Breeders of beautiful Miniature Horses with Action!
Quality Breeding ~ Quality Transport
|Larry, Maryann & Brianna Cerullo
5643 SW Minson Rd.
Powell Butte, OR 97753
TRAILERING YOUR MINIATURE HORSES AND PONIES
Since 1994, Larry has been transporting miniatures and ponies throughout the United States. He has logged nearly four million miles over the road driving. Over the years, Larry has had some of the biggest names in the miniature horse world in his trailer and is often called upon to move "special case" horses such as those extremely late in pregnancy or horses who have injuries. He has helped foal out eleven horses IN THE TRAILER including one in the middle of a hurricane in Florida. Larry has weathered tornadoes, forest fires, blizzards, extreme drought and heat. There have been truck and trailer breakdowns, dehydrated horses, and emergency situations.
It is our hope that we can use this page as a place to answer your questions based on Larry's experience. If you have a transporting question, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. As long as the question is reasonable (and not so reasonable) we'll try to answer it and post it here with either full credit to the questioner or anonymously.
One question I get fairly frequently is "What kind of trailer should I buy?" This is a wide-open question and much depends on the equipment you are pulling the trailer with, the numbers of horses you will be
hauling, the distances you will be traveling and how much money you want to spend on a trailer. You can buy a trailer on Craigs List for less than $1000 that is in decent shape and will allow you to move about
four miniature horses. That would likely be a bumper pull trailer in the old quarter horse style. The trailer can be partitioned off into up to four spaces for your little guys. There's nothing wrong with "old" as long
as it is well-maintained. I personally prefer moving horses in a gooseneck/fifth wheel trailer. They connect to a point in the center of the truck bed and are somewhat more stable, easier to pull, easier to turn and just
plain have more room-even the smaller ones. That said, the trailer I use most now is a full size, three horse, slant load bumper pull for almost all my horse moving.
As I said above, the type of trailer you purchase, beyond personal preference, depends on how much money you want to spend. I have drooled over 42 foot trailers with luxurious living quarters. The cost of those
can touch $100,000 or more fully equipped with bathroom (s), shower, microwave, flat screen tv, hardwood floors and the list goes on and on.
The one point I want to make, if you are considering buying a trailer just for your miniatures--be sure you can stand up straight in the trailer. When we got involved in little horses, there were many trailers being used that
were essentially long tubes and only four feet high. I always imagined the condition of my back after trying to clean one of those. There are still short trailers (height-wise) on the market. Just think about how much time
you will be spending in that trailer, moving horses in and out, cleaning and disinfecting. My recommendation for a trailer is a full-sized horse trailer rather than one of the shorter ones. I make that partly for the height
reasons but also for ventilation for the horses. The more air flow the better.
When buying a used trailer, the most important points to check are the wood flooring (pull the mats and try sticking a screwdriver into the wood. If there is no resistance, the floor is rotting and will need replacing.).
Check the wheel bearings (jack up trailer and try to wiggle the tire in and out). Bearings should be repacked every 15,000 miles driven or once a year. If there is tire wiggle, bearings need to be redone - an easy
although messy job that can cost up to $200 at a tire shop. Check to be sure the electrics work, including the brakes. Most often, this needs to be done when a vehicle is hooked up to the trailer. Finally, run your
hand all over the inside of the trailer where the horses will be. You will be looking for rough spots, broken metal, cracks and the like - just about anything that can hurt your critters. A trailered horse can be hurt in
many ways (I once had one who lamed herself with a water bucket!). You may as well eliminate any obvious reasons for this to happen.
KNOW YOUR EQUIPMENT
This is likely one of the most important facets of trailering an animal. Making sure your truck/van and trailer are in good condition and road-worthy is high on the list of making the ride for your animal safe while moving down the road. Beyond the obvious of knowing your truck is in good repair, it's important to know that your trailer is sound and that the lights and brakes are working.
Knowing how to adjust your brake control is important too...that box somewhere around your knees in your truck is something that is in constant need of adjustment. Horses moving around a trailer will change the brake settings needed.
You might consider carrying a small toolbox with spare light bulbs, assorted screwdrivers, a pliers, a test light. electrician's tape, some wire connectors and spare wire, too. In most cases, if something breaks (I've hit road debris in the middle of the night and lost every light and brake on the trailer), you will need to find a repair shop to fix it but it's comforting to know you have the basic tools needed to do an emergency repair if necessary. Also, find on the internet a diagram for the type of connector you use to plug your trailer into the truck. It's my experience that often, especially on trailers not used a lot, that a light problem occurs at that connection and knowing which wire goes where is critical.
KNOW HOW TO DRIVE
This might seem obvious but driving with a horse trailer is different than without. Jack rabbit starts and stops can injure animals on a trailer as well as slowing down too quickly. There's no reason to take an exit at the posted speed, either. Any sudden movement of your truck is magnified in your trailer. The most effective way of understanding this is to ride in a horse trailer for a while. While this isn't legal (in a bumper pull trailer), it is educational and you'll get to feel what the horses are feeling (as well as hear and smell what they do) as you travel down the road. Unless you have an air ride trailer (one equipped with air shocks), the ride is hard and bumpy. The ride is noisy. The heat can be horrible. In stop and go traffic, the trailer can fill with exhaust smell. Is it any wonder why a horse is stressed who travels a long distance?
Horses on my trailers are "educated", at least a little, by me in the driver's seat. I tap my brakes lightly before I do anything different...speed up, slow down, pass, take an exit. The horses learn from that jolt of the trailer that something is going to happen and they have a chance to brace themselves for the change. If I need to do something that is an emergency, I tap my brakes swiftly several times. This gives the horse(s) something of a warning and they prepare themselves for whatever the situation is.
Horses have little problem keeping warm. They DO, however, have a real problem staying cool. When we designed our six horse trailer for transporting miniatures, we worked with an engineer to create the best ventilation in the trailer possible. This was done by vent placement, height of the feed doors and windows, extra windows in the bottom of the trailer, divider design and so on. That trailer was custom built and I'm reluctant to let go of it. I would hate to know how much it would cost to build another like it. I could almost literally create a hurricane in the trailer if necessary by opening certain vents and windows. The ventilation helps keep a horse cool as well as causing air change in the trailer to eliminate odors from urine and feces, especially in warm weather. The air change/ventilation would help prevent the all too common "shipping fever".
Many people have a tendency to keep windows and vents closed on a trailer. That will keep a horse cleaner due to lack of blowing dust and bedding but it also traps moisture in the trailer as well as odors which can be harmful. Think of standing in front of a fan on a hot day. Having as much ventilation as possible occurring in a trailer while driving down the road is similar. The air blowing in cools your horses -- especially if they are stressed and sweating.
The most "clothing" we recommend on your horse is a light sheet. Anything more than that is overkill -- even in the winter! I know that trainers will argue this point but that's mostly for their own convenience. Horses traveling in sleazies, double-blanketed, hooded and with shipping boots stress more than those who are loaded onto a trailer without anything on them at all. I have hauled horses several thousand miles to national horse shows for trainers and the most common complaint is that the horses lose weight while in transit. This is primarily the result of dehydration. Some of this can be prevented by having a few less "jammies" on your transported animal.
SHOULD I HAUL TIED or UNTIED?
This is a perennial question I have received. There are probably as many opinions of this as there are horses on the planet. Whenever possible, I haul horses untied or at the most, tied loosely (not so loose they can get their legs caught in the lead rope). I feel that horses can react a whole lot more easily to any road situation if they are untied. They are more comfortable and can change positions when they feel like it on the trailer. In the case of an accident, the horses have a better chance of surviving if they are untied.
My big trailer has a camera and a monitor in the truck. I have watched my horses with interest while driving down the highway and those who can will change their positions often when moving, even to the point of totally turning around. I try to keep my stalls big enough that horses can fully turn around with little problem. This helps relieve the boredom as well as giving them a chance to stretch a little during a long trip.
Similarly, I get the question about whether horses should travel with or without their halters on. The safest way, in my opinion, is for a horse to travel without their halters on, especially if they are riding loose. There is the possibility of the halter being caught on something in the trailer (a divider, a bucket bale [bucket handle], a feed hook and so on). A horse could somehow get its foot caught in its halter..or another horse's on the trailer (all these things have happened to me, by the way).
I have an acquaintance in the horse world who was cut off by a truck and rolled her trailer on an interstate. She had a combination of big horses and miniatures on riding with her. The horses were all stalled individually and were riding untied. None were wearing halters. The poor woman opened the trailer after the accident and had horses escaping all over the interstate...and no way of catching them. Happily this tale has a happy ending but it may not have been so. Since hearing this tale, I have always kept adult horses wearing halters while on the trailer, babies are a different story.
BEDDING, WATER and FEED
Whenever possible, I try to bed my trailer heavily. As stated above, most horse trailers are not designed to ride smoothly and gently, especially trailers designed for full-sized horses but carrying relatively light miniatures and ponies. I've never had too much bedding in a trailer. The deeper the bedding, the more cushioned the ride for your horse. The bedding will soak up the urine and manure passed while the horse is traveling. It helps keep odors down and gives you a way to help cool down horses in warm weather (by soaking the bedding with water -- a sort of "swamp cooler" -- the bedding will dry out slowly and lower the temperature in the trailer). The only problem with bedding is how to dispose of lots of it while on a long trip. The easiest answer is to carry a ton of garbage bags and leaving the soiled bedding beside trash barrels at rest stops. There are other places to dispose of soiled bedding, such as fair grounds and horse facilities. Usually these places will allow you to clean out your trailer for no charge or at most, a small one.
When I travel long distances, I keep a water bucket in every stall. I check on the water each time I stop and add when needed. Some of the water will slosh out while driving but at least horses have it available when they want it. I generally carry a lot of paste electrolytes and use it at least once a day on every horse in the trailer (during the summers, I give it to them twice). Because there is salt in the electrolytes, this almost guarantees that the horse will drink, and drink a lot. If a horse stops drinking (and I check hydration at least once a day on all my horses), I try several different methods to make them drink. One of the most successful (and I don't know why) is syringing a 50% sugar/water mixture into the horse's mouth. I use a 60mm dosing syringe to do this and try to get as much water down the horse as possible. I have also tried adding KoolAid, GatorAid, apple juice and other sweet drinks to the water with varying degrees of success.
When hauling miniatures and ponies, I don't use hay bags or hay nets unless absolutely necessary. I like to keep hay in front of my horses all the time. Eating gives them something to do and keeps them happy but putting the hay in a bag or a net brings risk with it. I've seen horses who needed to be euthanized because they caught a leg in a bag or net and broke it. So, I feed on the floor of the trailer as long as there is room (and I try to MAKE the room available).
I carry my own hay and use water available at the truck stops where I fuel. Whenever possible, I like to have a transported client's horse eating its own hay...so I don't need to stress the animals any more than necessary by switching feeds. I don't like to grain horses when on the road nor do I like to feed them much alfalfa. I won't argue with my clients who want their animals eating these things, I just point out the dangers of feeding grain, alfalfa, alfalfa pellets or the like while on the road.
If a horse will eat it, I like having a pail of hydrated beet pulp in front of each horse, especially in the summer. A cup of beet pulp allowed to sit in a couple of gallons of water for a few hours has little food value but is a terrific way to add fiber and moisture to a horse's diet. The moisture is obvious...the fiber keeps the gut working and moving. It takes a little time to make this up each day but the benefits are well worth the time expense.
Generally, when I am hauling horses for other people, I am alone. My days are around 14 or 15 hours long (not all that is driving time). I need eight hours of sleep time. So do the horses. I try to get the horses off the trailer once a day to stretch their legs and allow them a change of environment. I walk horses around the truck and trailer a few times and then tie them onto the side while getting the other horses off. Let me stress here that this isn't the safest thing to do with horses you don't know well. I am always stopped at a safe, usually confined, area when I do this. Fairgrounds in virtually every county in the US are great places. This gives me a chance to clean out the trailer as well. If I have horses with me for more than two days, I try to have them spend the night off the trailer. If you choose to do this, be sure to "disinfect, disinfect, disinfect", even if you are staying at a farm or fairgrounds you know is safe. The "bugs" in different parts of the country are, well, different. A gallon garden sprayer filled with a 50% bleach/water mixture goes a long way and will kill most of those "bugs". There are more effective commercial preparations but bleach water does wonders.
On shorter hauls, I make every rest stop "worth it" for the horses. They appreciate time not moving so instead of "grabbing a bite on the run", I will take my time to give the horses a little bit longer not moving. Sometimes, especially in the summer, I will take a short nap in a rest area (preferably parked under a tree) and this allows the horses a chance to drink or eat without the road noise and movement.
I know you want to get to where you are going as quickly as possible...but remember, that's precious cargo in your trailer.