The terror of hauling a horse

Flickr/Creative Commons
Flickr/Creative Commons

I’m not a stranger to hauling horses. As soon as I could drive, my parents were happy to hand off the driving duties to local shows. My mother was soured on driving trailers after we got lost driving to a cross country event hosted by a foxhunting club in the middle of nowhere and had to back down a steep gravel road; my father simply had a varied work schedule that didn’t always accommodate my equestrian pursuits.

I never had any anxiety hauling Moe to a show or to school cross country at the county park or to a mounted meeting for Pony Club. I was proud that I knew how to hook up the trailer and could get myself from Point A to Point B. At my last job, a major component was driving the center’s truck and trailer to pick up horses for trial, or return them to their owners.

Somewhere along the last few years, my confidence has waned. I’ve developed major hauling anxiety. It started when my friend Levi and I went to Tennessee to pick up Moe. I was going to take Moe and my family’s steel 3 horse gooseneck trailer to Oklahoma; I trusted my dad when he said it was in decent condition. Regardless, I spent most of the 8 hour drive there worrying about what could go wrong. I worried that the frame was rusted. I worried the floor was rotted. I worried we’d have a flat tire. The trailer had a few rust spots on it, but the floor (which had always been covered by rubber mats) and frame appeared sound. Moe loaded in cheerfully, and I proceeded to spend the next 8 hours in a state of anxiety and terror, imagining every nightmare scenario that could go wrong. The trip was totally uneventful, the trailer held up just fine (and has been used a couple of times since), and I thought my fear would abate.

Last weekend, I had the same anxiety about hauling Moe to the show. I worried that the ball on my truck was the wrong size even though I’d confirmed the size with the trailer’s owner; I was so worried that I spent half an hour and $150 at the farm and ranch store buying a new ball and two different size drop hitches, just in case I didn’t have the right one and I couldn’t come back at 5 AM the next day and dear god why do these things come in so many sizes why are they so expensive WHAT IS HAPPENING!!!

The hitch and ball we had were fine; my additional purchases were totally unnecessary. (But I’m keeping them anyway, because that stuff is usually handy…right?) Once Moe was in the trailer, I worried about the condition of the floor and the frame. Never mind that the trailer’s owner regularly hauled horses and hay and all manner of things in this trailer and wouldn’t have lent it to me if she wasn’t confident in its condition.

Once we were on the road (and Moe hadn’t like, fallen out of the bottom), I worried about the other cars. What if I had to stop quickly? What if someone cut me off? Why is this fucking Honda practically in the trailer with Moe? I felt physically ill with worry and fear.

I was too tired to be anxious on the way home. I listened to Serial, laughed at Johnny’s jokes, and blocked out the insidious, awful thoughts about the various ways my precious, favorite horse could die while we drove down the turnpike.

I’m hoping that once I have my very own trailer and am totally aware of how it’s maintained that some of this anxiety will dissipate.

What about y’all? Do you ever worry about your horses in the trailer? Do you also suffer from near-crippling anxiety every time you have to drive your horse somewhere? Should I just take a Xanax and get over it?

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

27 thoughts on “The terror of hauling a horse”

  1. Um, yes. Yes. I am with you in terror. I have my own trailer that I take religious care of and have inspected and repaired yearly, so I’m not so much worried about the trailer failing me as OTHER DRIVERS, MAN. The thought of hauling on the highway freaks me the heck out. I’m usually fine on local backroads, but when we go on an out of state adventure, my husband usually drives. :/

    1. Right?! I don’t understand why people think it’s a good idea to tailgate a truck and trailer that’s going 5 mph UNDER the speed limit, especially when the trailer has LIVE ANIMALS in it!!!

  2. I hate every moment that my horse is in the trailer. Falling through the bottom is my worst fear also!

    I hope I feel better when I buy my own trailer next spring… But it’s hard to say.

  3. YES. My horses are everything to me and I never ever do anything that could possibly put them in danger. That and the fact that my mare hates traveling makes me convinced that hauling her is just asking for trouble. And I’ve never even hauled a trailer myself.

  4. Other drivers definitely freak me out more than anything that could go wrong on my end, though I tend to channel anything that might resemble fear into acute road rage and just get pissed at everyone. That way I’m too busy spouting expletives to actually be nervous.

  5. I spend every time I drive the trailer in a near panic attack. I don’t enjoy it. I worry about everything that could go wrong: other drivers, jack knifing, getting stuck and not being able to turn around, crashing, the trailer comb unhitched. I actually don’t worry about my floor bc I know it’s on good shape, but that’s probably the only thing I don’t worry about.

  6. I have all the same fears and I own and maintain my own trailer. I’m always convinced the service guys didn’t check everything (despite my $2500 bill last time…) And don’t get me started on all the other drivers!

  7. I worry about other people. I have had people pull some seriously stupid stunts when I have my trailer on. One time that was probably the most scary thing that has happened is some asshole took a LEFT TURN FROM THE RIGHT LANE! We were in the left lane, only doing about 35-40 mph through a town when the car in the right lane, next to us just out of nowhere turned left in front of us!!! I knew there was a dually behind them in the right lane, but I had two choices, hit that car or hope like hell the dually wasn’t too close behind or recognized what was happening. As soon as that car came across in front of us I downshifted my truck as fast as I could because I was also trying to avoid locking up the brakes and slamming the horses up against the chest bar. So I downshifted and hit my blinker automatically and pulled the wheel to the right. Thankfully that dually slammed on his brakes too and it all worked out. I laid on my horn and seriously considered turning around and stopping in the gas station the car turned into, but I figured I was way too pissed off for anything good to come of that.

    I am hyper-aware of people around me when I have the trailer on. I stay pretty far back from people and I watch everyone like a hawk when they are stopped at stop signs waiting for me to go by since people just LOVE to pull out in front of trucks and trailers to avoid getting stuck behind them. If they even START to let their car roll I’ll let off the gas so I’m already starting to slow down if they do anything stupid. I also know how to use the e-brake on my trailer brake, and I carry two full size spares with me too.

    One thing I really don’t like is semis passing me close on the highway.

    1. Jesus that’s terrifying!!! I think I would have peed myself. I do not like semis passing me either- I’m always afraid they’ll get back in the right lane too early or something.

  8. I went with my trainer to pick up a couple of thoroughbreds from the track earlier this year, and we had to go through the Altamont Pass to get to the second one. This is a notoriously sketchy patch of road not only because the pass is steep, but because the drivers in that area somehow lose all common sense and ability to drive reasonably. There are also a fair number of big trucks as it’s one of the main thoroughfares into the bay area.

    Anyway, we’re headed down this super steep grade and I can feel the six horse pushing us down the grade, even with my trainer’s F350. There’s also that unpleasant skiddy-kind of feeling you get when you’re travelling down hill. I felt completely calm and safe because I knew that my trainer has been hauling since she could drive and that she’s more than equipped to handle this (and she left huge spaces and took it all very slowly and safely), but she admitted to me that if she were in the passenger seat and anyone else was driving she would be freaking out.

    It’s honestly miraculous that these flight creatures get into dark metal boxes for us and are okay with it. I thank Murray for that every time we trailer.

    1. Ugh, yeah that pushing feeling is AWFUL. I’m sort of glad Oklahoma is so flat, because I rarely feel that.

      Horses are either very smart, very trusting, or very stupid to get in trailers.

  9. You just need to haul and haul and haul. I love traveling with my horses. It gives me a sense of freedom from my stay at home mom life. I love trail riding and would do it everyday if I could get away with it!!! I think the horses really enjoy it as well. Take control. Don’t go slow and give people a reason to tailgate. Go the speedlimit it’s much safer in my opinion. Of course I’ve always been a speed demon and really have to keep myself in check when hauling especially with this new diesel!!! Drive like you ride girl!!!

  10. Trailering makes me so anxious I haven’t even bought a trailer, and when I do I will likely make my husband drive or at least accompany me. I’m cool with normal trailers but add horses and my anxiety spikes. I blame one of my horses who was a terrible, stressful traveller – we had everything from refusing to eat to all out panic to colic. Always some sort of drama. Last ferry ride with her was the longest 1.5 hours of my life and proof those pheromone calming things don’t work. Also proof that ferry workers are way too familiar with that scene in “The Ring”…lol (or at least I try to laugh)

  11. Ugh, I’m so right there with you. I have my own trailer, but it is older than the hills and I’ve yet to fix all the things that are wrong with it. It is road sound, but I’m generally so anxious that if we’re only hauling a short distance, I’ll drive my car and follow Jason pulling the trailer so I can see that nothing is going wrong.

  12. YES!! I have so much anxiety about hauling. We have our own trailer now and I don’t worry so much about Max falling through, but I know the tires are getting old and worry about them all the time. My biggest fear is simply driving the thing. I haven’t yet, but have visions of coming to a 4 way stop with lots of traffic and not being able to make the narrow turn, or this or that happening. I was very nervous when we were driving it home. My husband did all the driving, but there were some narrow spots on the highway where we were stuck between to semis with no margin for error in the lane. Terrifying for both of us.

    Also, keep the hitches and balls. We have several sitting at home for all the stuff we’ve hauled and the different sizes come in handy. Despite this, we still don’t have a mount that is at the correct height for the trailer. We will have one before we haul again though. I won’t put up with it.

  13. idk, i’ve only been towing a trailer for about a year, and the first couple weeks definitely involved a lot of white knuckle moments… but i bought my trailer new so i know it’s in good shape, and it’s also *very* easy to haul so over time i’ve gotten quite comfortable with it. not sure how i would feel with something bigger, or something lighter weight that would move around me back there…

  14. I enjoy hauling my horses, but as someone said, the more frequently you haul, the easier it gets. I regularly haul my horses from California’s central valley over the pass and into LA. If any place is going to make a driver nervous, it’s driving in LA’s traffic.

    Instead of being nervous, I maintain my speed and force others to give way. I drive with the mentality that I am way bigger than nearly everyone else on the road (I drive a Ford Super Duty 4 door with a 3-horse LQ trailer). I am also extremely careful. My truck and trailer are well cared for, but my husband makes sure I drive with a AAA card just in case. I also have a Jiffy Jack in case I get a flat tire.

    Play some music or bring along a friend as a distraction, and then relish in the freedom to get your horse from place to place. :0)

  15. I have much more anxiety around other people driving than driving the trailer myself. I don’t know why people act like such idiots when driving around a horse trailer. We are hopefully buying new and plan to do annual maintenance but it’s still nerve wracking.

    After my friends truck blew a head gasket and we were stranded because AAA won’t help you with a horse trailer I will never be without US Rider – if I had had coverage even though it wasn’t my rig they would have helped us. Now I have a plan of my own even though we’re still trailer shopping.

  16. I didn’t have any experiance hauling a trailer, or driving a truck, and went out and bought both a few years ago. I have been hauling regularly on my own since, and it has never gotten any less scary for me. My biggest fear is the floor giving out. I can deal with a flat tire, or other issues. The floor falling out terrifies me. I also hate when people get so close that I can barely see their shadow behind the trailer. Since I have a stock trailer I am always secertly hoping that my horse pees or poops right at that moment.

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