Thursday, November 12, 2009

On Hauling Horses

Country Girl brought up a subject in the comments of the last post that I have started to hear a lot from people...they worry about hauling horses loose in a trailer. I'm not picking on you CG, just think it's an interesting subject to discuss.:)

In the interested of brevity, I'm not going to go back to the beginnings of horse trailers, just touch on the ones that I have personally hauled horses in...in my lifetime. My very first horse trailer was a teeny-tiny little one horse...

I actually think this one is bigger and nicer than the one I had. Oh yea, and mine was a single axle. Actually getting horses into these things is the trick. It takes some training! I don't ever see myself going back to using one. But hey, 22 years ago I thought I was pretty cool heading out to college with my horse, my dog and my cat.

My step-mom came with one of these...

A living quarters two horse. Pretty fancy stuff back then. They are heavy as hell, but pull pretty nice.

I've never owned an inline, but one of the trainers I worked for had a two horse inline like this...

The "show" trailer was LQ, 4-horse straight load...think double two horse. It was also heavy as hell, but darn, those horses hauled in it nice.

All my life we have owned some sort of stock trailer and that is what we primarily haul our horses in...

My current "using" trailer was a simple stock trailer. My brother was the one who had the tack room built on it. That certainly made it more usuable for going to rodeos and horse shows.

What most people are familiar with these days for hauling horses is the slant load...

Most slants are made so that the horse faces the left side of the trailer. However, reverse loads are also available...

Now here is a bit of trivia...hauling horses long distances in slant loads is harder on them than hauling them in stock trailers, irregardless of whether they are tied or loose. If you have ever noticed, horses that are hauled loose in trailers have a tendency to stand either straight forward or straight backward. It's easier for them to balance that way. They also have the ability to spread their feet out or move them easily it they need to catch themselves. Being able to use their whole body to balance is much easier on their muscles and legs than being confined by partitions.

So why have slant loads become so popular? Well, for a couple of reasons...You can haul more horses in less space and they are much easier to load horses into than smaller trailers. Nearly any horse can be convinced to jump into a big cave. It takes real training to train horses to get into narrow caves. So slant loads became the upgrade of the stock trailer. A way to easily load horses and yet keep them seperate.

Now that I am the owner of a slant load...my hauling tactics are going to have to change a bit when I haul horses in it. After hauling horses in a stock-type trailer for so long, I have gotten spoiled. In a stock-type trailer, I don't have to unload and hand walk horses every 300 miles. I could simply stop for about 30 minutes or so and give them a break from the road vibrations. In my stock trailer, I never ever had a horse get sore after a long haul. In the LQ we just bought, I am going to have to be more careful. The nice thing is, I can remove the partitions and haul them loose or tied backwards if I want.

Primarily, I do tie my horses in the trailer. I load, turn them around and tie them so they can stand backwards. They all seem to haul really well like that and there is just enough restraint with them being tied that they cannot get to moving around enough to cause the trailer to start swinging. This trip back to Colorado, I will have to haul loose, with Beretta not being trained to tie I don't have a choice. Strawberry will be a good influence on the babies though. He has logged thousands of miles in a trailer and is a good hauler.

I know not everyone hauls horses as far or as often as I do, anything under 150 miles isn't going to bother a horse irregardless of what type of trailer they are in...unless you drive like a jerk and are throwing them all over...which I'm pretty darn sure no one does with their's.

As for a horse getting injured being hauled loose. I'm not sure how they would, unless the driver is bouncing them off the walls. I've heard people comment about fearing rocks could fly into a stock trailer and injure a horse...ummmm...after hauling hundreds of horses, thousands of miles, on the highway and up and down gravel roads...that has never happened. Now...for you people who let their horses hang their heads out the window while you are going down the road...do you really think that those flimsy fly masks are going to protect a horse from a flying rock? That is way more dangerous for the horse.

If you ever get a chance, jump in a horse trailer and have someone drive you around. It sure gives a person a better perspective on what the horse is feeling.

I'm not a slant-load hater. They sure are nice when you need to keep horses seperate, but for the most part, I will always prefer hauling horses without the benefit of partitions. It is just so much easier on them over long distances.

20 comments:

Danielle Michelle said...

I do agree with it being nicer to be able to haul without partictions. Nicer on the horse and in the long run - I believe nicer on their behavior as well. The reason I say this is because in my past experience they seem to find their 'comfortable spot' in a stock and barely move the whole trip. When hauling more than one horse, they get 'comfy' with their neighbor and very rarely have I experienced a horse with temperment issues concerning other horses (uhhum...mares) have problems hauling with their nemisis. Put a divider between them and suddenly the attitude starts.

I can't explain it. But when horses get a chance to periodically haul in the open, their hauling behavior improves.

After doing this a few times tied, I usually just sadlle 'em up and let them load and find their own space in the stock trailer. It's never failed, everytime they find their niche, forward, backwards, up against a certain horse and then never shift around untied.

I don't do this for long distances, but with 100 miles it's sort of nice!

BTW - I still have my old 2 horse front load and I LOVE teachng the horses to load in and out. Once they have that sucker down laoding and backing out never seems to become a problem!!! And it was cool to be able to drive off to college with your horse, dog and cat!

Melanie said...

It was good to catch up on what has been going on over here, and happy belated birthday!!! I turned 35 last week, but no gray hair yet...teeheehee!

Your horses, as usual, are all handsome, and your homely colt definitely appears to be coming around. :) Beretta???? What can I say?? She sure is purty.

Trailers...we have always had stock-type trailers, and our current one is a stock trailer with removeable dividers. So, you can haul them slant loaded if you like, or just leave them be.

PS-there is really nothing like riding in the back of a moving trailer, to make you appreciate what a horse has to go through, and to make your driving improve while hauling. I have already had my kidlets try it (around the neighborhood and with me back there), because I figure it is good for them to learn empathy at an early age...especially since they both appear to like horses so much. :)

AKPonyGirl said...

When I was showing I had a four horse straight load like the 2 horse you pictured. I pulled it with a baby Winnabago. I drove it for almost three months and I think I backed it up once. With the wheels at the corners it made for a stable haul but a bear to back up.

The stock trailer is my trailer of choice. I like the flexibility of hauling what I want, how I want. The trailer will have dividers to make it a three horse slant but they will be removable.

The only drawback I see to the open stock trailer hauling loose is what happened to me earlier this year. The story is on my blog. Short version is that I dropped the trailer off the hitch at 45 mph going up a hill. The Mare (1200# draft cross) was tied in the middle and the pony (750# Appy) was in the front. She squished him pretty good when the trailer hit the back of the truck three times. That's why I'm putting dividers in.

LuLo Designs/Blue Eyed Tango said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post...very informative from a person with much experience in haulin every trailer type! I agree...what fun to be able to load your horse dog and cat up and head out! Personally....the best investment for us was a web cam in the truck....you can see ALL that's taking place in the trailer....a stock trailer with partitions that my hubby made. My eyes are glued to the cam......when he turns a corner too hard (and a stick shift to boot) I say "you might want to cool your jets a bit on the next one they were struggling in the back to stay standing" LOL! Thanks for your input! Happy travels with those steeds! How old is Beretta....not being able to tie? We did take our one mo. old loose with mom in the stock trailer and they did great but he had to go to the hospital for a check up again at 7 mos. old so we tied him (practicing before with Clinton Anderson's tie ring) it works! You just gotta work on it every day.

Anonymous said...

A word of warning about the escape door latches on trailers intended to be used with partitions in place: the type of latch that simply pops into the door frame (versus the bar that holds the door shut) won't withstand the horse's patootie leaning against it. The door bows and the tongue of the latch pops right out of the frame. Two examples of that type of latch are on the one horse and inline trailers pictured, but I couldn't see the black one clearly so it may have them too. The stout latch is shown on the aluminum trailer.

Nothing like seeing that escape door pop open on the interstate and knowing the horse isn't tied....

Growing Up A Country Girl said...

Great comparison....when we were kids at home dad only had a stock trailer but I think we still loaded and tied... we use to have a mare that was just a pain to be trailered - very impatient -- maybe what she wanted was just to be loose! And yes you put on many more miles than we have ever! Have a great night!

Sydney said...

I love stock trailers. We make our own dividers if we need them.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

DM-Excellent point about the behavior. Very unusual to have horses that get pissy when hauled without partitions.
And around the place or if only going a short distance, we are definitely, saddle, throw and go people to.:P

Melanie-My dad did the same thing with us kids before we ever got to pull a loaded trailer. Sure made you think about it.

BET-Beretta is going on 6 months, but since she was born in the pasture she didn't get the benefit of early training. I don't even have the halter on her yet. She is definitely rattled by all of the changes she has faced this week, so other than getting a halter on her, she just needs time to adjust. I'm not a big fan of tying horses under the age of 2. I've unfortunately witnessed and heard of way too many babies permanently damaged or killed from hard tying them. None of ours ever have been injured, but we don't tie them. It's just a personal preferrance.

Anon-Excellent point about the latches! Thanks for mentioning that.

Paint Girl said...

We had a 2 horse straight load when I was a teenager. I loved it at the time. Now I have a 3 horse slant. I love it, and have no issues. But my horses load and haul fine.
I had to take my dividers out when I went to pick up my filly, and left her loose, kind of hard to restrain a wild Mustang!
Also I hate seeing people letting their horses hang their heads out the feed doors!! There is nothing safe about that! I open my feed doors, but leave the bars up so my horses can't get their heads out.

Andrea said...

Well, I had always used trailers with dividers. Then I moved down here and my husband and his family only had stock trailers. And they were like a flat bed trailer with a cage on the top. So, really, there was nothing protecting the horse,and really they didn't need it. I bet a lot of people would freak out if they saw how half the horses down here were hauled.

We have always tied ours because in the stock trailer we load the horses by behavior habits. We aren't going to put the head mare next to the one that always gets picked on.

But I see nothing wrong with not having one tied. We see horses all around here that are hauled, not tied and saddled. People work cows a lot around here, so it's a pretty common thing. Stock trailers and horses!!

cdncowgirl said...

I have a 2 horse, slant load, bumper pull. Without the divider you can fit 3 horses (unless they're really big like the TWH geldings the BO has).
I don't tie any of my horses in my trailer or Kimfer's dad's. (I 3 horse, slant load, gooseneck)

I've heard pros and cons for tieing and for not tieing. I used to always tie... then we got Applejack. He broke at least 5 trailer ties, the heavy duty ones.
We figured out that if you left him untied he was a gentlman. Something about tieing him seemed to make him claustrophobic. Funny but he's fine tied anywhere else.

The only time I tie when hauling now is in Kimfer's Uncle Ben's trailer. Its a gooseneck stock and with hauling strange horses together its just easier on everyone if they're tied.

sue said...

this was an excellent post and thank you for taking the time to write it. I haul horses loose as well, I have a simple two horse stock trailer that has always served me well. It's funny to have my mini in the trailer especially since she is the only one when I do take her, I allow her to ride loose, figuring that she will find her comfortable position to ride. The drafts don't need to be tied, they fill that trailer up pretty well, and maintain themselves, but if I do haul them alone, I will just tie their heads so they don't keep shifting around, they can really throw the trailer off balance if they chose... Beretta looks like a star, but I like the look of Guns too..... keep em coming....

gtyyup said...

Great post! LOL on the old trailers. I started out with a one horse, single axle trailer pulled by a Toyota pickup...thank goodness times have changed!

I've got my LQ with the dividers. They come out, but are so big and heavy that we leave them in. When I take just one horse, I put the horse in the middle stall and leave the divider on the left open. It telescopes in and has a spring to keep it open (I also put a bungee cord on it for safety). Colt likes to ride that way.

But for our every day use, we have a 4 horse slant load with the dividers out. We usually load them with saddles on and they ride real well in that trailer.

I'm probably one of the only people who uses shavings in their trailer too in this County. But, I've seen too many horses slip on wet rubber mats...and I try to clean it after each use.

AKPonyGirl said...

Does anybody else remember when horses were hauled in the back of a pickup with a stock rack? A friend of mine had a team of Belgians that pulled telephone lines. Joe rode in a two horse straight load and Bob rode in the back of a 3/4 ton pickup with a stock rack. The rig would be jack knifed so that he could jump into the back of the truck.

The things we "used" to do!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

AK-I remember my grandfather hauling his saddle horse in the back of his pickup with stock racks. The loading "jump" is still out where the corrals used to be at the ranch. I also remember him hauling cows/calves and pigs that way.

Adventures of a Horse Crazed Mind said...

Great post, as always. It is neat to hear what other people do and why. It seems, like with so many other things, that we base our preferences off of personal experience...or more acutely, what has gone horribly wrong in the past:) I had a horse manage to go down in a two horse straight haul once and had his legs under the middle divider and gave the pony next to him a good thrashing. It could have been worse. My old gelding tried to go out the escape hatch of that same straight haul. I tie in the trailer because I have seen horses that use it to brace their weight on, almost like a "holy shit handle" on a truck. But then I've also seen a horse pull back while tied and thrash the crap out of the horse behind him. In straight hauls I see a horse is more likely to bolt out backwards and crack his head on the roof (my old gelding was notorious for that.) where with the angle haul they feel like they can turn if they need to check out (sometimes). I dont have any experience hauling loose, just havent done it. I kind of like a divider that goes to the ground (wall type) so that the horse cant get under it. I also like a divider because I think horses tend to lean on them for support and the more that they have around them to lean on the more they can use their bodies instead of their legs for support in the turns. I just think of myself standing back there with no wall or handle to use to brace or to pull my weight against. There are dangers in having a horse push on the dividers and rope too. Like fences and so many other things it seems like there is never any perfect answer. If I were going to buy a trailer today I'd probably go with an angle haul with full wall divider that can go to an open stock. I also prefer trailers with slats on the bum wall (right) because when it gets really hot I think a cross breeze when the trailer is stopped is important.



Do you haul with lights on or off in the trailer?



The gals at the english barn I boarded at would damn near bubble wrap their horses before going for a short haul to the park. I had a few sideways looks when I hauled my horse naked:) I do like a sheet, depending on the weather and if they have been worked.

Michelle said...

Interesting post. I have never hauled in a stock trailer, but often wondered how they compare to the slant load I'm used to. I've done lots of hauling across country and haven't had a problem with horses being sore. Sometimes we stopped overnight, sometimes drove straight through and we never hand walked those times. Thanks for the info!

Callie said...

Interesting post........I'm partial to a good ole gooseneck stock trailer with a partition. Loved mine, wished I didn't have to sell it when I did, but kid's college comes first and I don't go to shows, but man, I did love that thing! If was ever in the position to replace it , it would be another stock.

SunnySD said...

Had to laugh - the first "trailer" we ever used was a home built board box we could load on the back of my dad's stake truck. My mom even made covered foam bumpers for the inside so my pony wouldn't hit the boards.

He hated it - but he pretty much felt that way about trailers in general, so we didn't take it personally, LOL!

But that inline trailer you pictured? A roper down the road has one, and I keep meaning to stop by and take a closer look. I giggle every time I see it. For some reason it's just odd looking.

Foxlily said...

I'm not an experienced horse hauler, but just had my debut with hauling one horse loose. Worked beautifully. Enjoyed this post.