Monday, October 1, 2007

Look, Ma, no brains!

This guest blog on trailer safety was sent to me by cutnjump, and I think it's great, but I'm also going to add to it as this is a topic I could talk about all day. Please note that THE PICTURE BELOW IS USED FOR ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSES ONLY. NO ONE IS ALLEGING THE HORSES IN THE PICTURE WERE HAULED DOWN THE ROAD LIKE THIS.

"While this trailer is NOT MOVING, as noted by the open LQ/TR door, I see my fair share on a daily basis that ARE! On the streets in our neighborhood, busy surface streets in town, and yes on the freeways too. While this trailer is equipped with window bars, which could be put in place while traveling, and still allowing PLENTY of fresh air into the trailer, many I have seen moving down the road, DO NOT have even those UP.
Instead the horses traveling are just like you see here. I have even seen some without even a halter on. They are loose inside with their heads hanging out. If the trailer were to flip for whatever reason and their head or leg stuck out as everything goes over, I image the least thing they would lose is some skin and a little hair.

While some horses travel better loose, as in not tied, most travel better standing backwards, it has been shown to reduce their stress levels. It would not be difficult if they all traveled with the drop down doors, or at least the window bars- UP! The horses will not be as likely to be frightened by large trucks, motorcycles (aka crotch rockets), rice burner cars with special mufflers that make them sound like a giant swarm of killer bees... You get the idea.

Besides, most drop down doors have windows in them that can be secured open and they usually have screens on the outside and bars on the inside to keep hooves and nosey slobbers- horse boogers off of them. Pretty much standard on any trailer now too are the two way roof vents, to help keep the climate inside the trailer in a comfortable range.

Is it just us, or do these people have no clue about what could happen? I know a lot of us, in all parts of the country, (and world for our fugly friends abroad) have at some time, had some type of debris (rocks or any sorts of stuff that fell off a work or construction vehicle) that was on the road, fly up and hit the windshield on the car,truck, van, SUV, whatever you drive. Sometimes the stuff bounces right off, without leaving a mark. Most of the time it at least leaves a *star* shaped crack. Can you imagine what it would do to your horses head, or worse yet their eye?

Here's a different scenario for everyone to think about when they see a horse hanging their head out the drop down window going down the road. Back when slant loads and drop downs first became an option, my husband was traveling within a caravan of trailers, showing across the country going to shows in various states. They just finished up at one show and everyone was going on to the next one. (much like the rodeo circut) One of the guys in the group was traveling with his drop downs open, horses relaxed with their heads hagning out. One of the rigs had a blow out, so everyone pulled over to help change the tire and get the procession back on the road quickly.
While they were on the side of the road a semi went past them, going however fast. One of the mares on the trailer happened to stick her head out in time to have it taken off by the passing truck. It was horrible, let alone extremely gruesome. It was instant and I'm sure she didn't feel much, but the other horses in the trailer seemed to sense what had just happened. She was in the middle of the trailer and since it was a slant load, there were horses in front of her to be unloaded.

They still had to travel on down the road to a place where they could unload all of the horses, so I can't begin to imagine how bad must it have been for those who were still inside to now have the doors up and this mares body at their feet, and the smell of death in the air. I do not know if the trailer had an escape door on the front like most now do, but even so you still have to pull dividers to get everyone out, which can take some time to manage.

The other sad part was that the mare had just cleaned house at the last show, several class wins, Championships and Reserves. I cannot imagine how badly the driver must have felt since it was his choice to leave the drop downs open. Let alone having to explain what happened and WHY, to the horses' owners.

Whenever I see this on the road, I cringe for the sake of the horses. Yes, I roll down my window and yell at the drivers for being so ignorant. Usually I ask them if they have ever had a horse literally, lose it's head over their stupid behaviour? If there is a phone number or farm name on the side of said truck or trailer, you can better believe they get a phone call."

FHOTD in: Great guest blog! I would also like to add a couple of other trailer safety issues for your consideration and discussion.

1a. Close the back door/butt bar behind you BEFORE you tie the horse.
1b. You UNTIE the horse BEFORE you open the back door/butt bar.

There really is no telling the number of wrecks that would be saved by people adhering to these simple rules. It is a horse's natural instinct to start backing and trying to get out as soon as that back door opens, and an iffy loader will often fly backwards at 95 MPH without warning if you leave that back door gaping open. In a two horse, reach in the escape door and untie first. In a slant load, open the back door only big enough to slip your body through and have someone hold it closed as you enter and untie the horse who is in the last divided section. Then, open the door and unload.

2. Six foot trailers are cow trailers. I will argue this with anybody. Expecting a horse to go into a six foot tall is not fair to the horse. He is going to be afraid to take a jump off the ground to get in for fear of whacking his head, and this creates loading issues. He also stands a good chance of whacking his head once inside. Get the 7 footer, or the oversized 7+ if you have tall horses. You won't regret it.

3. Having a professional check over your trailer in the spring - floors, lights, brakes, etc. - is a whole lot cheaper and less traumatic than having a foot go through the floor or having someone slam into the back of your trailer because the lights failed. Don't skimp on your trailer maintenance, it's just not worth it. Just because a trailer LOOKS to be in good condition does not mean it is.

4. Shipping boots or not? All I will say is that bare legs are safer than a boot that is not put on tightly enough that slips down and trips the horse/creates a slippery place for them to have to stand on. If you are going to use boots or wraps, learn to do it snugly enough that the boot is in the same place you applied it when you get to your destination. I do like them, and they are a must in an undivided trailer, but you have to do them right.

5. For those of you with undivided trailers: If you really want to save on drama and vet bills, invest in muzzles. Seriously. They are a beautiful thing. You will have a much quieter and safer ride when no one can nip his or her neighbor.

6. Tack in the trailer: There is a reason most trailers have tack areas/tack compartments. That's where you put your tack. I strongly disagree with hauling fully tacked horses. There are a million things that can get caught and cause an accident. It's just laziness. Tack up when you get where you're going!

7. Here's a huge pet peeve of mine: Halters hanging from the horse trailer, often next to a horse who is tied. This is just asking for a broken leg. Unsnap your halters, or loop the crowpiece through and hang them up high.

8. Load intelligently, particularly if you don't have dividers. The alpha bitch goes LAST with her butt against the back door and a muzzle on her nose! The wimpiest horse goes first so he at least has a wall on one side of him. Pasture buddies go together. Never try to load the bad loader first, that has never worked. You put the bad loader's buddy in and THEN you load him. He is much more likely to go in there if his buddy is in first.

9. There are lots of things you can make yourself, at home. HORSE TRAILERS ARE NOT ONE OF THOSE THINGS.
Good God. I sure hope the cops ticketed this jackass.

10. Finally, this should be a no brainer but I see it all the time...GET A PROPER HAULING VEHICLE! This is not any of the following: a Jeep Cherokee, a Ford Taurus, a 1977 Pontiac Parisienne Wagon, a Ford Explorer, a midget pick up, anything made by Subaru, etc. A proper hauling vehicle is a full size truck, no smaller than a half ton and a typical half ton is only going to pull 2 horses max, or a full size Suburban. Duallies really are better - once you haul with a dually, you'll never go back.

Yes, I know everybody wants to use the SUV they already own because it's cheaper. If you can't afford a hauling vehicle, just pay for someone who HAS one to haul you. It's a much better idea.

(Both horses survived this accident. Amazingly.)

Sometimes I fear that people are putting these pictures on the Internet just to get their 15 minutes of fame for being stupid on this blog...