Horse Trailer Safety

The following is a true story of a tragic accident that might have been prevented if a few basic safety checks had been followed.


The barn at which I board my horse rents out the arena on Thursday evenings to a local barrel racing group. The riders, who come from the surrounding areas and aren’t boarders, all trailer their horses in for the events.

At one of these events, as one of the visitors parked her horse trailer and let down the ramp, she was greeted by the most horrifying and bloody site – her horse’s hind leg had gone through the floorboards. In his struggle to free his leg, the horse had injured himself further, finally snapping the leg in two.

Needless to say, the vet was called immediately and the horse humanely euthanased on the spot.

I’m thankful I wasn’t there that evening, but when the barn owner told me about it, it got me thinking about trailer safety.

In that regard, I’ve put together a check list and maintenance tips that you can use on a regular basis to ensure that your trailer will remain in good condition and that your horses will not be at any unnecessary risks.

  • As a matter of course, clean your horse trailer out after every use. Even with rubber mats, the urine and droppings will take their toll on the floorboards if they are left to sit.
  • Regularly washing the exterior of the trailer will give you the opportunity to check for rust, leaks in the roof, broken windows etc.
  • Check the wooden floorboards, the ramp or tailgate, divider etc. for signs of rot. Also check the hinges, springs and latches to make sure they are secure and in good working order. Replace any parts that are rotten, broken or missing.
  • The trailer hitch itself should be kept well lubricated and should be checked for missing parts. Make sure the chains are in good repair.
  • Without the trailer jack, it would be impossible to lift your horse trailer on to the little ball on the bumper pull of your truck. Keeping it lubricated and cranking it every now and then, when it’s not being used, will stop it from seizing up and becoming useless, just when you need it most.
  • The brakes should be checked every time the trailer is hitched, to make sure they are working. Regular professional maintenance is recommended.
  • Correct tire pressure will make it easier to tow the trailer and will save wear and tear on the tires. Replace any worn tires.
  • Each time you hook your horse trailer up, you should make sure the lights and turn signals work. Check the wiring and replace any bulbs that need replacing.

If you are thinking of purchasing a pre-owned horse trailer, you should perform a check covering the previous points, in addition to checking the frame and axle are straight.

Taking care of your horse trailer, and repairing any problems as soon as you notice them will save money in the long run and will help ensure the safety of you and your horses.

Happy trailering!