As I see friends loading up their trailers and pulling out of the barn for the first shows of the season, I’m reminded that my own show season is fast approaching. As equestrians, we prepare for everything – we get our horses “legged up” and in shape, we change supplements, body clip (or do that extra bit of grooming), we clean our tack and get our event calendars in order…but one thing that usually isn’t first on the list is preparing our horse trailer, and yet it is one of the most important things we can do for a safe riding season.
The winter months can be tough on our horse trailers. They sit in the rain, dirt builds up, moving parts become stiffer, etc., and just like our horses, they need a good “tune up” before show season begins.
Spring is the best time to do a complete safety check and cleaning of your trailer; you’re ready to hit the road, but let’s just make sure that you’re “prepared” to hit the road.
Start with a Horse Trailer Wash
The best way to see “what you’re working with” in terms of how your trailer has fared over the winter months is to do a complete cleaning. While we all know that it is a good practice to completely remove any soiled or wet shavings and hose out our trailers after every major use throughout the season, we rarely do so – it’s time consuming. So, even if you have already stripped your trailer of shavings, you’re going to want to get the hose with a good spray nozzle and completely hose out the inside of the horse compartment. You’ll also want to get yourself a good brush (stiff bristles and a long handle) to scrub the mats and the side walls.
Don’t forget to give proper attention to the outside of the trailer too. Get a ladder and make sure to give the top of the trailer a good inspection and washing; that’s one place that a lot of us tend to overlook in our normal washing routine. Pay special attention to any seams or weather sealing, as you want to make sure they are all in good order.
Clean out the Tack Compartment
Not quite as important in terms of safety, but still a good practice, is to clean out the tack compartment of your trailer. Just like in our homes, things have a tendency to accumulate in the tack rooms of our horse trailers, and before you know it, you’re unable to fit everything in that you want or need for a show or a trip. Also, “critters” and dirt can find their way into our tack rooms when our trailers haven’t been used in a while, so start by taking everything out, giving the compartment a good sweeping or vacuuming, and then load it back up with only the necessities.
Give Your Floors a Once Over
Now that your trailer has been thoroughly cleaned, it’s time to lift up those mats and have a good look at the actual floor of the trailer. Over time, moisture from urine or water splashing up on the underside of the floor as you drive can cause the wood to weaken and lose some of its stability.
This is the part of the trailer that our horses are standing on – what separates them from the road – so we must make sure that our trailer’s floor is completely sound. If you aren’t confident that you can spot all of the issues with your trailer’s floor, be sure to have it checked out by a professional, it’s well worth the money. Things to look for are rotting wood, discolorations, spits, cracks, etc. If you do find issues, have them repaired immediately and by someone with professional skills.
Check the Lights and Trailer Brakes
It’s been a while since you’ve driven your trailer, and, let’s face it, we don’t normally stand behind our trailers as we pull out of the barn, so it’s time to make sure that all of your rig’s lights are in good working order. This includes the brake lights, running lights, turn signals and even the dressing room or interior loading lights; basically we want to make sure that everything is working. It’s always a good idea to keep spare bulbs of each type in a box in your trailer in case something goes out while you’re away at a show or on a riding excursion. If you do have a problem with any of your lights, replace them with your spares and then buy new spares. You’ll also want to have a look at the wiring for your lights, just to make sure that nothing is exposed or has been damaged by the weather.
While you’re checking your trailer’s electrical system, it’s also time to check your trailer brakes. This is something that most of us probably can’t do on our own, and it’s worth it to have someone qualified give your system a good once over.
Tires and Wheel Bearings
As our trailers sit in the weather through the winter, the tires can become cracked or weather worn. You must check out your horse trailer tires. Most of us will never wear the treads off of our tires before there is a need to replace them for other reasons, so unlike with your vehicle, trailer tire safety isn’t just a matter of looking at the tread. Be sure to have a good look at your spare tire, as well. Even if your trailer tires appear in good condition, remember that you should change them every 7 years, regardless of condition.
Another thing people often forget is that the wheel bearings on our trailers need to be packed in order to ensure that the wheels are safe. Most professionals suggest you have this done every 10,000 miles, or once per year (even if you don’t travel 10,000 miles in a year, have them done anyway – better safe than sorry).
Professional Safety Inspections
Some of us just aren’t up to the task – or knowledgeable enough – to give our horse trailers a proper once over. In this case, it is a great idea to take your trailer in for a safety inspection. This way you’ll know that the floors, electrical systems, brakes, hitch connections, windows, weather stripping, lights, tires and wheel bearings are all in good working order. These once a year inspections are easy to have done in most areas and quite affordable. Here on the Central Coast, you can take your trailer into several great places who will do full diagnostics, inspections and repairs: For you North County folks, The Trailer Barn or Central Coast Trailers are both good bets, and for South County residents, you’ll get good service from Heacock Trailers.
In the end, the message is this: We want your show and riding season to be the best that it can be, and that begins with being prepared so that it can also be the safest riding season possible.