An Open Letter to Those Who Don’t Pull Horse Trailers

If you have never pulled a horse trailer through traffic, with cars cutting you off and following too closely while you white-knuckle the steering wheel, please give this a read.

Driving through heavy traffic can be stressful enough for many people. Add in a lengthy horse trailer, loaded down with your beloved equine companions that you are solely responsible for, and it can get downright tense. You might trust yourself completely when pulling a trailer, but you have to factor in the behavior of everyone else on the road. Now, it’s also up to the driver of the horse trailer to be prepared before they hit the road. Don’t head over the mountains for your first solo trip in your rig. Be careful, patient, and alert. However, regardless of how prepared you are, other drivers can throw a hitch in your plans when pulling a trailer. (Pun intended.)

Here are some things that horse owners would love for you to know, if you have never pulled a horse trailer through traffic.

If you’ve never pulled a horse trailer, you can’t be expected to know how stressful it can be. Here are some tips to share the road safely with rigs.

Andriy Blokhin/adobe.stock.com

Give Me Forty Acres… And I’ll Slow This Rig Down

Depending on the size of the trailer, getting a large rig slowed down is a process. You can’t slam on the brakes without throwing your horse to the front of the trailer, and possibly injuring them. When pulling a horse trailer, you need to have room to slow down at a steady pace.

Therefore, if a car darts out in front of the truck and trailer and slams on their brakes, this leaves the rig driver with little choice. A truck and trailer are hard to stop anyway in terms of pressure and force, but now the driver has to hit their brakes, and throw their horse around, to avoid climbing in your backseat.

Now, this also leaves responsibility on the driver of the truck and trailer, to leave plenty of room between cars. Anyone pulling a horse trailer should not be tailgating (nor should anyone that is operating any type of vehicle). There are always instances where a driver might need to step on the brakes to avoid something. In this case, the truck and trailer should have plenty of room between the vehicles to avoid having to smash their brakes. It’s when a car cuts you off, and hits their brakes, that we encounter the real trouble.

If You Can’t See My Mirrors…

There is a good chance I can’t see you. If you’re following so closely to the back of the trailer that my truck mirrors disappear, please back off a bit. Following closely to the back of a horse trailer is another thing that irks folks who pull trailers.

If we did have an instance where we needed to put the brakes on, and you were following too closely, it’s going to be bad news for everyone. In the back of that trailer rides our equine friends, that are relying on us to get them safely to their destination. Should you hit the back of a horse trailer, you could cause serious injury to yourself, and the innocent horses that are inside. It’s also worth noting that if you’re following so closely that you can’t see my mirrors, you also won’t be able to see anything coming up that might require me to put on my brakes.

Try the 5-second rule! Pick a landmark and when the trailer passes it, count to 5. If you reach the same landmark before the 5 seconds are up, you’re following too closely.

Winter driving is an entirely different beast – pulling a trailer on snowy or icy roads adds another level of stress. If you must drive in these conditions, slow way down and be extra cautious. Shawn Hamilton CLiX/adobe.stock.com

Give Us Some Grace and a Little Extra Room

Again, horse trailers come in a variety of heights, widths, and lengths. When merging, passing, or turning, a horse trailer requires extra room and patience. If a horse trailer is merging in front of you, please give them some grace and a little extra room to come over.

Same thing applies for turning. As mentioned above, slowing a trailer down is a process. So, to make a sharp turn, the driver of the truck and trailer will need to start slowing down well in advance. Now, the driver should be using their blinker to give you fair warning. But please practice patience and understand that we’re turning slow, so our horses can stay on all four feet and not drift around the corner.

The same practice is true at gas stations, or other parking lots. We need space to turn around, back up, pull in, and maneuver our rig. Oh, and if there are other options open and you drive a gas vehicle, please don’t take the only diesel pump unless you have to.

Please Don’t Crowd

Going around a round-a-bout or making a turn is where other drivers often get impatient and try to pass a trailer. Please understand that a horse trailer going around a round-a-bout or making a turn, is not the place to try and rush by them. We will need to swing a little bit wider to make the turn without rolling over a curb or jostling our horse.

Never try and sneak past a trailer making a turn, to try and beat them to it.  If you come up to a two-lane turn, and the trailer is riding the line a little bit, it’s because they need to leave plenty of space to swing wide to make the turn.

Along the same vein, if you’re sitting at a stop sign and a trailer comes up to turn onto the same road, you can help them out! If there is no one behind you, safely back up a little to let the truck and trailer make the turn, with plenty of room. If the rig just sits there, they might be unable to make the turn onto that road without getting too close to the front of your vehicle. Of course, be alert to the cars around you, and only do this if there are no other vehicles behind you!

I’m Going, I’m Going!

The same way that a truck and trailer can’t stop on a dime, means that they also can’t hit 60 mph in a few seconds. If we’re in a rush to get off the line, we risk throwing our horse backwards. This especially applies to longer and heavier horse trailers. A slow start is just part of pulling all that weight behind you, but also another way that we’re trying to keep our horse safe.

By accelerating slowly, we give our horse a chance to get used to the movement. Remember, he is riding back there just trying to balance on his own four feet around turns, and when starting and stopping. We’re not slow to get going with the intent to annoy you, I promise. It’s just part of pulling a trailer with weight and keeping your horse safe and comfortable.

She’ll Be Coming Over the Mountain at a Very Slow Speed

Just like tractor trailers, horse trailers are going to go up a hill slower than a sedan. No matter how light the trailer is, or how powerful the pickup, it’s still a heavy load to be dragging up a hill. If there are two lanes, slow-moving trucks and trailers should stay in the right lane to let you pass. If not, please practice patience until you can get to a passing lane, or the trailer can pull off and let people by safely!

This same logic goes for downhill driving. When carrying heavy loads, you can sure burn up your brakes fast if you’re constantly on them, and that’s not good for anyone. So, horse trailers are going to head down a hill at a slower speed, to be able to stay in control and avoid overdriving their brakes.

Precious Cargo Aboard

Much of these tips are ways to keep yourself safe, as well as the driver of the trailer and everyone else on the road. But please keep in mind that in that trailer stands 1000 pounds of friend, that we are intent on keeping safe. Please don’t honk your horn as you go by a trailer, angry that we slowed you down. Don’t tailgate, don’t cut us off, and don’t try to pass us in a turn. And please bear in mind that a living, breathing, creature stands in the back of that trailer putting their trust in us humans to keep them safe.

We’re all just trying to get to our destinations safely, and ensure that our horses are comfortable and protected. Let’s all do our part to keep the roads safe for everyone! Bill/adobe.stock.com

I’ll note again that the driver of the truck and trailer has to do their part to keep everyone on the road safe, as well. But that is an article for another day. Be kind, folks. Share the road. Let’s all do our part to keep each other safe and hit the road with a little extra patience today.

[Check Out 3 Common Causes of Equine Stress]

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