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Main Content

On The Road | Winter 2007 Out Here Magazine

Transport your horse safely and comfortably

By Samantha Johnson

Photography by
J. Keeler Johnson and Daniel Johnson

If you're a horse owner, sooner or later you're going to want to haul your horse somewhere, whether it's to a show, out for a trail ride, or even to a vet or farrier appointment.

Knowing how to transport your horse safely is vitally important for any horse owner, to ensure the safety and well-being of your horse — and yourself.

Horses can be fearful of the entire trailering experience, so you should minimize situations that could disturb your horse.

Generally speaking, horses do not like being confined to tight spaces; it makes them feel nervous and vulnerable. Horse trailers are narrow, confining, noisy places, so make sure there is enough room for your horse to ride without feeling trapped or scared.

Some horse owners transport their horses loose in their trailers to give them a more natural and less confined trip, especially if they're hauling a single, not multiple, horses. The horse is free to move about and is often more comfortable than when restricted in a tight stall.

If you need to tie the horse, or horses, adjust the rope to the proper length. You don't want your horse to ride with his head high in the air because his rope is too short to allow him to stretch his neck. Likewise, a rope that is too long will make it possible for him to try to turn himself around in the dividers, or to put a front leg over the rope, neither of which are safe situations.

Always tie a quick-release knot using a good, sturdy lead rope in good condition. You can also use a special trailer tie rather than a lead rope. The main advantage here is easier length adjustment, and built-in, quick-release snaps.


Never leave home without water for your horse. Some horses are reluctant to drink water that tastes differently than their regular water, so if you bring along several gallons from home, your horse may be more apt to drink it.

Always bring along extra hay. If your trip takes longer than anticipated, you won't be caught short without hay to keep your horse occupied and nourished. Plus, your horse can munch during the trip. If your trailer is not equipped with built-in mangers, you can fill a hay net or hay bag. Hay bags are a more popular choice, and are believed to be the safer option, because a horse's hoof may become entangled in the hay net.

Bring along some of your horse's regular grain. Even if you decide not to feed grain to your horse while on the road, you'll have some with you if your horse needs a little "encouragement" loading into the trailer during your travels.

Throw in an extra halter and lead rope. Equipment failure does happen, and you don't want to be caught on the road without replacements.

Always travel with your horse's appropriate paperwork. This includes a current negative Coggins test and possibly an Interstate Health Certificate. Talk to your veterinarian about the paperwork you will need.

Knowing how to transport your horse correctly is vital for any horse owner, to ensure the safety and well-being of your horse — and yourself.

Safety First

While driving, always be mindful that your horse is in the trailer behind you, and try to minimize any sharp turns, fast stops, or sudden moves that could cause your horse to lose his balance.

Know the condition of your horse trailer. Before each use, inspect the floorboards. If you have rubber mats in the trailer, lift them and check underneath. Make sure that everything is strong and secure with no weak spots.

Check your hitch before heading out on the road, and double check that everything is connected properly.

Check the air in the trailer tires, and make sure that your brake and signal lights are in proper working order. A few minutes of precaution can prevent problems later.

So, what are you waiting for? Hitch up your trailer and have some fun with your horse!

Samantha Johnson, a certified horse show judge who raises Welsh Ponies in Phelps, WI, is co-author of How to Raise Horses: Everything You Need to Know. 

Trailer Safety Kit

  • Complete equine emergency kit
  • Extra halters, lead shanks, hay, water, and grain
  • 100 ft of ½" rope
  • Small tool kit including wire cutter, knife, tweezers, etc.
  • Jumper cables
  • Two flashlights with extra batteries
  • Roll of duct tape
  • Flares
  • Cell phone
  • Phone number directory with numbers for your veterinarian and border crossing veterinarian
  • Trailer jack
  • Spare tire (complete with air)
  • Spare wheel bearing
  • Cash