12 Trai­ler­ing Myths: Busted!

Trail Rider - - FRONT PAGE - Re­becca Gimenez, PhD (an­i­mal phys­i­ol­ogy), is pres­i­dent of and a pri­mary in­struc­tor for Tech­ni­cal Large An­i­mal Emer­gency Res­cue (www.tlaer.org). A Ma­jor in the United States Army Re­serve, she’s a dec­o­rated Iraq War veteran and a past Lo­gis­tics Of­fi­cer for

WWhen you em­bark on your eques­trian trav­els, should you ap­ply ship­ping boots? Throw a blan­ket on your horse? Tie him in your trailer? Park your rig un­der a bridge in case of a tor­nado? Even ex­pe­ri­enced trav­el­ers are sus­cep­ti­ble to mis­in­for­ma­tion passed around barns and over pas­ture fences by well-mean­ing horse friends.

Here, I’ll dis­pel 12 such myths. First, I’ll give you the myth. Then I’ll bust the myth and de­scribe my best prac­tices, based on my years of ex­pe­ri­ence, skills, and train­ing. Myth #1: Ap­ply­ing ship­ping boots or leg wraps to your horse is a waste of time, es­pe­cially for short trips. Busted: I highly rec­om­mend leg pro­tec­tion when you trailer your horse. I use ship­ping boots in­stead of leg wraps; ease of use means you’ll be more likely to ap­ply them ev­ery time you trailer your horse. You’ll also avoid the risk of plac­ing too much pres­sure on his ten­dons. Myth #2: You should drive alone when you haul your horse to avoid dis­trac­tions, es­pe­cially in in­clement weather. Busted: It’s best to take a driv­ing buddy on the road with you when you haul horses. This per­son can help you drive, check the weather apps, nav­i­gate, alert you to road haz­ards, keep an eye on the horse mon­i­tor, and make nec­es­sary calls.

Learn the truth be­hind 12 com­mon trai­ler­ing myths to help keep your horse safe on the road. BY RE­BECCA GIMENEZ, PhD

Myth #3: You should al­ways blan­ket your trav­el­ing horse. Busted: It’s true that a blan­ket or sheet pro­vides warmth and wind pro­tec­tion in cold months, and can of­fer some pro­tec­tion in the event of a bump, bite/kick, or an ac­ci­dent. You may also wish to use a blan­ket to keep your horse’s coat clean. And older or com­pro­mised an­i­mals may need a light sheet. But nor­mally, horses don’t need to be blan­keted in the trailer, be­cause they gen­er­ate plenty of their own heat. Watch for heat stress; trail­ers are typ­i­cally very poorly ven­ti­lated. Myth #4: You should al­ways tie your horse in the trailer. Busted: Ty­ing a horse in the trailer is sup­posed to help pre­vent him from hurt­ing him­self, turn­ing around, and bit­ing or dis­turb­ing a neigh­bor­ing horse. A loose horse can hurt an­other one that can’t de­fend him­self and can cause a wreck as the in­jured horse seeks to es­cape from the at­tack. Ty­ing a horse also pre­vents him from ly­ing down, crawl­ing un­der a di­vider, and/or from putting his head down un­der a bar­rier, then pan­ick­ing when he raises his head. Ty­ing also con­trols the head of frac­tious or ag­gres­sive horses.

How­ever, when tied, your horse can catch a foot or a trailer part in the tie rope, then panic and in­jure him­self. You can tie a horse tightly enough to pre­vent him from catch­ing a foot (and an­noy­ing his trav­el­ing buddy), yet still give him enough slack to

bal­ance him­self. Also, a tied horse may in­jure him­self pulling back to try to es­cape through an open trailer door. It’s ex­tremely im­por­tant to un­tie your horse be­fore un­snap­ping the butt bar and open­ing the trailer door. Myth #5: In the trailer, a tie rope helps a horse bal­ance and will even keep him from fall­ing down. Busted: This is false. To see how your horse bal­ances in the trailer, in­vest in a trailer cam­era, and watch how he bal­ances dur­ing turns, stops, and ac­cel­er­a­tion. Your horse needs room (some slack in the rope) to use his head and neck for bal­ance. Stand­ing up in­side the trailer while it’s in mo­tion re­quires con­stant mi­nor ad­just­ments of his mus­cu­la­ture, even on the in­ter­state at a con­stant speed. Short ties in par­tic­u­lar make it al­most im­pos­si­ble for him to bal­ance with his own weight and nor­mal meth­ods. They also make it im­pos­si­ble him to get back up after a fall. Myth #6: Bungee cords are safe for trailer ty­ing. Busted: Ab­so­lutely not! Never use a bungee cord to tie your horse in your trailer. This type of prod­uct, used in this man­ner, is dan­ger­ous to horses and hu­mans. I know a num­ber of horses and hu­mans who’ve lost eyes and had faces cut open us­ing a bungee cord. To avoid a trailer-ty­ing tragedy, use a tie rope that will break un­der pres­sure, such as one made from leather or a high-tech break­away model. Myth #7: If a tor­nado kicks up, you should take shel­ter un­der a bridge or a high­way over­pass. Busted: This seems log­i­cal, but in a tor­nado, don’t get un­der a bridge or high­way over­pass (as un­for­tu­nately shown in the movie, Man of Steel). You’ll be com­pletely ex­posed, you’ll be in the wind shear (where the wind is worse), and there’s no place to re­ally hide. If there’s time, get out of the way — left or right — of the ap­proach­ing storm. If not, get down. Think DUCK: D – Go DOWN to the low­est level; U – Get UN­DER some­thing; C – COVER your head; K – KEEP in your shel­ter un­til the storm has passed. Myth #8: When you ex­pe­ri­ence a break­down on the road, other driv­ers will be able to see you if you just place a flare be­hind your trailer. Busted: While you do need to place a flare/re­flec­tive tri­an­gle be­hind your trailer, you also need to place them far enough down the road so other driv­ers can see them in time to avoid ac­ci­den­tally hit­ting your stopped rig. Plac­ing one di­rectly be­hind your rig isn’t enough, es­pe­cially on in­ter­states and high-speed roads, or if you end up in an area that’s hard to see, such as a tight curve. Walk at least 100 steps (300 feet) down the road be­hind you to place one flare or re­flec­tive tri­an­gle, then half­way back to place an­other one. Use at least three flares or re­flec­tive tri­an­gles to get at­ten­tion and pre­vent fur­ther tragedy. Myth #9: If your horse paws, whin­nies, or stomps in the trailer, you should im­me­di­ately stop your rig, get out, and un­load him un­til he calms down. Busted: By tak­ing these steps, you’ll ac­tu­ally in­ad­ver­tently re­ward your horse for his frac­tious be­hav­ior. Avoid un­load­ing him un­til he set­tles down. Even bet­ter, make the trailer ride more com­fort­able for him. To un­der­stand the plight of your trav­el­ing horse, drive your rig to level ground on pri­vate prop­erty. Ride in the trailer while some­one else drives. Lis­ten to the sounds. Feel the trailer sway. Iden­tify and fix any swing­ing chains, rat­tling gates, or squeal­ing brakes that might be ter­ri­fy­ing your horse in your trailer. Myth #10: To leave enough room be­tween your rig and the ve­hi­cle in front of you in poor driv­ing con­di­tions, prac­tice the 2-sec­ond rule — that is, make sure you can count 2 full sec­onds be­fore you reach the spot the ve­hi­cle in front of you has just va­cated. Busted: In poor driv­ing con­di­tions, for­get the 2-sec­ond rule. Al­low your­self 8, 10, 12 sec­onds or longer to come to a com­plete stop. The Na­tional Safety Coun­cil (www.nsc.org) rec­om­mends that you add one sec­ond per fac­tor of driv­ing dif­fi­culty. These fac­tors in­clude poor light­ing con­di­tions, in­clement weather, an ad­verse traf­fic mix, and driver con­di­tion (such as fa­tigue). Myth #11: Al­ways steer in the op­po­site di­rec­tion of a skid to gain con­trol. Busted: When you must brake hard, do so as calmly and smoothly as pos­si­ble, us­ing your trailer’s brakes to as­sist you. (Never use your en­gine brake in icy or rainy con­di­tions to slow down on hills.) If you start to skid or slide, ease off the brakes im­me­di­ately, and steer into the di­rec­tion of the skid to re­gain con­trol. This ma­neu­ver is coun­ter­in­tu­itive, so prac­tice it in an open park­ing lot or at a driv­ing school. Myth #12: When you get a flat tire, you should pull over onto the shoul­der right away so you don’t de­stroy the wheel, even if it’s a bit dicey. Busted: Ac­tu­ally, if your ve­hi­cle be­comes dis­abled, con­tinue driv­ing un­til you can pull over to a safe area, if at all pos­si­ble. Do this even if you have a flat tire and it means de­stroy­ing a wheel. Stop­ping on the shoul­der is ex­tremely dan­ger­ous, par­tic­u­larly on an in­ter­state high­way. Do­ing so can put you, your horse, and emer­gency re­spon­ders at great risk. TTR

Even ex­pe­ri­enced trav­el­ers are sus­cep­ti­ble to mis­in­for­ma­tion passed around barns and over pas­ture fences by well-mean­ing horse friends. Here, trai­ler­ing ex­pert Re­becca Gimenez busts 12 com­mon trai­ler­ing myths.



Does the tie rope help your horse bal­ance in the trailer? See Myth #5.

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