Evade Emergencies with a Horse Trailer and Truck Trip Pre-Check

Evade Emergencies with a Horse Trailer and Truck Trip Pre-Check | SLO Horse News

A horse trailer and truck trip pre-check can help keep any horse hauling excursion from becoming a disaster. Anything can go wrong when hauling horses, yet many things can be caught before you pull out onto the road. Developing a standard trip pre-check routine will help you evade emergencies by enabling you to check everything before loading and hauling your precious cargo.

I recently came across a Facebook post where a rider returned to her trailer after a trail ride and found someone had un-hooked her hitch. No one knows why this event occurred; it could have been either a sick sabotage or perhaps an intent to steal. Either way, if the rider had not done a trip pre-check her ride home would have ended up in an emergency situation. You can prevent some horse hauling road emergencies from happening simply by taking the time to do a trip pre-check of your horse trailer and truck EVERY time you head out on the road with your horse.

Here’s how you can develop your own routine for checking your horse trailer and truck before pulling out on the road. Follow along with this FREE Horse Trailer and Truck Trip Pre-Check checklist.

Develop a Horse Trailer and Truck Trip Pre-Check Routine

Check the entire rig after you hook up the horse trailer to your towing vehicle. Choose what side you’ll start your trip pre-check on. A suggestion would be the right hand side of the towing vehicle and go clockwise around the back ending up at the driver’s side door.

Before you load your horse(s) look over both the towing vehicle and the trailer. Develop your standard for “good to go”. The more familiar you are with what is good, the better you’ll be at discovering something amiss. Don’t get lazy, check everything, every time, as if you are going to find something wrong.

What Not to Miss on a Horse Trailer and Truck Trip Pre-Check

1. Vehicle and Trailer Lights and Mirrors

  • Check the working order of headlights, turn signals, and brake lights on both the vehicle and the trailer.
  • Verify the working order of the interior horse trailer lights – have an emergency light source available.
  • Check vehicle side mirrors – pull out if they can be folded in.
  • Make sure the side mirror is clean and not broken.
Evade Emergencies with a Horse Trailer and Truck Trip Pre-Check | SLO Horse News
The tire tread should be above the wear bar.

2. Tires

  • Check for loose lug nuts on all tires. Physically try to turn the lug nuts on the vehicle and the horse trailer with your fingers.
  • Look for cracks on the tire rims.
  • Check wear level on all tires. Feel for the wear bar – if tire tread is below the wear bar the tire must be replaced.
  • Check the tire pressure of towing vehicle and horse trailer.
  • Note condition of tires. Be aware of sun damage to tire rubber. Tires should be replaced every 4-5 years. Look for manufacture date on tire.
  • Remove Trailer wheel chocks once trailer is hooked up.
  • Be sure your spare trailer wheel is in good working order with correct air pressure.
Evade Emergencies with a Horse Trailer and Truck Trip Pre-Check | SLO Horse News
Bumper pull tow chains must have positive retention clips and should be crossed to cradle the hitch in case it detaches.

3. Tow Chains

  • Bumper pull and gooseneck trailers must have tow chains attached with positive retention connections (not just hooked, but secured with load-specific locking carabiners)
  • Cross the safety chains to cradle the bumper pull trailer hitch if it were to detach.
  • Be sure chains are taught: no chain dragging on the ground with enough give when turning.
Evade Emergencies with a Horse Trailer and Truck Trip Pre-Check | SLO Horse News
Be sure the safety pin on the coupler is secured and the trailer brake safety is attached to the truck.

4. Hitch

  • Be sure the Safety pin on trailer coupler is secured.
  • Be sure the Trailer Brake safety is securely attached to the truck.
  • Hitch pulling rating should match weight of trailer being towed.
  • Check that the ball size is correct for hitch.
  • Have a trailer coupler lock on hand for when you detach.

5. Trailer Doors (Loaded)

  • Once horses are loaded, check the back and side doors to be sure they are latched.
  • Be sure the trailer door hinges are in good working order and not loose.
  • Make sure the tack room door is latched before heading out.
  • Be sure your horses can not stick their heads out of the trailer through a window, a screen or open slat.

6. Trailer Tags and License Plate

  • Be sure your registration tags are up to date.
  • Be sure the trailer license plate is not covered in mud, banged up, faded or rusted out.
  • DMV code requires the trailer license plate to have its own illumination.
  • DMV code requires trailer license plates to be mounted horizontally.

Do a Trip Pre-Check Every Time

Be sure you are checking the above items every time you go out on the road with your horse trailer. These are the key things to check on a pre-trip check of your horse trailer and towing vehicle. You should get used to running through this check EVERY time you head out on the road with your horse in your horse trailer pulled by your towing vehicle. Get your FREE Horse Trailer and Truck Trip Pre-Check checklist so you can develop your own routine.

Developing your trip pre-check of your horse trailer and truck can be made easier using our downloadable checklist. You can bring it up on your phone to use as a guide. Also you can print it out, slip it in a plastic sleeve and mount it inside your tack room door. Using a wet erase pen, you can then mark on it every time you haul horses.

Equipment for Making Road Emergencies Easier

Road emergencies do happen and it is best not to be caught out without proper emergency equipment. Visibility is vital to human and horse life when parked alongside a road, so be sure you have proper emergency identifiers. Working in low light, or darkness, can make the situation more challenging, so be sure you have a portable light source.

Tools such as a fire extinguisher, a shovel and a horse first aid kit can enable you to provide immediate assistance to your situation or anothers. Flat tires happen so be sure you can jack up the horse trailer. You will most likely be detaching from your empty trailer at your destination, so be sure the trailer can be left with the wheels chocked.

Horse Trailer and Truck Emergency Equipment Checklist

Don’t let road emergencies catch you off guard. Be prepared with the right emergency equipment on hand and get into the habit of doing a horse trailer and truck trip pre-check EVERY time you hit the road with your horse friends in tow.


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Former Pony Clubber, Eventer and Dressage rider who balanced training and showing with getting a college degree (from Cal Poly SLO), becoming a wife and raising a family.

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