trailers if they’re brand new. I’d recommend if you’re not in an area with small roads, a 6’8″ width.

TomScheve – I’d recommend a 7’6” to 7’8” height and at least 11′ of total stall area.

EquisearchStaffCongratulations on your new van Ways2Go

TomScheve – Preferably, that would be 7’6” stall, and 3’6” head area.

Kelly – Thanks–what material? Is aluminum too light?

EquisearchStaffDo you have any specific questions about your new rig?

TomScheve – Also, I’d recommend a ramp (one that’s easy to lift with a low angle). We like ramps because they keep horses from sliding out backwards and sliding underneath–that’s a disaster.

Ways2GoWe are planning to haul for local trainers. Probably will have an average haul of 200 to 300 miles roundtrip.

Neva Scheve – Kelly – Aluminum is 1/3 the strength of steel and 70 % the weight. For large horses, we prefer steel to be used for the structural parts. A combination of steel and aluminum can be lighter than all aluminum and be stronger

ginny – Thanks for the advice, I’m really looking forward to heading down the road.

TomScheve – The walk-through, a door on each side of the head area (so you can reach the horses) is also beneficial. If you go with a 6′ wide trailer (for narrower roads) I’d suggest adding the height of 7’6”

TomScheve – Then, put an extra foot into the head area so the horses aren’t claustrophobic.

KellyThank you. I’ve learned a lot!

Ways2GoWe’ve considered purchasing enough head gear so that all the horses we are hauling can be protected. Do you like head protectors?

ginnyhave a great night, and thanks for a great book and my new trailer!

Ways2Go – How often do you recommend offering water to horses when they are being hauled for over two hours at a time?

TomScheve – People at our clinics are most concerned about safety for their horse. They also want to know about material, slant load, and of course, tow vehicle capacity.

Neva Scheve – Ways2Go- I think head bumpers are a good idea. It’s an easy way to prevent a major injury

TrotskyScheves, have you an opinion on ramp vs. step up?

TomScheve – Everybody who owns horses has to deal with a trailer. It’s something everyone’s looking for.

TomScheve – Trotsky, we recommend ramps–so horses don’t have the chance to slip when stepping off.

Neva Scheve – Keeping a horse hydrated is the most important part of hauling horses. When horse become dehydrated, colic, heat exhaustion, and shipping fever can be the result. Most horses will not drink on a trailer. Anything you can do to keep the hydrated will add to their health and well being on the trip

Neva Scheve – Trotsky – a good ramp is better than a step up. Not so much for loading, but for unloading. There are many bad ramps out there. That is why they have a somewhat bad reputation.

TrotskyTom, living in the west I never encountered a ramp. Now I’m east and it is all I see! My horse tripped over the ramp and went to his knees the first time he tried one! I felt so bad.

tomwhat does a bad ramp look like?

Neva Scheve – Trotsky – a good ramp is low angle, non slippery, solid, and easy to lift.

TomScheve – If you have a trailer already and would like to add a living quarters installed, I’ve found it’s cheaper to use a conversion company than to try to do an entire living quarters yourself.

EquisearchStaffTrotsky, has your horse adjusted to the eastern way?

TomScheve – There’s a lot of wiring, codes, requirements for breaker boxes, etc., that are hard to know yourself.

Trotskynot like those ramps on horse boxes in the UK? They are like two stories high!

Neva Scheve – A bad ramp is shaky, slippery, has sharp things sticking out. It may be too short and steep. Many ramps are hard to lift.

Ways2GoI’ve seen an article that you wrote recommending putting Kool Aid, Mountain Dew, or Gatorade in the water to encourage drinking. Is Gatorade properly balanced for horses (like it is supposed to be for people)?

Neva Scheve – Trotsky – yes, I agree

TomScheve – If you just want a little cabinet, a port-a-potty, shelving, you could do that pretty easily yourself. In the long run, it will be a lot quicker for you to use a conversion company.

Trotsky – EqStaff, not really. He is sticky in and out. Used to step right in. But, he hasn’t had a lot of practice/

Neva Scheve – I’m not sure about it being so much balanced as that it disguises the taste of strange water.

tomthanks for your time and insight Neva and Tom. night all!

EquisearchStaffGoodnight tom! Thanks for joining us.

Neva Scheve – Ways2 Go – I might add that there are equine electrolyte preparations that can be purchased

Ways2Go – Speaking of ramps, our new van has a ramp that can be pulled out from either side of the van. It is VERY heavy and we cover it with a coca mat to help prevent slipping. I do worry about the times I might need to pull this ramp out by myself.

TomScheve – Thanks so much for visiting tonight!

EquisearchStaffThank you Tom and Neva Scheve for your expertise. And thank you everyone for joining us.

Neva Scheve – It was fun

EquisearchStaffTom is available for additional questions via email at

Kellygoodnight all!

EquisearchStaffTheir informative book is available in bookstores and

EquisearchStaffA transcript of tonight’s chat will on for anyone who wishes to review all the information shared tonight. Thanks to all and goodnight.

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