Through a special arrangement with two undisputed experts on equine travel - Neva Kittrell Scheve and James Hamilton, DVM - we have created this area for the safety of you and your Horses.

Neva is the author of The Complete Guide to Buying, Maintaining, and Servicing a Horse Trailer and Hawkins Guide: Horse Trailering on the Road. She and James Hamilton, DVM co-authored Hawkins Guide: Equine Emergencies on the Road.

To find out more about Neva Kittrell Scheve, CLICK HERE .
To read more about James Hamilton, DVM, CLICK HERE .


Click on the Following Links for Valuable Safety Tips:

Equine Transportation Requirements by State CLICK HERE .
Canadian Import/Export Regulations CLICK HERE


Don't Go on the Road Without It!

Store these items in the horse trailer so you always have them on board:

  •   Spare Tire – USRider recommends carrying two (2) spare tires
  •   Hydraulic Jack – rated to jack your trailer while loaded
  •   Lug Wrench
  •   Three (3) emergency triangles or flares (Triangles are preferred)
  •   Chocks
  •   Flashlight
  •   Electrical tape
  •   Duct Tape
  •   Equine First Aid Kit with splint (know how to use it)
  •   Knife for cutting ropes, etc., in emergency
  •   Water
  •   Buckets/sponge
  •   Water hose
  •   Spare halter and lead rope for each Horse
  •   Spare bulbs for exterior and interior lights
  •   Spare fuses if applicable
  •   Fire extinguisher with up to date charge
  •   WD-40 or other lubricant
  •   Broom, shovel, fork, and manure disposal bags
  •   Insect spray (bee and wasp)

For the tow vehicle:

  •   Registration for the vehicle and trailer
  •   Proof of insurance
  •   Jumper cables
  •   Spare tire/jack/tire iron
  •   Tool kit including wiring materials
  •   Spare belts and hoses for the tow vehicle
  •   Tow chain
  •   Cellular phone and/or CB radio (CB may be more effective in rural areas without cell phone service)
  •   Replacement fuses
  •   Work gloves
  •   Portable air compressor
  •   Extra cash/credit card
  •   Road Atlas
  •   Hawkins Guide: Equine Emergencies on the Road
  •   USRider Membership Kit

Check your inventory frequently and replace used or removed items before each trip.

For crossing state lines or attending competitions:

  •   Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (Health Certificate) dated within 30 days
  •   Proof of Negative EIA (Coggins) usually dated within 1 year. Some states require within 6 months.
  •   Certificate of Brand Inspection if applicable

If you are in an accident and have been injured yourself:

EMS personnel and police will most likely not be capable of taking care of your Horses. Prepare for this situation by keeping some sort of emergency directions in a very visible place. Write the name of someone you know who can be called to help or to advise what to do with the Horses if you are incapacitated - a knowledgeable friend, your veterinarian, or someone else who is familiar with your Horses and all current telephone numbers. The USRider Membership Kit contains a specially created emergency information placard (Horse trailer interior) and an accompanying emergency notification sticker (Horse trailer exterior).




Trip Preparation: Last-Minute Checklist

  1. Check the tow vehicle. Check and replenish engine fluid levels and wiper fluid. Towing puts extra stress on the radiator, brakes and transmission. 
  2. Make sure fluid levels are correct.
  3. Make sure the ball on the tow vehicle is the correct size for the horse trailer.
  4. Make sure the rear view mirrors are properly adjusted and you know how to use them.
  5. Check tire pressure in the tires of the tow vehicle and the horse trailer. Improper tire pressure is responsible for most towing problems. Check tire condition.
  6. Make sure that the horse trailer is level so the animals are not always fighting their balance by traveling uphill or downhill. This movement can also cause the trailer to sway and cause other safety problems.
  7. Check lug nuts on wheels. Wheel nuts and bolts should be torqued befor first road use after each wheel removal. Check and re-torque after the first 10 miles, 25 miles, and again at 50 miles. Check periodically thereafter.
  8. Check inside the horse trailer for bee and wasp nests.
  9. Check over your hitch, coupler, breakaway brake battery and safety chains. Make sure the brakes and all lights are working properly before you load the Horses.
  10. When Horses are loaded, make sure all doors are latched properly and Horses are tied.
  11. Drive down the driveway, and before you drive onto the main road, get out and check over everything again. Something you overlooked may make itself apparent by then. (Most accidents happen to people who have been hauling just long enough to get lackadaisical.)
  12. If you happen to stop somewhere where the rig has been left unattended, check everything all over again. Someone may have been tampering with the trailer or Horses.




Trip Preparation: Checklist for Trailer Axle Assembly

Following a few rules in caring for your horse trailer axle assembly can add to its life. Moreover, in the case of some of these rules, you may be protecting your own life as well. Using the following checklist before starting a trip with your trailer is highly recommended. Some of these items should be checked 2 to 3 weeks before a planned trip to allow sufficient time to perform maintenance.

  1. Check your maintenance schedule and be sure you are up to date.
  2. Check hitch. Is it showing wear? Is it properly lubricated?
  3. Fasten safety chains and breakaway switch actuating chain securely. Make certain the breakaway battery is fully charged.
  4. Inspect towing hookup for secure attachment.
  5. Load your tag-along trailer so that approximately 10 percent of the trailer's total weight is on the hitch. For light trailers this should be increased to 15 percent.
  6. Do not overload. Stay within your gross vehicle rated capacity.
  7. Inflate tires according to manufacturer's specifications; inspect tires for cuts, excessive wear, etc.
  8. Check wheel mounting nuts and bolts with a torque wrench. Torque, in proper sequence, to the levels specified in this chapter.
  9. Make certain of hanger bolt, shackle bolt, and U-bolt nuts per torque values specified.
  10. Make certain brakes are synchronized and functioning properly.
  11. Check operation of all lights.




Pre-Trip Checklist for Horse Trailers

  1. Wheel bearings serviced? (service every 12 mos./12,000 miles, carry spare bearing set).
  2. Tires in good condition? (look for dry rot, replace every 3-5 years regardless of mileage).
  3. Check tire pressure (including spares and inside tire on dual wheels).
  4. Hitch locked on the ball? Correct size ball?
  5. Safety cables/chains connected?
  6. Plug and secure electrical connection.
  7. Connect emergency breakaway system.
  8. Emergency battery charged?
  9. Test trailer lighting (brakes, turn signals, running, perimeter).
  10. Check/test brake controller.
  11. Prior to loading horse(s), check trailer for hazards.
  12. Leg wraps, head bumper on horse(s)?
  13. Secure and lock all trailer doors.
  14. Headlights on? For greater safety – get noticed.
  15. Drive safely - allow greater braking distance, and travel at generally slower speeds.



Additional Safety Suggestions

The following list of additional suggestions should help make trailering easier for you and your Horse:

  •   Wear gloves and boots when you are loading and unloading Horses.
  •   If the horse trailer is dark inside when you are loading, open the doors and turn on the lights to increase visibility.
  •   If you are having trouble loading a Horse, at least ten well-meaning bystanders will usually show up to help you. Thank them for offering to help but ask them all to leave except those who you know will be able to help. Too many cooks in the kitchen can really make a bad situation worse.
  •   Make sure there are no hazards near the horse trailer (i.e. farm machinery, fence posts, etc.) when you are loading and unloading.
  •   Don't let door covers stick out the sides where a Horse or handler could get bumped in the head.
  •  If two or more Horses are being unloaded from the trailer, keep at least one Horse in sight of the last Horse until he has also been  safely unloaded. The one that is left on the trailer may panic and rush off to quickly. This is more of a problem with inexperienced horses.
  •   If you are hauling your Horse in someone else's trailer, do your own safety check. Don't depend on someone else for your safety and the safety of your Horse.
  •   If you are hauling someone else's Horse in your trailer, insist the horse wear protective bandages, and agree in advance who will be responsible in the event of injury to the Horse or damage to the trailer. Check with the insurance company to see who is covered for what.
  •   Don't travel alone if you can help it.
  •   Never lead a Horse into the trailer if you do not have an easy escape route.
  •   Never get into a trailer with a panicked Horse, and don't open the door if there is a chance the Horse could bolt out of the door onto the highway.
  •   Never put a Horse into a trailer that is unhitched, or unhitch a trailer while the Horses are still in it.
  •   Don't use tranquilizers unless you know how. Improper use of tranquilizers can cause death. Discuss the use of tranquilizers with your veterinarian.



Trailer Storage Preparation

If your Horse trailer is to be stored for an extended period or over the winter, it is important that it be prepared properly.

  1. Remove the emergency breakaway battery and store inside, out of the weather. Charge the battery at least every 90 days.
  2. Jack up the trailer and place jack stands under the trailer frame so that the weight will be off the tires. Follow trailer manufacturer's guidelines to lift and support the unit. Never jack up or place jack stands on the axle tube or on the equalizers.
  3. Lubricate mechanical moving parts, such as the hitch and suspension parts that are exposed to the weather.

Note: On oil-lubricated hubs, the upper part of the roller bearings are not immersed in oil and are subjected to potential corrosion. For maximum bearing life it is recommended that you revolve the wheels periodically (every 2 to 3 weeks) during periods of prolonged storage.




After Prolonged Trailer Storage - Inspection Procedures

Before removing a horse trailer from jack stands:

  • Remove all wheels and hubs or brake drums. (Note which spindle and brake the drum was removed from so it can be reinstalled in the same locations.)
  • Inspect suspension for wear.
  • Check tightness of hanger bolt, shackle bolt, and U-bolt nuts per recommended torque values.
  • Check brake linings, brake drums, and armature faces for excessive wear or scoring.
  • Check brake magnets with an ohmmeter. The magnets should check 3.2 ohms. If shorted or worn excessively, replace.
  • Lubricate all brake moving parts, using a high temperature brake lubricant. (Lubriplate or equivalent). Caution: Do not get grease or oil on brake linings or on magnet face.
  • Remove any rust from braking surface and armature surface of drums with fine emery paper or crocus cloth. Protect bearings from contamination while so doing.
  • Inspect oil or grease seals for wear or nicks. Replace if necessary.




Emergency First Aid Kit

The following items assembled into an emergency kit will help you handle most situations. Discuss this list with your own veterinarian, he/she may have other suggestions that are appropriate for you and your situation:

  •   Roll Cotton - 2 rolls
  •   Roll Gauze - 4 rolls
  •   Gauze Squares
  •   Clean Standing Bandages – 2 quilt or fleece with outer wraps
  •   Adhesive Tape
  •   24" Section of 6' PVC pipe- which has been split in half lengthwise - for splinting: check that diameter of pipe fits your Horse.
  •   Cohesive Flexible Bandage- 2 Vetratp® – Co-flex®
  •   Sticky Roll Bandage - Elastikon®
  •   Thermometer
  •   Stethoscope
  •   Mosquito Forceps
  •   Scissors
  •   Twitch
  •   Antiseptic Soap- Betadine®
  •   Hydrogen Peroxide
  •   Antibacterial Ointment
  •   Antibacterial Spray Powder
  •   Ophthalmic Ointment
  •   Saline Eye Wash
  •   Butazolidin Paste
  •   Banamine Granules or Paste
  •   Bucket
  •   Water- 10 gallons or more

All medications should be given at the advice of your veterinarian or the veterinarian treating the condition. IMPROPER USE OF TRANQUILIZERS AND OTHER MEDICATIONS CAN RESULT IN THE LOSS OF YOUR HORSE.


Source: Neva Kittrell Scheve & Dr. James Hamilton, DMV




Equine Precautions: Short Trip

Anytime a Horse is loaded into a trailer, whether for a short trip or long trip, these fundamental measures should be taken:

  •   Train your Horse to load calmly and to accept the trailer as non-threatening. The best defense against injury and illness is good training.
  •   Make sure your horse trailer is safe. Once a Horse has been trained to trust you and the trailer, don't let it down.
  •   Drive Carefully. Remember you have live cargo in the trailer - drive accordingly.
  •   Make sure all inoculations are current. Current inoculations will protect your Horse from exposure to other Horses.
  •   Wrap all four legs. Just walking into a trailer can result in injury if the horses scrapes against something, so wrap legs every time your Horse gets on the trailer.
  •   Make sure trailer is vented. Horse are very sensitive to dust and noxious gasses; i.e., ammonia from urine and manure.
  •   Carry an emergency first aid kit. Keep it in your horse trailer and make sure it is always ready and up-to-date.
  •   Learn proper first aid techniques. Learn how to bandage wounds in various locations, control blood loss, and learn to recognize the signs of dehydration/heat exhaustion, and colic.
  •   Learn how to monitor vital signs in the Horse. If your Horse is sick or hurt, you can give the veterinarian current vital signs via telephone.
  •   Carry backup supplies appropriate to the length of the trip. Keep in mind your trip may be longer than planned due to unforeseen circumstances.
  •   Carry a medical ID. If you are incapacitated in an accident, it can be important to contact someone who knows you and your Horses.

Source: Neva Kittrell Scheve & Dr. James Hamilton, DVM




Equine Precautions: Long Trip

The importance of these precautions is directly proportional to the length of the trip. Use your own judgment, and that of your veterinarian:

  •   Electrolytes - Increase 2 to 3 days prior to shipping.
  •   Bran Mash - Once a day for 2 to 3 days prior to shipping
  •   Vitamins - Add extra for a week prior to shipping.
  •   Mineral Oil - One pint per day may either be added to fee along with bran for four days prior OR given by veterinarian via stomach tube the day of shipping (4-6 hours before departure).
  •   Antibiotics - When the trip will be over 12 hours, discuss the administration of antibiotics with your veterinarian.
  •   Body Clip - When taking your Horse from a cold climate to a warm one, a body clip is recommended.
  •   Blanket - The need for the blanket will depend on the temperature en route.

Source: Neva Kittrell Scheve & Dr. James Hamilton, DVM



HamiltonAbout James Hamilton, DVM

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Jim rode Horses and was involved in Pony Club and 4-H before earning his bachelor's degree and doing post-graduate studies at Ohio State. After graduating from the University of Georgia School of Veterinary Medicine he joined a sports medicine practice at Belmont Park in New York.

His interest is in equine sports medicine, especially respiratory, orthopedics and imaging diagnostics. He now resides and practices in the Sandhills as a partner in Southern Pines Equine Associates. The practice provides complete medical and surgery services to the rapidly growing Horse community in southern North Carolina. Dr. Hamilton is the co-author of Equine Emergencies on the Road, a glove compartment manual on prevention and treatment of enroute illness and injury of Horses. This manual was on the United States Pony Club's "must read" list for 1995.

In 1997 he became involved in the AVMA’s Disaster Response Program as Team Commander of VMAT-3. This team of veterinarians and technicians is now part of the federal government’s National Disaster Medical System, a department within the United States Public health Service (USPHS). Most recently VMAT#3 responded along with others to the World Trade Center disaster in NYC. Team Members were there to support the federal government’s (FEMA) Search and Rescue dog teams.

Dr. Hamilton is a Member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, American Academy of Veterinary Disaster Medicine, and past Member of the United States Pony Club’s National Safety Committee. In 1998, work done to help the state veterinary association (NCVMA) organize a disaster plan earned Jim the “Veterinarian of the Year” award.

He is currently serving on a statewide committee (SART) working with State Emergency Management officials, counties, industry representatives and others to create a comprehensive animal disaster response plan for North Carolina.




Neva About Neva Kittrell Scheve

Neva Kittrell Scheve is author of Hawkins Guide: Horse Trailering on the Road, The Complete Guide to Buying, Maintaining, and Servicing a Horse Trailer and co-author of Hawkins Guide: Equine Emergencies on the Road. She travels nationwide to give seminars on all aspects of horse trailers. With her husband, Thomas G. Scheve, she has developed numerous lines of horse trailers, which are marketed internationally through their own company, EquiSpirit, located in Southern Pines, NC.

Neva is has been a horsewoman for over 30 years and competes in dressage and carriage driving. She is also a Member of the Moore County Equine Emergency Response Unit in NC, and the VMAT (Veterinary Medical Assistance Team) which is a part of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).

For more information about EquiSpirit Trailers or to purchase their indispensable equine travel publications, call toll-free 1-877-575-1771. USRider Members receive a discount on their publications. For more information, visit the USRider Winner's Circle Advantage area on this web site.


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