Friday, January 6, 2012

Safe Travels.

Trailer safety an important consideration in hauling horses

by Natalie Voss/Business Lexington

Lexington, KY - As breeding and foaling season resumes in central Kentucky, the roadways will soon be dotted with equine motorcoaches and private trailers.

Safety features are a prime consideration for horse owners and commercial haulers alike to ensure breeding, racing and show horses reach their destinations across the state.

Equine Motorcoach LLC expanded safety features to a luxury level when producing their 2012 model, which recently d├ębuted at the Recreation Industry Vehicle Association trade show in Louisville.

One of the more high-tech features of the Equine Motorcoach is a GPS tracking system for the vehicle, allowing location pinpointing for owners who may not be traveling with their horses, as well as a collision-alert system. It also includes a navigation system that allows drivers to avoid low bridges and difficult routes and to locate equine vets and layover accommodations for long trips.

"Whether (or not) you're in our all-in-one equine motorcoach, those are things you can integrate into vehicles," said Julie Calzone, spokesperson for Equine Motorcoach LLC.

The trailer component of the coach has a forced air system and finely tuned ventilation to prevent respiratory illness that is common during long trailer rides. It also has a surveillance camera system, which includes a red-light system for use at night, to allow the driver to watch for signs of illness or other problems with his charges.

The trailer section is also set up for horses to face the rear of the vehicle, the opposite of the typical set-up in slant-load vehicles, where horses are standing diagonally across the width of the trailer. Calzone said studies have shown that transport stress is reduced for horses facing a static landscape.

Transporting horses poses many other unique challenges, she said.

"The difference between transporting horses and regular cargo is that horses are actually moving cargo. They can move, and you want to be sure that your vehicle's stable enough … If you have a 1,300- to 1,400-pound horse that decides to move in the back of the trailer, you want to be sure that you and the rig are not being moved by the horse," said Calzone.

One of the key components to ensuring that stability is having a professional install the hitch and maintaining it to prevent rusting, she said.

Pricing at $499,000, the Equine Motorcoach is the high end of horse-transport vehicles available for private purchase.

"This is how people want to haul their horses," said Calzone.

But Trent Buchanan, co-owner of Wise Choice Tack and Trailer in Lexington, is quick to point out that more basic safety considerations are just as important for customers with a significantly smaller budget.

"Trailering's not really a complex thing, as long as you follow a few certain steps," said Buchanan. "Most of the time, people have problems because they get in a hurry or they didn't check something."

Buchanan stresses the importance of matching the right trailer to the vehicle used to haul it and getting state inspections done as mandated, not just to meet legal requirements but also to ensure brakes, wheels, tire pressure, axles and more are in appropriate condition. He also said that when considering a used trailer, checking the floor is an important consideration.

Trailer safety can also be a training issue for the horse.

"If you have a hard loader, I recommend getting with your trainer and going through the steps to introduce your horses to the trailer, to prevent forming problems as you go," said Buchanan.

Both Calzone and Buchanan agree that having a plan for what to do in an emergency, as well as having a series of checks of locks and bolts before departing, are great safety measures.

"It's just like anything else in life: have a plan," reiterated Calzone.