|The image on the right is an exerpt
from the QHJ, early 60's, painting a stark picture about the need to take
The opinions that I am presenting below are far from a comprehensive treatment of the subject, just some of the conclusions that I have come to over the years. Another fellow has posted on the subject, and I think he has done a pretty good job. I believe that the hitch and ball should be lubricated with grease, rather than oil, which he prefers, but in the main we agree: lubricate the hitch and ball.
Much this is kinda basic, intended for people relatively new to hauling, so pardon my covering some old ground.
|In General I
have heard that the harsh ride (trailers need stiff springs and have no
shock absorbers) and lack of circulation in the feet (somewhat dependent
on the animal moving around) can result in laminitis. I don't know what
the safe limits of travel time are, I suppose it varies, depending on the
horse, the road, the trailer, and so on. I don't know anyone who has had
this problem, so I can't talk "case histories".
We have always bedded heavily with shavings, not only to prevent the floor from becoming slippery, which could cause a fall, but also to cushion a little, and stop to offer water not less than every four hours. Many people carry their own water, as you never really know the quality of what is available on the way. (Many plastics, and all black rubber containers impart a flavor to the water, which the animals usually don't like.) The way I heard it is that Poco Lena's owner's airplane was reported missing, and she was forgotten in a trailer for a long time in the resulting excitement and confusion. The possibly exaggerated story told me was that her hooves actually fell off. It is a fact that she spent her few remaining years lying down almost all the time, and was ultimately euthanized because of her suffering.
About trailers themselves, I have some fairly definite opinions, which may (or may not) be useful to you.
Chains Trailers do sometimes uncouple from
tow vehicles, so the law requires "safety" chains. These are usually so
weak, and further, attached in such a manner at both ends, that you might
as well use a rotten shoelace. Use two 3/8ths inch chains, criss-crossed
under the hitch (assuming this is bumper pull) to form a cradle of sorts,
to catch the hitch if it falls. Cut them as short as will allow free motion
between trailer and tow vehicle when at their most extreme angle to one
another (backing up). If too long, they will allow the trailer to beat
back and forth more violently, making your vehicle more difficult to control.
Also, excess length may allow them to drag at times on the pavement. Chain
should be a rated grade, I forget what, and be aware that if welded directly
to the tongue, it's temper has been destroyed adjacent to weld. Its strength
is greatly reduced at that point. Needless to say, choice in hardware at
the "truck end" is critical. I would evaluate very critically how much
punishment what they connect to can endure. Most bumpers and/or receivers
are somewhat minimal - in structure, in mounting to the frame, and the
chain hookups. The standard behind mass production can usually be summarized
as "engineering minimum". I've never heard of anyone having trouble with
bumpers coming off, but I would give every part a very long hard look.
(Mounting bolts too, how many, how big, what grade?) A little extra strength
Wheel alignment Picture the outer edge of each tire as a vertical plane; down on hands and knees, sight along the sides of the tires to see whether the plain represented by fronts is a fairly close match for the rears. If you line your eye up just right, any significant difference will be quite obvious. It could be a bent rim, but that can be determined by jacking it up and spinning the wheel. It is surprised how many people have really bent axles that they never even noticed. (Once you've kind of trained your eye, these things just jump out at you.) This is only significant at highway speeds, and even then, may never be a real problem. Any decent welding shop can easily adjust this. Likewise, a sufficiently skilled "handy" type person needs only raise that side, heat the axle evenly, inboard of the near spring, not too much, no color, and no significant heating of spring or shackles. Apply a soaking wet rag to the area that you want to have shrink disproportionately to the rest. This will warp the axle: Done right, corrects the problem perfectly, done wrong, makes it worse.
Wheel-bearing adjustment Many trailers have really
loose bearings. Sometimes there are differences in the design and adjustment
of trailer bearings compared to cars, although Chilton's would likely
be a good place to get some general ideas. I don't consider this a completely
reliable method, better to jack it up, but between service intervals I
check for excessive looseness with this quick and dirty. Putting a knee
against the top of each tire and push repeatedly, hard enough to make
the entire trailer rock back and forth rhythmically. If that bearing is
seriously loose, the wheel may make a sort of thunking noise, and you
will very definitely feel the looseness. A little (very little) is normal
and needed - out on the road they will warm up, making the fit tighter.
So, a word of WARNING! An over-tightened bearing will overheat, very possibly
lock up, can ruin the spindle, and rarely, set the grease on fire. Don't
With the trailer empty, on dirt, at maybe three miles per hour, have someone watch what happens as you apply the trailer brakes progressively, to the point that they begin to lock up. Does one wheel in particular always lock up considerably before the others do? If so, this is a likely sign of future trouble. (This assumes that the tires are all the same.) Jack up that side, and you will probably find that that wheel will not spin as easily as the other. Insufficient lubrication, or bearing too tight are likely, possibly badly adjusted brake, but whatever the cause, resolve it. Conversely, if all the others lock up, and one never does, this also needs to be looked at. Again, with the trailer empty, and again, at low speed, but this time on pavement, apply the vehicle brakes reasonably hard.
Latches If it is the sort with recessed latches, with the paddle-type handle on feed, escape, and tack doors, take a close look for evidence of how far the latching tabs actually insert into the holes that they snap into. Sometimes it isn't far enough to prevent doors from popping open. I have had trouble especially the tack compartment doors, which seem prone to working open as you travel, but provided there is enough engagement of the latching tab, keeping them locked will prevent this. If the locks don't work, or the keys are lost, I turned a recent lock replacement into a "how-to". Some years ago a girl from Washington told me about someone who dumped some cattle on the road when the rear door inexplicably popped open. One of ours has a rear door that is fastened by hooks that rotate around and engage the door. Awhile ago I noticed that two of the three hooks were gradually bending, and not latching in nearly as far as they originally did. I suddenly had a theory about what happened to the fellow in Washington.
Tires You may notice that the tires look well inflated until the horses get in, whereupon, one or some, suddenly look low on air. Some just lose more than others do. The inflation gauges at gas stations are notoriously inaccurate, and a good one of your own ought not cost more than ten dollars. Always check them before you leave home. Particularly if using a heavy-duty tire (a good idea) you may notice as time goes by that the tread is wearing a lot more in the middle than at the edges. This indicates that they need not be inflated to the maximum pressures indicated on the sidewall, but reduce it judiciously, and check that they aren't hot after you've been on the highway fully loaded. (Always inflate according to the load.) Another thing is that often, tires destined to go on trailers are not balanced, as would be the case with a car. It may be that they were, but look for the little lead weights clipped on the rims. Your horses will like it better if there are some.
I assume that everyone is acquainted with the usual brainwashing tactics,
such as routinely feeding them grain in the trailer, to make them like
it in there before going anywhere. The last thing you need is an animal
going nuts in the trailer.