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How to Safely Handle a Horse Trailer Accident

A horse’s hoof sticking out the side window of a horse trailer is never a good sight.  

When Rachael saw this, her and her friends were horrified to find an Arabian mare completely flipped over and lying on her back inside their horse trailer.  Luckily, the women were able to help the animal right herself… and everyone survived with minimal injury.

Scary trailer accidents like this can be a lot to handle.  In this article, we’d like to share some tips so you can stay calm, cool, and collected in the case of a horse trailer accident.

Your First Defense: Trailer Safety Features

gooseneck horse trailerBefore we go into too much detail about how to deal with a dangerous roadside trailer accident, let’s start with prevention.  The right trailer safety features can make a huge difference in how your horse and trailer are impacted.

Now, when we say “accident,” we could be referring to a vehicle-on-vehicle collision while driving… someone rear-ends your trailer at a red light… another car merges into you… your truck or trailer is overturned after hitting a roadside ditch.  

All are very scary situations.

But sometimes “accidents” have nothing to do with other vehicles.  Maybe you just blew a tire… wind caused you to swerve… or your horse began to panic and jump around for no reason.  

We think that’s what happened to the mare mentioned above.  She simply became upset, reared, and got tangled in the trailer’s inside divider.

Brad Heath, owner of Double D Trailers, says, “A blown tire is an easy fix since most horse trailers have spares.  But a panicking horse can be dangerous.  Once a horse is in flight mode, things can get out of hand quickly.  That's why it's important to have a trailer design that is safe for horses — but more importantly — safe for the handler.” 

So, what features should you look for in your trailer so your animal is well protected and easy to help in the case of an emergency?

Multiple Access Doors

slant load horse trailerFirst, we recommend you find a trailer with multiple points of entry for you and your horse. Many traditional slant load and straight load trailers only have one rear doorway with human-sized escape doors near the front. If you have three or more horses, you’d need to offload all of the animals to reach the one in the front.

Instead, look for a trailer that allows you to reach each horse individually…

Our SafeTack slant load trailer comes with an option for side loading doors and ramps.  This feature allows owners to walk their animals onto the trailer through a side door and back into their stall. Then, to offload, the owner can simply open the divider and walk the animal straight off the rear ramp.

This configuration is much less stressful for the animal.  More importantly, it allows emergency workers a second doorway to reach your horse after an accident. Read more about why the SafeTack design is the safest trailer design for horses.

Check out our SafeTack Reverse 3 horse gooseneck trailer with a double side ramp — each horse can be reached independently.

Quick Release Dividers and Chest Bars

For larger horses, many prefer straight load trailers with chest bars in the front.  On some horse trailer brands, this can be a problem when an animal rears up and hooks a leg over this front bar.

Make sure your chest bars and dividers all have an easy-release pin so they can be taken down even under the full weight of a horse.  All of our straight load trailer chest bars have this quick release feature.

Large horse owners may also want to consider one of our warmblood slant load horse trailers which avoid this chest bar issue completely.  Horse stalls can be enlarged to fit animals at 17+ hands.

Strong and Reliable Flooring

horse trailer safetyOne of the scariest roadside accidents you will ever see deals with horse trailer floors that fail midway through a trip.  Sometimes, corroded aluminum floors will develop weak spots where a horse’s hoof can break through.

This results in severe injury for any horse involved.  Instead, look for treated lumber with rubber mats on top that are checked regularly and kept dry and clean.  Better yet, opt for a synthetic floor system like Rumber that is both strong and durable.

Protective Trailer Frame

Finally, you need to choose a trailer that is built from the right horse trailer materials to survive a roadway accident.  Aluminum horse trailers may look snazzy, but they certainly don’t stand up well in collisions.  This has been shown in crash safety tests. In contrast, steel framed trailers are must stronger but prone to rust.

If you want the best of both worlds, go with an impregnated zinc material like that found in our Z-Frame construction.  This trailer frame is as light as aluminum but as strong as steel.  It creates a safe and protective cage around your horse.

8 Tips for Horse Trailer Accidents

1.  Call for help immediately.  If your accident is severe and your horse is in danger, call for help immediately.  Police will help direct traffic.  Firemen or large animal rescue crews can help you recover your horse.  And, a veterinarian can provide emergency care.

2. Stay outside the trailer.  If your horse is panicking, do not climb into the trailer to calm them down.  It’s too easy to get pinned. Stay outside the trailer as much as possible after an accident.

horse trailer safety3. Try to stay calm.  Yeah, we know… easier said than done.  Stay calm so you can assist emergency responders who may need your help.  This may also help calm your horse who is looking to you for cues.

4. Pay attention to your surroundings. If you are in an accident or need to pull over, you’ll need to know where you are in order to call for help.  Pay attention to your route number and mile marker.  Also, be aware of the terrain — ditches or sharp curves.  Don’t pull off the road where you or your horses will be in danger from traffic.

5. Get training ahead of time. Many emergency responders have little to no experience handling horses.  So, before you travel, take any opportunity you can to train yourself on equine first aid, large animal emergency rescue techniques, and basic rope rigging.

6. Remember, a panicky horse is a dangerous horse.  It doesn’t matter how well you think you know your horse.  He is not going to act like himself in a panic situation.  Treat him like a wild animal and keep yourself safe.

7. Get veterinary care.  Even if a vet was not called right away, be sure to have your horse checked as soon as possible.  He may be at risk for stress-induced colic, hyper/hypothermia, organ displacement, or dehydration.

8. Train your horse for the trailer.  It helps a great deal if your horse is trained to deal with travel in the trailer.  Help him become desensitized to noises, learn to load/unload calmly, and give to pressure.  This way he won’t make a bad situation worse when dealing with an accident.

A horse trailer accident is a scary thing.  Hopefully, this article has given you a few tips for how to stay safe. If you have any questions about the horse trailer safety features mentioned in this article, please feel free to contact Brad here.

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