The Ride Inside
Here are seven ways to control your trailer’s interior environment to enhance your horse’s health, safety, comfort, and well-being.
Here are seven ways to control your trailer’s interior environment to enhance your horse’s safety, comfort, and well-being.
AAs you shop for a trailer, consider the interior environment. Get inside. Close the doors and windows. Is it quiet? Is it too hot? Too drafty? Is it dark? Can you change the environment for the better? Can you open vents and windows if it’s too hot? Can you easily keep out drafts without limiting ventilation? Your trailer’s interior environment matters to your horse. A light-colored, wellvented, comfortable trailer will not only invite him in and enhance his well-being on the road, but can also help keep him healthy and safe.
Here, we’ll give you seven ways you can control your trailer’s interior environment: (1) insulate your trailer; (2) evaluate the vents; (3) install safe windows; (4) consider interior color; (5) consider exterior color; (6) add interior lighting; (7) add a fan. Here’s a closer look.
#1 Insulate Your Trailer
Insulation keeps the outside out and the inside in. An insulated trailer will be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Outside noise will be deadened, and your horse will be more protected from highway sounds. All these factors will enhance his experience inside the trailer.
Insulation is highly recommended for extreme temperatures, hot or cold. If your trailer has a dual wall, the insulation between the walls helps to keep out the heat, so the inner wall stays cool. Note that if the walls are insulated, it could be overkill to insulate the roof. The vents, windows, and doors will allow a nice airflow to keep your horse happy.
In cold weather, insulation will help keep your horse warm. However, in cold weath- er, you need to manage an insulated trailer differently than you would a non-insulated one, or the benefits of insulation can be neutralized.
Insulation allows heat to build up from your horse’s body heat, unless it can escape through a vent or window. If your trailer is highly insulated and fairly airtight, closing all the windows and vents in cold weather can cause the environment to become hot and steamy, and even damage your horse’s respiratory system.
Even if the weather is very cold, it’s better to open the vents and some windows to allow airflow, then blanket your horse to keep him warm.
#2 Evaluate the Vents
Your trailer’s ventilation system should be adequate enough to provide your horse with the cleanest environment possible. Vents are designed for this purpose, but they can’t do the job alone.
Even if your trailer has lots of windows or open stock sides, roof vents serve a twofold purpose: They allow air flow to come into the trailer from above, and they allow heat to escape out the vents when the trailer isn’t moving.
An overhead vent for every horse in the trailer is the best option.
The most efficient vents are two-directional. They can be opened toward the front to bring in more air or toward the back to bring in less air. This allows you to regulate the airflow that comes in from the top. Adjust the vents according to your speed and climate.
#3 Install Safe Windows
Windows can enhance your horse’s comfort and health by providing light and temperature control.
Light is important. A dark trailer is intimidating to your horse. As a prey animal, he fears he may become trapped by a predator. When your trailer allows light to enter, it becomes more inviting to him. An open stock trailer, with slats is also more inviting.
Some enclosed trailers have optional extra side windows that light the trailer interior all the way around to the front.
Windows also add more ventilation control, especially in insulated trailers. Adjust the windows in relation to the stall’s interior climate to get the optimum interior temperature.
Most windows are made from either Plexiglas or tempered safety glass. Plexiglas windows tend to expand and contract, so they might not easily open and close in extreme heat. Bus-type windows are most common. However, in the trailer’s nose, a crank-out window is more watertight aga inst driving rain. Windows in the horse area should close from the outside so you don’t have to squeeze into your trailer with your horse to close them.
Bar guards protect your horse if he loses his balance and hits the window with his head, or rears and strikes the window with his hooves. Make sure the bars have no sharp edges. Look for round bars that are recessed into or placed flat against the window opening. Bars should be spaced closely enough that your horse can’t catch a hoof in them.
Make sure the windows are sealed around the frame to keep excess moisture out of the inner walls and to keep leakage at a minimum.
Screens keep outside debris from blowing into a moving trailer; road debris can harm your horse’s eyes and lungs. Screens also discourage wasps and bees from making nests inside your trailer when it’s stored with the windows open.
#4 Consider Interior Color
A light-colored interior is inviting to your horse. Horses have very good night vision, but their eyes take longer than ours to adjust to light changes. A dark trailer looks like a dark, hollow cave to him. There could be a mountain lion in there!
A trailer with a light-colored interior (and lots of windows) is inviting to your horse. In our experience, when horses are loaded into a trailer with a light-colored interior, no matter what size or style, they walk in by themselves without balking.
Horses seem to especially like light gray. Light gray is probably calming because it’s light, but not glaring. We’ve found that white is an inviting color, too.
#5 Consider Exterior Color
It looks so good to have a matching truck and trailer. Your personality shows through your choice of color and design for your rig. Upscale, matching rigs have a look of success and prosperity. But there’s more to consider than how your trailer looks on the outside. You need to consider how your trailer’s exterior affects your horse’s comfort.
Dark exterior colors absorb light and heat, which makes the surface hot. If your trailer isn’t insulated, the hot metal greatly affects interior temperature. If your trailer is insulated, the insulation will help protect the inside wall from the outside wall, but still, the temperature will be compromised.
Light exterior colors reflect light and heat, which makes the surface cool. White is the most reflective and coolest exterior color but silver and pewter work as well. Your horse will
appreciate a light exterior color, especially on hot, sunny days.
If you’d like to match your trailer to your dark-colored truck, you can add custom striping.
A light-colored roof is extremely important, no matter what color the rest of your trailer may be. Again, white is more reflective than any other color, including bare aluminum. Most new trailers have light-colored roofs, but not all, so be discriminating.
When buying a used trailer, you’ll have to shop carefully to find a light-colored or white roof. Note that some trailers have a color stripe between the top edge of the exterior walls and the bottom edge of the roof, but the roof itself is a light color. You might not be able to see this from the ground.
#6 Add Interior Lighting
There are no disadvantages to interior trailer lighting, and the advantages are many.
Interior trailer lights can be helpful when you load your horse on dark morn- ings before leaving for a trail-riding destination or horse show. They’re also great for packing your trailer the night before.
Interior trailer lighting is good for your horse, too. By turning on interior lights, the passing outside lights, such as traffic lights, are less disturbing to sensitive horses.
Interior lighting makes is easier to check on your horse at night. If your trailer doesn’t have living quarters or a dressing room, you might even be able to glance in your rearview mirror into your trailer’s front windows to keep an eye on your horse while driving.
Interior lamps should be flat against the wall or ceiling, where your horse can’t bump into them. A light over each door is best. Each light will have its own switch. It’s convenient to have a master switch on the outside of your trailer that will turn the lights off and on together.
You’ll need to plug your trailer into your tow vehicle for the trailer lights to work unless you have an optional recreational-vehicle style battery to run the interior lights when the trailer isn’t hitched. Be careful — if you accidently leave on your trailer lights, you can drain your tow vehicle’s battery and/or the RV battery.
#7 Add a Fan
Oscillating interior fans can improve your trailer’s airflow. Fans are becoming more important as many parts of the country experience hotter climates. They can especially enhance equine comfort when your trailer carries four horses or more, all producing body heat and warm breath.
Fans are most useful when you’re moving slowly or stopped in traffic on a hot day.
Locate the fans high enough to be out of harm’s way. Install bars or screens to protect the fans from the horses and vice versa. TTR
Tom Scheve and Neva Kittrell Scheve (877/5751771; www.equispirit.com) are the authors of the nationally recognized textbook, The Complete Guide to Buying, Maintaining, and Servicing a
Horse Trailer. Neva also has two other horse trailer books to her credit, including Equine Emergencies
On the Road with Jim Hamilton, DVM. The Scheves present clinics at equine expos and promote trailer safety through articles in national magazines. They’ve designed and developed the EquiSpirit, EquiBreeze, and ThoroSport lines of trailers.
HEIDI MELOCCO PHOTO Your trailer’s interior environment matters to your horse. A light-colored, well-vented, comfortable trailer will not only invite him in and enhance his well-being on the road, but can also help keep him safe and healthy. Light exterior colors reflect light and heat, which helps to keep the interior cool.
A trailer with a light-colored interior and lots of windows is very inviting to your horse.
Bar guards protect your horse if he loses his balance and hits the window with his head, or rears and strikes the window. Make sure the bars have no sharp edges.