Question: I have just started driving a horse trailer, with a horse in it, and would like to know of some safety tips, and defensive driving facts you might be able to provide me with? Thank you so much.
Answer: Let's start with some pre-trailer checks before we actually get on the road! I always take a walk around the trailer before I even load a horse. I will check the air presssure in the tires and look for excesss wear & tear on the tires. I will make sure that the spare tire is aired up and is secured to the trailer. Along those lines, I will make sure that I have tools and equipment to change a tire! I will check the trailer hitch to make sure it is locked properly and the chains are in place. I will test the lights, blinkers, and brakes to make sure they are working. Once I have gone through this ground list, I will load the horses.
Driving with a horse trailer does take some extra thought and preparation while on the road. Because of the extra length added to your rig, some of the places that WERE easily assessible, will not be so not. This calls for planning when it comes to manuvering in traffic, and stopping for fuel or food. A simple lane change takes more room now. Getting into the gas station takes more room. You can't simply pull into HEB and expect to get in line with the rest of the little cars! A lot of parking lots are not designed with trailers in mind, and you may park further from your favorite store and walk a little further, in order to park safely.
An important key to remember is that lots of drivers will treat you like you don't have a trailer with horses. They will cut you off and turn in front of you, they will brake suddenly at a yellow light, they will tailgate you. For these reasons, you should drive defensively. Always leave plenty of room between you and the car in front on you, even in heavy traffic. This will cause people to jump in line in front of you, but keep your distance. Your ability to stop quickly (to prevent a rear-end collision) is greatly hampered with the added weight of the trailer and horses. Also, sudden braking will throw your horses off balance, and into the front of the trailer. Along these lines, get in the habit of using your brakes gently, so your horses have time to adjust their weight for a stop.
Accelerating correctly is also important. Sudden acceleration will throw your horses backwards, so use your gas pedal gently. Do not accelerate while making a turn, wait until you have straightened out before you give it the gas! This will also let your horses prepare for the changes and shifting of the trailer.
When making turns, always use your blinker well before you come to your turn. This gives drivers behind you, plenty of warning. Sometimes it is adviseable to use arm signals, to further warn those following. Your turns will be wider with a trailer, to avoid running over curbs, sidewalks, etc.
Your horses will tell you if you are accelerating too fast, braking too harshly, turning too roughly, because they will scramble to regain their balance. Allow your self extra time to reach your destination, drive with caution, and your horses will appreciate the ride much more!
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DID YOU KNOW...Since September 1,1999, the 76th Texas Legislature's House Bill 1732 has been in effect. How does this affect you? This Texas law requiresthat equine, including horses, donkeys, mules and asses, that are eight monthes of age or older, have a negative test for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) within the previous 12 months before undergoing ANY change of ownership, whether it be through trade, gift, or sale through private treaty or at a market, with a few exceptions. Failure to comply with this law is a Class "C" misdemeanor.
Most shows, fairs, races, trail rides and equine competitions/activities require proof of a negative blood test for EIA, which is the Coggins test document.
Exempt from this testing are nursing foals, if the dam has been tested negative, equine sold only for slaughter, and zebras in some cases. Equine used exclusively for ranch work are exempt from EIA tests, unless they are undergoing change of ownership.
EIA is caused by a virus and is spread through the transfer of infected blood, which is accomplished mainly by bloodsucking insects and infected needles. Symptoms include depression, weakness, fever, jaundice, and edema of ventral abdomen and legs. Relapses can occur in recoved animals usually in periods of stress. The incubation period is 2 to 4 weeks.
There is no vaccine for EIA. The only way to control EIA is through periodic testing, with the Coggins test. Then, infected animals need to be quarantined at least 200 feet from other equine, until they are moved to slaughter, for sale to slaughter, or to a research facility.