Updated: Feb 9, 2019
So you’re ready to head off with your horse and trailer in tow for a competition, hunter pace, or just an off-property excursion with friends. If you aren’t a frequent traveler, there are certainly some important preparations before you load up, and definitely some top packing tips to keep you and your horse happy on your journey.
It doesn’t really matter what kind of activity you’re preparing for, there are some basic staples that everybody should have packed in your trailer to go off the farm. If you’re like me, and you travel frequently, you’ll find that you have a “trailer” set of a few of these things, just to simplify the packing process.
First, you’ll want to make sure that all your tack is cleaned, and tidily packed. Double check that you have all the pieces! Nothing is worse than driving for an hour or more only to realize that you forgot your girth. Saddle, saddle pad, girth, half pad, bridle, breastplate or martingale, and boots if you usually use them. Don’t forget your helmet!
I always like to pack a few grooming supplies too, just in case. I bring a brush (or two), a few towels, a tail comb, a hoof pick, and definitely fly spray as well. If I’m going to a competition, I also include baby oil for the face, and hoof polish for that extra sparkle. When you bring them off the trailer, you can tidy them up so they look lovely and presentable.
Most importantly, don’t forget to pack food and drink for your horse. If you don’t have a tank attached to your trailer to fill with water, you can always purchase some large portable gas jugs and fill them up. Pack an extra bucket along with a sponge and a sweat scraper for after your ride. I like to fill a nibble net full of tasty hay too for the horse to enjoy during the day.
Before you travel anywhere, there is also some good ground manners training to be done with any horse. You want to make sure that your horse leads extremely politely at home, because most horses are slightly less attentive when they go off the property, and you don’t want to be dragged around mercilessly as soon as you arrive. I like to have a Clinton Anderson Rope Halter handy, and for some horses, a chain shank to use with a regular halter.
You also want to make sure that your horse is good about being tacked up in an open space. If you’re worried about the moment between taking the halter off and putting the bridle on, it’s better to do it inside of the trailer before unloading, and then putting the halter on top. There are always horses that get loose due to this, and they can wreak havoc on themselves and others while running amok.
I like to use Safe-T-Ties inside and outside my trailer, just in case they need to release in an emergency. I also make sure that my horses are very, very good about tying and not pulling back to break the lead shank before I tie them to the side of the trailer. Again, loose horses are no fun.
The point of going off the farm is to have fun, but be aware that not all horses are the same when they go away from home, and sometimes it takes several trips to get them used to the idea of travel. Especially with young horses or inexperienced horses, you should plan to have a few trips where you do “nothing” if necessary. I like to take my green horses to local shows and just hang out with them by the side of the ring, so they learn that trailer trips aren’t stressful. Having patience and no agenda is important.
If you’re ever worried about roadside assistance for a truck and trailer, you can always check out US Rider, which is basically AAA for horses. If you are somebody who travels frequently, travels alone, or takes long trips with the horses in tow, it’s worth a membership for the peace of mind. ~Kate