The Open Road

Trail Rider - - CONTENTS - BY TOM SCHEVE AND NEVA KITTRELL SCHEVE

Is your rig ready for the open road? Use these ex­pert guide­lines to make sure your tow ve­hi­cle and trailer are ready to go. Bonus: Glossary of trailer-weight terms; in-trailer first-aid kit.

YYou’ve in­vested in the right trailer for your horse and are plan­ning your eques­trian travel for the year. But is your rig ready for travel on the open road? Here, we’ll tell you how to en­sure your ve­hi­cle has the ca­pac­ity to tow your fully loaded trailer. Then we’ll give you hitch-safety guide­lines. Next, we’ll pro­vide a rig-safety check­list and de­tail two es­sen­tial kits to carry in your tow ve­hi­cle.

Fi­nally, we’ll give you a pre-trip prac­tice rou­tine to make haul­ing day eas­ier. As a bonus, we’ll list the items you should have in your equine first-aid kit (page 55) and give you a glossary of trailer-weight terms (page 56).

Towing Ca­pac­ity

Your tow ve­hi­cle has to have the right pulling power, curb weight, and wheel­base (the dis­tance from the front axle to the rear axle) to haul your trailer safely. To de­ter­mine whether you have enough towing ca­pac­ity to pull your trailer, match your tow ve­hi­cle to your trailer’s Gross Ve­hi­cle Weight Rat­ing.

The GVWR isn’t the ac­tual curb weight (see glossary); it’s the limit as to what your trailer can weigh and still be safe as stated by the man­u­fac­turer. You’ll find this in­for­ma­tion on the Cer­tifi­cate of Ori­gin, the ti­tle, or on an in­for­ma­tional sticker on your trailer.

A typ­i­cal two-horse tag-along trailer, with or with­out a dress­ing room, will have a GVWR of 7,000 pounds. This means it has two 3,500-pound axles. (The GVWR could be a lit­tle more if the man­u­fac­turer fig­ured in tongue weight.)

Most stan­dard two-horse goose­neck trail­ers will have a GVWR of 7,000 or 10,400 pounds. The larger and heav­ier your trailer, the stronger the axle will be, in­creas­ing the GVWR.

In most cases, the ac­tual weight of a fully loaded trailer never ex­ceeds the GVWR (if it does, it’s il­le­gal and un­safe) and of­ten will be quite a bit less.

Have your fully loaded trailer weighed so you know the ac­tual weight. If you use the ac­tual weight as a guide­line when choos­ing your tow ve­hi­cle, add at least 15 per­cent to the ac­tual weight so you’ll have a safety mar­gin with your tow ve­hi­cle.

Some small SUVs and trucks have a rear axle/en­gine com­bi­na­tion set to fully max­i­mize pulling power. How­ever, they don’t have the weight and wheel­base to han­dle those weights well.

Horses are “live” weight and will shift around in your trailer. You don’t want the “tail wag­ging the dog.” Longer wheel­bases make your tow ve­hi­cle more sta­ble by pre­vent­ing the front end from float­ing (the feel­ing of bounc­ing from front to back).

A weight-dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem will help sta­bi­lize a tow ve­hi­cle with a shorter wheel­base. The heav­ier the ve­hi­cle, the bet­ter it can han­dle the weight be­hind it. But be care­ful — you can overdo your tow ve­hi­cle, caus­ing a se­verely mis­matched rig, such as us­ing a heavy, spring-loaded one-ton dually to pull a light two-horse trailer with one or two small horses. This rig as­sem­bly would pro­vide a rough ride.

Is your rig ready for the open road? Use these ex­pert guide­lines to make sure your tow ve­hi­cle and trailer are ready to go.

Hitch-Safety Guide­lines

For a tag-along (bumper pull) trailer, use a frame-mounted hitch, not a ball on the bumper. The frame-mounted hitch is rated for how much it can hold ( tongue weight) and how much it can pull ( car­ry­ing weight). This rat­ing is sep­a­rate from what the tow ve­hi­cle can haul.

For ex­am­ple, your tow ve­hi­cle may be able to pull 16,000 pounds, but the frame-mounted hitch might only be rated to carry 4,000 pounds.

Rat­ings are usu­ally lo­cated on a sticker on the hitch it­self. The sticker will list two sets of rat­ings: weight car­ry­ing and weight dis­tri­bu­tion.

The weight-car­ry­ing rat­ing is the one you’ll use for a slide-in ball mount, which con­sists of a square tube mount with a ball bolted to it.

The weight-dis­tri­bu­tion rat­ing is al­most

BY TOM SCHEVE AND NEVA KITTRELL SCHEVE

al­ways higher than the weight-car­ry­ing rat­ing. You’ll use this set of rat­ings when you use a large, slide-in weight-dis­tri­bu­tion ball mount that al­lows two 30-inch steel bars (of­ten mis­tak­enly called sway bars) to at­tach from the ball mount to the trailer frame.

These bars latch into a snap-up bracket on the trailer frame. The ball and the slide-in mount are also rated and should be equal to or greater than the hitch rat­ing.

Now that you’re fa­mil­iar with the rat­ings, check the nut that se­cures the ball onto the ball mount to make sure it’s tight, and check the pin that se­cures the slide-in ball mount to the frame-mounted hitch.

Also, make sure the ball size matches the cou­pler size on your trailer. A 2 5/16- inch cou­pler put onto a 2-inch ball will pop off at the first good pot­hole.

Cross your trailer’s two safety chains and at­tach them to slots on the frame-mounted hitch on the sides of the tube re­ceiver for the ball mount. Af­ter you at­tach the chains, con­nect the elec­tri­cal plug.

There are var­i­ous types of goose­neck hitches from which to choose. Most brands will have a way to re­move the ball when not in use, such as one that will flip down into the bed out of the way or one that can be re­moved.

Make sure that the goose­neck hitch rat­ing is enough to pull your loaded trailer safely. A pro­fes­sional hitch in­staller will most likely know how to in­stall it for you, but know that the ball should al­ways be mounted slightly ahead of your truck’s rear axle, never be­hind it.

Af­ter hook­ing up, make sure the cou­pler is locked or latched. You can check this by raising the goose­neck while your trailer is hitched to make sure it doesn’t come up off the ball. Your goose­neck hitch will have two places to hook the safety chains; these are lo­cated on both sides near the ball.

Rig-Safety Check­list

Per­form this rig-safety check the day be­fore you haul your horse. Lam­i­nate this check­list, and keep it in your tow ve­hi­cle so it’ll be at hand on the road. Check flu­ids. Park your tow ve­hi­cle on a level area, and set the park­ing brake. Check all the flu­ids (oil, trans­mis­sion, brake, power steer­ing, coolant, battery, and wind­shield washer). Check the tire pres­sure. Check the tire pres­sure on all tires. Make sure they’re at the rec­om­mend pounds per square inch (PSI) when cold. Recheck the tire pres­sure be­fore you head back from your trip. It’s very pos­si­ble that a tire could get punc­tured while you’re on the road. With rub­ber tor­sion sus­pen­sion (found on most all trail­ers), you can’t al­ways tell if the tire is flat by look­ing at it, be­cause the front tire holds up the back one. Check the elec­tri­cal cord. Insert the trailer plug into your tow ve­hi­cle’s re­cep­ta­cle, and start the en­gine. On a tag-along trailer, if the cord is tight from the trailer to the plug, it might pull out of the re­cep­ta­cle. If so, have it length­ened. If it’s too long, it might drag on the ground. If so, loop it up, out of the way. Elec­tri­cal cords

on most new goose­necks will be long enough to reach the rear plug lo­cated un­der the rear bumper. If the cord doesn’t reach, you’ll need to have an elec­tri­cal con­nec­tion mounted in your truck bed or have the cord length­ened. Check the lights. Check all the run­ning lights, turn sig­nals, and brake lights. Check the interior lights, which of­ten aren’t pre-wired on the tow ve­hi­cle’s plug. Check the brakes. Drive your rig slowly for­ward while op­er­at­ing the brake con­troller by hand un­til the brakes grab to en­sure they’re work­ing. Then use the brake pedal to make sure they work through your sys­tem, and ad­just ac­cord­ing to the loaded weight. They should ac­ti­vate slightly be­fore the brakes on your tow ve­hi­cle. Check the ramps and doors. On your trailer, work all the ramps and doors to make sure they work eas­ily and latch well. Check the horse stalls. Walk through the horse stalls, and rub your hands over all the win­dow frames, bar guards, butt/ breast bar brack­ets, di­viders, etc. Feel for sharp edges and pro­tru­sions that could put your horse in harm’s way. Re­move the di­viders. If the di­viders and cen­ter posts are re­mov­able, prac­tice re­mov­ing them to make sure you can do it quickly and eas­ily in case you have an emer­gency. Do this again af­ter ex­tended use of your trailer — some­times, things set­tle and stick. Check for in­sects. Make sure there are no wasp nests or other in­sects re­sid­ing in the trailer that could spook your horse. In­spect the trailer exterior. If you’ll be ty­ing your horse to the out­side of your trailer, check the area for sharp edges and pro­tru­sions that could harm your horse. Prac­tice se­cur­ing the butt bar. Prac­tice se­cur­ing and pin­ning the butt bar. The faster you can do this when load­ing your horse, the less time you’ll spend be­hind him.

Es­sen­tial Kits

Keep a tool­kit and emer­gency kit in your tow ve­hi­cle at all times. Here’s what to in­clude. • Tool­kit. On the road, you’ll need a driveon jack — we rec­om­mend Trailer Aid

(www.trail­eraid.com) and wheel chocks to change a tire. Your tool­box should in­clude a tire gauge, screw­drivers, an elec­tric wir­ing kit/tester, a ham­mer, ad­justable pliers, var­i­ous sizes of ad­justable wrenches (you may need to ad­just the goose­neck cou­pler), a cheater bar (to give you more lever­age for stuck bolts), a lug nut wrench for the wheels, duct tape, ex­tra li­cense plate bolts, Go­rilla glue, rope, and bungee cords. • Emer­gency kit. In this kit, keep such items as flares, tri­an­gles, cones, a fire ex­tin­guisher, jumper ca­bles, ex­tra fuses, WD-40, a sharp knife, bucket and sponge, wa­ter, ex­tra lead ropes and hal­ters, gloves, flash­light with ex­tra bat­ter­ies, horse-health pa­per­work, and equine and hu­man first-aid kits. (For what to in­clude in the equine first-aid kit, see above.)

We highly rec­om­mend sign­ing up for a US-Rider Eques­trian Motor Plan mem­ber­ship in case you need road­side emer­gency as­sis­tance.

Pre-Trip Prac­tice

The day be­fore you head out, hook up your trailer, and run down the check­list on both your tow ve­hi­cle and trailer.

Af­ter you’re sure ev­ery­thing is in work­ing or­der, prac­tice safely load­ing and un­load­ing your horse into and out of your trailer. You don’t want to strug­gle with him right be­fore you’re ready to roll.

Fi­nally, as you head down your drive, stop, get out, and walk around your trailer to check doors, ramps, and any­thing that doesn’t look right.

If you’re out on the road and you feel some­thing shift, or hear some­thing, such as a “clunk,” pull off the road safely so you can check it out. It could be any­thing from a loose ball to a downed horse. TTR

RENÉ E. RI­LEY PHOTO The day be­fore you haul your horse, check all your trailer’s run­ning lights, turn sig­nals, and brake lights.

CLIXPHOTO.COM Af­ter hook­ing up with a goose­neck hitch, make sure the cou­pler is locked or latched. You can check this by raising the goose­neck while your trailer is hitched to make sure it doesn’t come up off the ball.

CLIXPHOTO.COM To check the trailer lights, first insert the trailer plug into your tow ve­hi­cle’s re­cep­ta­cle, and start the en­gine.

You’ve in­vested in the right trailer for your horse, but is your rig ready for travel on the open road? Find out with these ex­pert guide­lines.

REBECCA GIMENEZ PHOTO Keep a well-stocked tool­kit and emer­gency kit in your tow ve­hi­cle at all times. Your emer­gency kit should in­clude a fire ex­tin­guisher, as well as horse and hu­man first-aid kits.

HEIDI MELOCCO PHOTO

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