Your horse trailer is one of the most important pieces of equipment you own. Without it, you’d be stuck at the barn – and in case of failure, you might suffer a catastrophic loss. Your safety – and that of your horse – hinges on your trailer being in good condition. Regular care and maintenance protects your investment, and helps to ensure that you and your mount arrive at your destination intact.
Keep it Clean!
One of the most overlooked parts of horse trailer maintenance is washing. The acids in urine and feces can eat through wood and metal when they collect, so be sure to wash your trailer frequently, paying attention to the interior as well as the exterior. Be sure to remove the mats and wash them separately. Ensure that the trailer deck is dry before you replace the mats.
Look for Potential Horse Hazards
Splinters, loose wires, protruding rivets and screws, broken plastic or glass, and any other damage can hurt your horse, so keep an eye out for problems and fix them as soon as you notice them. There are many issues you can correct yourself; i.e. tighten loose screws or sand rough spots on wood. Other issues need professional attention, especially if it seems like there may be underlying structural damage.
Keep an Eye Out for Rust
Inspecting a horse trailer is just as important as washing it is. Watch for rust along the roof seams, as well as between the trailer’s body and tongue. Refinish any areas that appear to be rusting, and be sure that you keep an eye out for areas of damaged, bare metal that could be prone to rust. If your trailer is aluminum, then you don’t need to worry about rust in most places, however you will want to check the frame as it is probably made from steel.
Inspect and Lubricate Moving Parts
All doors should swing smoothly, and if your trailer has a ramp, it should open without squealing or making a grinding noise. Latches, butt bars or chains, pins for partitions, saddle racks, and chest bars should all operate smoothly. Use WD-40 or a similar product to lubricate moving parts that squeak or offer resistance. While you’re at it apply some lubricant to the trailer hitch to ensure it doesn’t seize.
Kick the Tires
Just kidding – you don’t really want to kick the tires, but you do want to give them a good, close look during regular horse trailer maintenance. Start by making sure that each tire has the correct pressure. Look for uneven wear on the treads, and keep an eye out for cracks, bulges, and other anomalies that can occur when tires sit unused for long periods of time. Check your spare while you’re at it!
Check the Lights!
Hook your trailer to your tow vehicle and connect the electrical system. Have a friend stand behind the trailer as you test your turn signals, brakes, and other lights. Replace any burnt-out bulbs or bring your trailer in for service if anything seems to be amiss.
These are just the basics of inspecting and maintaining a horse trailer. Your bearings should be inspected regularly, and your brakes should be assessed. It’s a good idea to bring your trailer in for an annual safety inspection, whether your state requires it or not. It’s true that horse trailer maintenance can seem tedious, but a few minutes now can save heaps of trouble in the future.