Thursday, March 19, 2009
Trailer Maintanence - Get it Done, Get There Safe!
Traveling with your horse can be a wonderful experience, whether you’re like Me and you putt to your friend’s house for a short trail ride every couple weeks or you trailer throughout the country for clinics and shows like Karen who tries to attend several every month.
A frequent traveler, was in the process of trailering her horse to a clinic when a tire on her trailer went flat. She missed her clinic ride and showed up late.
“Didn’t I tell you your tire was low last month at the clinic?” her friend chided. Karen recalled then, but she had been traveling.
Karen and her horse are very lucky that a flat tire and missing a clinic was the least of their worries. Lack of trailer maintenance can be deadly to your horse as evidenced by a accidents you read about, like on Long Island when a trailer became detached from its tow vehicle, crossed into oncoming traffic and was hit by an SUV. One of the two horses was killed. Rescue teams were visibly upset by the sight as well as their inability to help the injured and dead horses. Members of the horse community wonder about the cause, was at improperly fit hitch? Where were the safety chains?
Experts agree that there are several key problems in trailer maintenance that can lead to a tragic result including improper hitching, lack of safety chains or rotten floor boards, which can cause a horse to fall through the trailer while being towed.
USRider, a roadside assistance and towing provider, is currently gathering data on horse trailer accidents to devise recommendations for preventing accidents. By August, 2006, more than 200 accidents had been evaluated, and the company was seeking input from horse owners, rescue workers, towing operators, veterinarians, and others.
Tomas Gimenez, professor of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at Clemson University, is assisting in the data analysis and noted that “the data showed that the main causes of trailer wrecks are lack of proper maintenance, operator error and equipment mismatch.”
The Rutgers Cooperative Extension prepared a horse trailering and maintenance fact sheet published by the National Ag Safety Database and includes recommendations on routine item maintenance checks on tire pressure and condition, including spares; jacks and reflectors; floorboards; screws or nails that work loose to protrude inside the trailer; lights; hitch welds; safety chain welds and snaps; hitch ball greasing; wheel chocks. Additionally, a yearly maintenance check is in order for the cracks in the frame, loose connections in wires, rusted metal, greasing of all hinges, weak hinges, wheel bearings, spring shackles, brakes, emergency break-away cable and control box.
Based on USRider’s survey data to date, operator error, especially driving too fast, caused the majority of the accidents. The group recommends driving under the speed limit and maintaining double the distance from the car in front than is recommended for passenger cars. The survey group also noted that maintenance checks are imperative on both the tow vehicle and the trailer. Additionally, with rotten floor boards, horses can fall through the trailer. The group also recommends driving with headlights on to increase visibility to other drivers and applying reflective tape to the back of the trailer in case of electrical failure. The group also noted that improper hitching was a common cause of accidents. USRider recommends ensuring that the hitch is properly installed, is the right type, rating and size for the coupler. Trailers can become detached from the towing vehicle, so securely fastened safety chains and breakaway switch are in order.
In case of emergency, have the following items stored in your trailer: equine first aid kit; spare tire, jack and iron (for both trailer and tow vehicle); emergency triangles; chocks; flashlight; electrical and duct tape; knife; water, hose, buckets and sponge; spare halters and leads; spare bulbs and fuses (for trailer and tow vehicle); fire extinguisher; jumper cables; took kit; spare belts and hoses; tow chain; air compressor; and emergency directions for rescue works who might need to attend horses if tow operator is incapacitated.
Traveling with your horse can be fun, but it can also be dangerous, if not tragic, if you do not conduct yearly and routine maintenance on your tow vehicles. Keep your vehicles in proper working order to protect your most valuable cargo.
We all know about these items but seems more often we will "get to it later" and later may be our last tow? Please do not overlook your inspections and maintanence. Keep yourself safe and those who are with and around you.
Peace unto you and yours,
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