We’ve all stared into our horse trailers, dismayed by messy tack rooms, dirty compartments, filthy floors, and maintenance issues. It’s easy to close the doors and walk away, thinking, “I’ll tackle it later.” But for the sake of your investment, not to mention your horses’ comfort and your own peace of mind the next time you use the trailer, you’re best off to keep it clean, organized, and maintained as you go.
Luckily for you, others who haul horses have discovered great ways to care for their trailers, and are willing to share their secrets. So roll up your sleeves, and let’s get started.
MAKE CLEANING A HABIT
Advice from: R.J. King, manager of Simons Show Horses, Aubrey, Texas.
1. Clean out all the shavings after every show and clean the floor. “We take out all the mats and wash the entire area where the horses are in the trailer. I pressure-wash the floor, and spread baking soda on it before we replace the mats. This helps reduce damage to the floor from the horses’ urine, and also helps keep it smelling fresher. Before parking it at a show, we also clean out the back of the trailer once the horses are unloaded.”
2. Wash and dry the outside regularly. “We do this before each show, and also wax the trailer every few months to help preserve the finish.”
3. Unload all the work tack. “The majority of the show tack stays in the trailer, and it’s hung up in the same spot every time. The bridles are hung correctly and all the show saddles are clean and in their bags. But the work tack is taken out, and we vacuum the tackroom floor, making sure it’s all clean before the next horse show.”
4. Put everything in its own spot when you reload the trailer. “This cuts the time you have to spend searching for a particular item when you need it.”
Advice from: Bear Smith, all-around trainer and owner of BJ Ranch, Eustis, Florida.
5. Disinfect the trailer after use. “Horses can be exposed to diseases when they travel, so I’m big on disinfecting our trailers with bleach after they’ve been used, so that germs don’t keep spreading.”
6. Keep a pair of heavy-duty scissors in each area of the trailer. “You never know when you’ll need to cut a halter, lead rope, or hay bag in an emergency.”
7. Store a medical bag within easy reach. “Horses can get stressed and crampy when traveling, and you don’t want to be digging through all your other gear to find meds and other supplies.”
8. Load horses by personality. “I do this to ensure all the horses are comfortable. I’ll put a ‘babysitter’ next to a more fractious horse, for example.”
9. Carry extra filled hay bags. “This lets us easily swap out with emptier bags at stops.”
10. Load all the tack, one horse’s items at a time. “Make sure each horse has everything. We load the hay and grain after that, and then load the horses last.”
11. Keep a packing checklist on your cell phone. “You’ll cut down on forgotten items and make the whole hauling experience go more smoothly.”
BE PRACTICAL BUT CREATIVE
Advice from: Craig Johnson, reining trainer, Gainesville, Texas.
12. Stock up on Dawn dishwashing liquid. “We use this everyday product, diluted in a bucket of water, to clean the trailer walls inside and out. Dawn is gentle on the paint and any decals or logos you might have on your trailer.”
13. Employ a truck-wash service. “Because our trailer is so big, we take it to a truck wash periodically. Truck washes have the ability to shine the aluminum up and make it look like a brand-new trailer. Then we’ll just wash in between those times.”
14. Shop at an auto-parts store. “This is where to get such products as chrome-wheel polishing kits, inexpensive Mr. Clean sponges, Armor-All for shining rubber and vinyl, and more.”
15. Check tires regularly. “Everybody has a story about a blown tire, which can really damage a wheel well. One of the best ways to keep your trailer looking nice is to be sure to check your tires for wear and monitor the tire pressure.”
16. Keep drop-down doors closed when rolling. “These aren’t designed for being open while driving down the road—they’re to be opened when you’re parked. When you’re driving, shut those doors. That’ll lessen the risk of a horse having a panic attack and maybe bending the bars.”
17. Consider lining the dividers. “Horses sometimes will get into arguments with the horse beside them. I like to make sure there’s either a full mat hanging down from the panel to the floor, or I’ll tack a piece of old carpet and cut it to fit. I’ll attach it to the bottom of the panel with a metal strap and metal screws to create a lightweight divider that doesn’t bother the horses, but protects them from jumping onto each other.”
18. Use pelleted sawdust as trailer bedding. “It absorbs urine really well, and eventually expands back into sawdust. Before long, with a couple of bags, you’ve got a trailer full of fluffy sawdust.”
19. Buy a trailer with an extra stall. “Storage is often limited in trailers. So I recommend that when you’re looking for a trailer, get one with one more stall than the number of horses you’ll be hauling. That extra space is very handy for transporting hay and grain, shavings, buckets, and other items.”
20. Have a loading plan. “Arrange your packing so that the little things like bridles and saddles go in first, and the big items like your saddle racks and big tubs go in last—because once you get to your destination, the big pieces are what’ll come out first. Once you have those first big pieces unloaded and set up, the rest of the unloading process goes fast.”
21. Use clear totes or containers. “Clear totes beat opaque ones because you’ll know where things are at a glance. And in general, using clear totes for gear saves space and makes the tack room look a lot neater. We label them with the contents to make it even easier to find items.”
22. Keep soiled items separate. “This prevents dirty items from getting the rest of your storage space dirty as well. We put dirty items in a plastic trash can and store them all there until we get home.”
23. Invest in a truckbox. “One of these can hold a lot of items, such as buckets, horse blankets, and other bulky equipment.”
ADD CUSTOM STORAGE
Advice from: Nancy Cahill, all-around trainer, Madisonville, Texas.
24. Have more hooks added. “I have hooks in every location possible, to hang bridles, tails, halters, water hoses, extension cords, and other items. This keeps things far better organized than having them in a pile.”
25. Compartmentalize. “My trailer has two storage compartments: one for clothes, hats, show pads, or anything that doesn’t get stinky and sweaty; and the other for saddles, underpads, brush baskets, and client trunks.”
26. Add shelving. “I had a shelf made inside the gooseneck that’s sized to hold hat cans and boots. Ittakes advantage of space that otherwise would have been wasted.”