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Horse Trailer Safety Features - Lessons from A Road Accident

Last updated March 22, 2024 by Martin Nikolaev

Enhanced horse trailer safety features can be the difference between a happy end and a tragic outcome after an accident, and accidents happen all the time. While some of them are minor, others, unfortunately, result in fatalities. This is not just about luck. It’s about the safety features and strong structure of both the horse trailer and the towing vehicle.

About the Accident

On March 3, 2023, an unfortunate event took place in Florida involving a towing vehicle and a horse trailer attached to it along Highway 710 in the Okeechobee County area. The accident left the towing vehicle mangled in a ditch while the horse trailer was separated from it and flipped on its side. Thanks to the quick response of the Fire Rescue crews, local animal control units, and the sheriff's office, everyone was fortunate enough to walk away from this horrific event, including the horse (as seen in pictures reported from the scene of the accident). Both the people in the truck and the horse in the trailer were brought to safety and immediately treated by paramedics and a vet, respectfully.

This accident involved a Double D Trailers model, which is one of the reasons for this article. As serious as the situation was, the outcome could have been much worse if it wasn’t for the rigidity of the trailer. And that’s why horse trailer safety must always be the top priority when designing and building such means of transportation.

The scene of a horse trailer accident.

The Aftermath

We deemed it important to, once again, emphasize the need to prioritize horse trailer safety and enhance your horse trailer’s safety features after seeing the pictures of the crash scene. Although flipped on its side, the horse trailer has remained mostly intact, structure-wise. The same cannot be said about the towing vehicle. What matters the most is that all the souls involved have survived. As mentioned earlier, the horse sustained minor injuries and was pulled on all fours from the trailer.

Overturned horse trailer after a horse trailer accident.

There’s no excuse for allowing compromises of any sort that are safety-related. Low price is the least of the aspects that should justify safety compromises. As bad as the Okeechobee County accident was, it also clearly portrayed the difference between a destroyed trailer (we’ve all seen such, unfortunately) and one that did what it’s supposed to do in case of such an event–save the horse’s life.

A totaled truck after a horse trailer accident.

The Client’s Feedback

Amy, the client who was involved in this accident, was kind enough to share her insights when we reached out to her, asking for her honest opinion.

She went a few weeks back and told us her story. Amy reacted fast when another driver slammed into her truck and immediately got out of it to check on her horses, worried that they might be seriously injured. Much to her surprise, two of the horses inside were standing on their feet, staring at her. What she did next was grab the extra ties she got inside the trailer and escort the horses out of it.

Once she was able to sit back and think about the accident, Amy came up with safety advice that she shared with us. Here’s what she learned firsthand:

-   Having extra leads and halters inside the trailer’s horse area is an absolute must. This way, you’ll have immediate access to them when you get to your horses.

-   It’s essential to purchase a trailer from a trusted manufacturer. Amy shared that she intends to order her new trailer from Double D Trailers once again, as she couldn’t be happier with the safety it provided for her three horses. She was amazed that the trailer frame was almost completely intact after such a severe crash.

While all such accidents are horrible, we’re more than happy that one of our very own trailers kept Amy’s horses alive and well.

In Amy’s own words, “I truly believe that my research on trailer safety, and selecting a new custom Double D Trailer is the reason my horses are still alive.”  

Horse Trailer Safety Features Checklist

Here’s a short checklist of the most important horse trailer safety features you should consider. These are tightly related to the aftermath of the Okeechobee County accident:

  • Loading/unloading area: It should be big enough to provide room for safe maneuvers when loading or unloading your horses. If an accident occurs, having a side loading ramp could be greatly beneficial, as it could be the only way to get your horses out of the trailer.

  • Wall lining: The walls must be covered with enough padding to protect the horse. This simple but important horse trailer safety feature will protect your horse and help reduce outside noise.

  • Double-layer walls: The tougher the walls are, the stronger the horse trailer’s structure will be. Except for the better insulation they provide, double-layer walls are much stronger than the simple and thin sheet metal some manufacturers use.

  • Sturdy interior dividers: These need to be built from the right materials, so they won’t break in case of a road accident. This could cause a lot of damage, so making sure they will not be compromised under any circumstances is vital.

  • Frame design: The overall performance of your horse trailer will be greatly affected by the design of its frame.

  • Shell structure: It’s always better to choose a quality, rivet-free horse trailer. Rivets often compromise the trailer’s structure by allowing for weak spots in the material and rust.

  • Tongue weight and distribution: When choosing a trailer, make sure it’s the perfect fit for both your horses and towing vehicle. This is crucial for proper weight distribution, therefore, it’s an extremely important horse trailer safety feature to avoid road accidents.

Regular maintenance cannot be a substitute for any of these horse trailer safety features and vice versa. Having checked everything in the list above when buying a new or a used horse trailer needs to be followed by proper care to ensure the rig's reliability. Most of all, you need to be absolutely certain that your horse trailer is built to last and according to the highest industry standards.

Final Thoughts

The Okeechobee County accident involving a horse trailer and horses shows that compromises with horse trailer safety features are unacceptable. While the reminders of what truly matters when it comes to transporting horses are rather harsh, this also proves that a quality-built rig is always worth investing in.

Buying a trailer only from reputable manufacturers and resellers is a must. Taking advantage of all the horse towing safety tips you can get is equally important. Additionally, making sure the rig is well-maintained and taken care of is a crucially important aspect of buying and owning a horse trailer.

More Tips Here: Managing a Horse Trailer Accident

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