Hitching on to your horse trailer – Mark Unsworth provides some great advice and tips
Hitching up can take a bit of practice.
The key factor is never rush and keep calm! Well at least try!
Ensure that the trailer’s handbrake is on and that the jockey wheel is wound so that the trailer is at the right height, in readiness for engagement with the vehicle’s tow ball. Ideally you should have the tow hitch wound so that it is about two inches (5 cm) above the height of the vehicle’s tow ball.
Ensure that there are no obstructions on the ground which you will drive over and importantly ensure that no one is between you and the horse trailer especially children!
Try and line the vehicle up so that you will be reversing in a straight line, this is much easier than starting off at an angle.
Reverse your vehicle slowly towards the trailer. You may find it easier to look through the rear window of your vehicle, rather than through your mirrors, to help you line-up the tow bar with the trailer. If you have someone to help see you back, encourage them to stand at the side of, and not behind, your vehicle while you are reversing. Some trailers are so light that you can actually move the trailer by hand to your tow vehicle, thus avoiding moving the tow vehicle at all. Having a Hitching Mirror fitted to your trailer will also help and the i4eye Hitching Mirror is a great accessory to fit.
Once your hitch is directly above your tow ball, you can then wind the jockey wheel ensuring that the hitch properly engages and secures onto the vehicle’s tow ball. Wind your jockey wheel up, ensuring that it is well clear of the road surface for towing. Ensure the jockey wheel handle which secures it is tight so that there is no chance of it dropping down onto the road surface whilst driving.
If your horse trailer has a locking hitch never lock it to the towvehicle whilst you are towing. The locking hitch is for use when the vehicle is stationery only, or when the trailer is not hitched to your vehicle.
Breakaway cable and electrics
You can now connect the breakaway cable of the trailer to your vehicle’s tow bar eye and plug in the trailer’s electric socket into the car tow bar socket. Check your electrics on both your tow vehicle and horse trailer to ensure that all the lights are working correctly.
Park your trailer on as flat a surface as possible and then apply the tow vehicle’s and the trailer’s handbrake. Place wheel chocks (if you have them) both in front and behind your trailer wheels.
Next, disconnect the electrical and breakaway cables. Wind the jockey wheel down and then release your hitch handle as you wind, allowing the trailer to become un-hitched. Then, lock your trailer so it’s secure.
To avoid the brake shoes sticking to the drums, you can leave your trailer parked with the handbrake off, but leave your wheel chocks in place to secure the trailer. Only leave the trailer with the handbrake off if it is in a safe place to do this and there is no danger to others by the trailer moving.
Mark Unsworth from Horse Trailer Parts Direct answers a question from a reader who was worried about buying a second hand horse trailer and potential problems with the flooring
I would recommend that when you buy a second hand horse trailer, regardless of age, you get not just the floor checked but also the whole trailer by an authorised dealership or by a suitably qualified individual. The older the trailer the more thorough the inspection should be and this should highlight any safety issues or areas of concern.
Most modern horse trailers are now fitted with aluminium floors or thermoplastic/resin floors. Aluminium floors normally take the form of sheet or planked aluminium strips that run from the front to rear of the trailer. The chassis of the trailer is normally made from galvanised steel and supports these aluminium strips. Some older horse trailers have been manufactured with a steel chassis but will have a wooden planked floor. The normal life expectancy of such a floor, dependant on various factors, would be around 8 years before the floor will require some attention. Wood will rot so many owners then opt to have the wooden floor replaced by an aluminium one.
The most common causes of damage to your alloy floor are likely to be caused by your horse. This can occur if the horse becomes unsettled and either stamps or rears, or if your horse loses its balance whilst in transit and struggles excessively to regain it. The wearing of studs in the trailer is also a cause of damage, and it must be stressed that travelling the horse with studs in is extremely bad for both the horse and the trailer floor, with safety issues arising for both.
I would recommend that you have your aluminium floor checked annually when you have your trailer serviced. Your dealership will check the internal aspects of the floor to ensure that none of the floor has become damaged or dislodged. They will check on the inside that the alloy strips of the floor run true and are interlocked and that the securing bolt heads are tight. Most manufacturers secure the alloy planks with bolts towards the front and rear of the trailer floor. These can work loose, especially if the horse does stamp or move around heavily, which then leads to strips of the floor becoming dislodged. This can be dangerous as your horse is then at risk of putting a hoof through any dislodged strips.
The dealership will also check for any signs of corrosion within the floor. If this occurs there will normally be signs of this at the outer extremities of the floor or around the natural drain points. External checks will be a visual inspection of the underside of the trailer floor to ensure again that the sheeted aluminium runs true and that the bolts securing the floor in place are tight and have not started to work loose. They will undertake checks to see if the floor has become damaged from beneath. This can occur if a trailer has run over something on the road, which is then thrown up and has caused damage by hitting the underside of the floor, or driving the trailer over very uneven ground can also cause damage.
Some simple procedures will significantly enhance the condition and life of your trailer floor.
After each use:
Sweep out the trailer floor mat with a stiff brush and power wash or hose out
Clean the floor’s drain holes out with a screwdriver – most trailers have natural drain holes built into the lower body and floor at the front and rear of the trailer
Hose off the underside of the floor to remove road and field deposits especially during the winter months when salt is being used on the roads
Every 12 months:
Remove the trailers rubber mat completely
This is generally secured at the front and rear of the trailer and once the securing clasps have been removed two people can normally remove the rubber floor. Once removed power wash the both sides of the mat. Undertake a visual check of the mat and check for signs of wear or holes (always buy and use good quality matting as the mat helps spread the load carried and also absorbs impact. Don’t buy cheap mats as they are often made from re-cycled tyre shreds or crumb, which are moulded together with urethane and quickly disintegrate.) Power wash the trailer floor and drain holes and ensure the drain holes are clear. Remember the area beneath your mat can become a breeding ground for bacteria due to the build up of horse urine, feed, horse hair and mud which can then also cause corrosion. Use a anti-bacterial spray or wash an example can be seen on our site http://horsetrailerpartsdirect.co.uk/rider-and-yard-accessories/horse-rider-and-yard
The floor of your horse trailer is one of the most integral and important aspects of your trailer and although it cannot be seen you must not ignore it. A well maintained floor is a significant contributing factor in the safe transport of your horse and if ignored it could become your most significant financial drain as well! If your floor is maintained well it will ensure that the investment you have already made in your trailer will be protected. If you ignore it then be prepared to spend in the region of between £500 and £1000 to have it replaced.
The majority of Horse Trailers that are stolen in the UK tend to be stolen by:
A Casual Thief
This is someone who takes advantage of an opportunity that arises, who has not pre-planned the theft of your trailer, but who has usually come across a trailer that has no security measures deployed.
The opportunity is present, they have a tow vehicle and they do not need to circumvent any security measures as none are in place.
In other words they see your trailer, like it, hitch it on and drive away with it.
It can be as easy as this or you can make it harder for this type of thief.
Tips to guard against theft
Park your horse trailer up within a secure gated compound or yard where it cannot be seen by passing traffic.
Fit a Hitch Lock and Wheel Clamp.
If you keep the trailer at your yard, tell the other liveries and the yard owner that no one else has authority to remove the trailer.
Do not leave valuables inside your trailer no matter how tempting the storage solution is
If you are at a show and someone asks you about your trailer do not tell them where you keep it.
If you take your trailer to a show lock it to the tow vehicle using the locking coupling head and fix your wheel clamp to one of the trailer wheels. Believe it or not horse trailers are often stolen at shows!
If you keep the trailer at home on your drive, consider using two wheel clamps or attach a heavy duty chain through the trailer towing arms and secure this to a object that cannot be moved.
Park your vehicle across the trailer or in front of it, nose to nose preventing another vehicle from accessing the hitch and secure your own vehicle as well.
Fit a hitch cover – a potential thief will not know if you have a good quality hitch lock fitted underneath it or a cheap lock. They will first have to remove the cover which some will be reluctant to do.
What else can assist?
Fit a data tag transponder to your trailer – this is concealed within the shell of the trailer body and can be located and identified by a dealer with reading equipment
Fit a Tracker to your trailer – these have come down dramatically in price and can be linked and operated from your mobile phone
Fit a Wheel Clamp and Hitch Lock – these can vary from £30 up to £160 dependant upon the brand you purchase – we sell a Stronghold avonride hitch lock which will fit Ifor Williams and Equitrek trailers and these cost just under £70. The Avonride Hitch Lock we sell also allows you to secure your trailer to your tow vehicle when unattended which is useful at shows and on long journeys especially if you stop at service stations etc view these products at http://horsetrailerpartsdirect.co.uk/horse-trailer-accessories/security/hitch-locks
If you own an Ifor Williams or Equitrek Horse Trailer manufactured since 1999 then you will have the benefit of the key operated hitch lock – these are good but you can increase the security of this for as little as under £8 by fitting a Hitch Security Ball. This fits into the mouth of the hitch and you lock it in using your key and this will prevent a thief part hitching your trailer and stealing it. Without the Ball your trailer even with the hitch locked could still be towed away with little effort! See this product also at http://horsetrailerpartsdirect.co.uk/horse-trailer-accessories/security/hitch-locks
You may also wish to consider making your trailer a little more personalised by fitting for example logo’s or Decals. If your trailer is unique to you then it is easily identifiable on the road and a thief is less likely to take your trailer. Many of these will not detract from the value of your trailer and are vinyl and is a simple DIY job to fit them. Some ideas of these vinyl stickers can be seen on our site http://horsetrailerpartsdirect.co.uk/horse-trailer-accessories/reflectors-and-stickers
Post Coding – many owners do this and have their post code in vinyl letters fixed to the roof of their trailer. This is a good idea but remember these will only be seen from the air and you have to know what area to look for your trailer in before these become beneficial.
Smart Water – This is method whereby using a clever pen applying a invisible paint you can mark your trailer both inside and outside and if your trailer is stolen and then located the paint has a unique special code within it which will identify it as being yours. But again, you have to locate the trailer first.
Permanent Marker – a cheap effective method is to mark the underside of your trailer using a permanent marker pen with your house number and post code. You can also mark the floor of the trailer beneath your mats. Again though this is only of use if your trailer is found after being stolen.
Serial Number – make sure you keep a note of your horse trailer serial number as you will need this if it is stolen or if you try to insure it
To give you peace of mind consider insuring your horse trailer, the newer your trailer is the greater consideration you should give this option. There are many companies offering horse trailer insurance and my advice is shop around and read the small print before buying a policy. Check what it covers and who it covers and where, the cheapest policy may not be the best option. Also check for security stipulations on the policy, many will insist on certain types of hitch locks or wheel clamps being fitted. If you have any questions on locks or clamps we are always happy to give advice to you and what may be right for your trailer and circumstances.
Mark Unsworth a director from Horse Trailer Parts Direct has written this article on Horse Trailer Security and will be contributing more information on security in the coming weeks.
Horse Trailer Parts Direct provide a comprehensive range of horse trailer parts online in the UK. Our horse trailer spares are all oraganised in to categories to help you find exactly what you want. Simply move your mouse cursor over the category links at the top of this page to see a drop down menu of our categories. We provide parts for Ifor Williams horse trailers in addition to other popular brands and setups. So, if you're looking for parts for trailers or any kind of trailer accessories please take a look at our website to find what you need. If you any questions please call us on 01305 269393 and we'd be delighted to help you.