Tag Archive for: horse trailer

Microchipping your horse is the easiest way to locate your horse in an emergency!

In 2020 the United States experienced twenty-two weather disaster events with a total of one billion dollars of loss.  The events are broken down as follows:

          1 drought event

          13 severe storm events

          7 tropical cyclone events

          1 wildfire event

With this many disasters happening in one year, it gives you even more incentive to get your horses microchipped. For all of us here in Arizona we escaped these disasters this year.

For those of us who have lived in Arizona for a long time, we can remember the Rodeo-Chediski fire in 2002, Cave Creek Fire in 2005, Schultz Fire in 2010, and the Doce Fire in 2013 (this was in my back year) just to name a few. 

These are the types of disasters when you need to have your horses microchipped.  When you are in an emergency and you are given only minutes to evacuate you do not have time to paint your phone number on your horse, you are only concerned about getting somewhere safe.

Microchipping your horse is now a requirement for many of the equine associations.  The FEI (Federation Equestrian International) was one of the first organizations to require microchipping.  They were joined by The Jockey Club, USEF (United States Equestrian Federation), the US Hunter Jumper Association, and the Retired Racehorse Project.  I am sure there will be many more to follow as equine owners realize the value and peace of mind that having their horse microchipped brings.

Microchipping of horses is also being used for the tracking of infectious diseases when there is a breakout.

Microchipping your horse also helps during a disaster if your horse has to be left behind during evacuation or runs off during a fire and winds up at an emergency holding area for lost pets and livestock.  We have all seen this on television after a hurricane or fire.  If your horse is microchipped and is at one of these facilities just think how much faster, you can be reunited with your favorite equine!

Yes, this does include all of us that drive our horses! 

There are those times at show grounds when your horse unties himself and wanders around and you are in a state of panic!

This happened at the rodeo grounds in Oregon while my son was stationed there during the fires.  The other side of the rodeo grounds was being used for a horse show and one of the horses untied himself and took off.  He wound up on the opposite side where the firefighters were camping. My son was able to get control of the horse, and eventually, the owner showed up. If they had not and if the horse was microchipped, they would have been able to get in touch with the owner.

I think all of us drivers have seen the proverbial runaway horse and carriage!  They can run faster than us and can be gone in a nano-second.  Having them microchipped will help to get them returned to their owner.

The other runaway horse and carriage is if you are trail driving and your horse gets scared and runs off, wouldn’t it be nice to know that a “Good Samaritan” who stops your horse, can have a veterinarian scan him, and be able to get him back to you?

Microchipping your horse

So, what is involved in microchipping your horse?  First, you need to have your veterinarian come out equipped with the chip and scanner.  Microchipping is safe, simple, and inexpensive!  The cost is about $75, and they stay functioning for 25 years or longer. The chip is a lot smaller than the chip in a computer.  It is about the size of a grain of rice, after all, it must fit into a needle! 

The veterinarian will implant (inject) the chip halfway between the poll and withers, in the nuchal ligament on the left side.

The microchip is encapsulated in a glass with a unique one-of-a-kind number.  This number can be read by the scanner and it will be the number you will put on your horses’ papers.

The chip then needs to be registered:

Without it being in the Equine Protection Registry it will just be a chip in your horse.  So you need to go online and register.  If you need to check a chip number there is a universal pet microchip lookup site https://equinemicrochiplookup.org/  or  https://www.horselookup.org/ set up by the American Horse Council or https://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/ set up by The American Animal Hospital Association just to name a few.

To sum up the reasons for microchipping your horse:

  1. A permanent and effective way to identify your horse.
  2. When you can compete again and decide to go to an FEI/USEF show you will be ahead of the curve.
  3. It can prevent the dishonest seller from portraying the wrong horse.
  4. Microchipping is easier to read than a tattoo, especially in older thoroughbreds.
  5. Stollen horses can be identified quicker, to be able to get them back to their owners.
  6. Microchipping is invaluable during a natural disaster especially if the best thing for the horse is to let him free.

My horses have been microchipped for many years before it was the right thing to do. I have been at shows where horses have been taken, along with harnesses and if your horse is microchipped you have a real chance of getting him back.

We all think that the proverbial bad thing will not happen to us but unfortunately, it can, so be prepared and Microchip Your Horse. 

As we all know there have been tremendous fires in all of California.  Do you know how to safely get your horse loaded during the chaos of a fire?

Wildfires have always been of great concern for me, for two reasons:

 First, my son is a Wildland Firefighter with the United States Forest    Service.  Being a mother of a firefighter, I am always concerned with all the fires that we have had over the years and for my sons’ safety.

The second concern is for all of the horses and those people who volunteer to risk their own lives to have not only their horses but those of complete strangers.

The Doce Fire which started at Doce Pit a recreation area out Iron Springs Road had just barely started when I received a call from my son who at the time was based in Northern California.  He told us to be ready to evacuate ourselves and our horses (5) if we see the fire come over the southern end of Granite Mountain.

This call was well before the official evacuation notices were put out.  Later in the afternoon, I received a call from a friend who lives in Mint Creek area that she had to evacuate themselves and her horses. 

I recently watched a couple of videos on YouTube of people trying to get their horses in trailers. What stood out was the number of people running around trying to do something with the horses.  There was a horse being led with the lead rope attached to the top of what looked like a lunging caveson.  Then, there were a couple of people who were trying to use a butt rope but had no success because they did not know how to use one properly.

Here are ways to make Trailer Loading during a fire safer and easier, but first, make sure your horse has your cell phone number painted on his butt:

  1. Practice loading your horse in a trailer at least once a month.  If you have a trailer that can stand by itself without hooking it to your truck, that is great.  I know most people will need to hook up to their trailer to practice.  Believe me, it is worth the effort.  You can even get together with friends and make an afternoon of it.
  2. When you are loading your horse during a fire always, do it the same way as you have practiced.  If you normally walk into your trailer with your horse, then do that.  If you normally send your horse in first, then do that. If you normally don’t use shipping boots, then don’t use them now!  If you normally load your horse by yourself, then ask all-around to stand back and let you do it.
  3. For all of you who do not have a trailer, then you are at the mercy of whoever shows up with their trailer to help. Remember, that you are the horse owner and you should be the one handling your horse.This is when the horse will be challenged and will need all of the calm and patience that you, the owner, can mustard up!
  4. Make sure that any trailer that shows up is big enough for your horse.  I know that in an emergency it can become hard to be patient, but in the long run, it will save time.  My Friesian Sporthorse can be really picky about his trailers.  My two-horse slant is seven feet tall and wide enough, but he will not get into it with the middle bar that the doors close onto there.  He will just stand there and stare at the trailer with this look on his face like “are you going to move that bar”?

The moment that the bar is gone he walks right in.  To him, the half-space makes it too narrow.  “Who am I to say he is not right”.

“In an emergency, removing the bar saves tons of time!”

5. With a strange trailer open all of the windows and doors.  Make the space look inviting to your horse.  Walk-in with your horse into this strange trailer.  Your horse is taking his cues from you.  If you won’t walk in why should he?

6.When all else fail and you need the butt rope to help get your horse in, then learn how to use it properly. Having two people holding the ends of the rope might work for a pony or horse under fourteen hands, but for those big boys and girls, this will not work.

For the full-size horse over a thousand pounds, it is better to tie the rope to one side of the trailer back and then have your helper bring the rope around the butt of the horse to apply pressure. Warning, do not get the rope up under the tail, or below the hock, it needs to be in that curve right below the thigh. The object is that you are trying to encourage the horse to move forward.  There is no way you can lift the horse into the trailer.

Here is some overall advice to help you stay calm during the loading process:

  1. Remember to breathe! Take in those deep breaths, and let them out slowly.
  2. If you stay calm, speak in a quiet voice, and reassure your horse that this is just another day in the park, then all will go well.
  3. If someone comes to help you, ask them if they know about horses before you allow them to help.  Things can get really bad if the helpers don’t know horses. Remember to thank them for coming and helping.
  4. Do not take advice from non-horse people!  We all know they are just trying to help.  You are still the owner of the horse and are ultimately responsible for what happens to your horse and the people helping you.
  5. Be patient!  This is as stressful on your horse as it is for you. All of the smoke, sirens, emergency vehicles and their lights, shouting people, trailers, and strange people can make the whole process seem daunting. Everything that happens to your horse will be remembered, and you need to keep this as positive as possible.


Now that your horse is loaded and is safe with your cell phone number on his butt, it is time for you to get to safety.  Remember to take your folder that has your horse’s information in it with you. You should have a copy of his registration, vet records, feeding information, any medicines he is on and your contact information. This needs to be taken to the stable, fairgrounds, friends ranch or wherever the horse is going to. Practicing loading and having a plan ahead of time will save time and stress for both you and your horse.

How do I get it there?

How do I get it all to a show, is the really big question that everyone asks.  Now most people who own a horse also own a trailer, but when one gets into driving their horse it can become a logistics nightmare on getting all of your equipment, the horse, the carriage and the people to an event.

If you are like most newbie’s to the carriage driving family, you will try to achieve this with what you have on hand.  I know that over forty years ago that is what I did, so I will give you a brief history of my progression through the years.

Starting Out

In the beginning, I had a two horse straight load trailer that I loaded my horse into and that I pulled with my truck.  Then I purchased a 16′ flat bed trailer with a folding ramp on the back, which we pushed the cart up onto that we towed with our car that we had at the time.  This worked well at the time if we were doing just local  shows and events, but for anything very far away it was cost prohibited.

When I decided that I wanted to start doing events farther away from home, I traded in the two horse trailer for a four horse slant with a tack room.  We pulled this trailer with our motor home that we had at the time which gave us a place to stay, as trying to stay at motels that were never anywhere close to most venues was a logistics nightmare.  This worked quite well for a number of years while I was competing with my Arabian and my pair of Miniature horses, as their carriages were smaller and lighter weight.  I made ramps to run the carriages up into the trailer and there was an escape door so in an emergency you could get your horse out of the trailer, as you had to put the horse in first.

Lessons Learned

After being blown across the highway several times into oncoming traffic, I finally decided I needed to do something different if I wanted to keep competing, and be safe getting there.  At this point, I purchased a used Sundowner trailer, four horse slant, with living quarters.  This turned out to be my best choice to this point for getting everything I needed to a show with driving only one vehicle and not having to stay at a hotel away from the show grounds.

This whole process over the years showed me all of the things that I liked about the different trailers and their layouts and those items I did not like at all.  So, I started a list of the does and don’ts for the ultimate trailer that I would eventually purchase.

What Not To Do:

  • Never put carriage on top of horse trailer, aside from being very difficult to get up there, low bridges can be hazardous, “oops”.
  • Never put your horse in first if there is no escape door.
  • Always have a pass through door from living quarters or tack room to horse area, especially if horse goes in first.
  • Never get a trailer heavier than your truck can safely pull when loaded.
  • Never unload horse at a rest stop on any road or freeway, even if the sign says you can.  Trucks run faster than horses!
  • Never put anything on top of trailer that you need to get to in a hurry, especially if you are stopped on the edge of a highway, such as a spare tire or extra water for horses.
  • Never put anything on top of your trailer if you are the least bit afraid of heights.
  • Oven for baking, I don’t think so!
  • Never put you carriage in the back of your truck, as it will pick up every piece of road dirt between your house and the show venue, and every bug that is in it’s path will be smashed onto it and it will look   much like your windshield.

What To Do:

  • Ramps to get carriages into trailer.
  • Winch to pull carriages, especially four wheeled, up ramps.
  • Tie downs in floor of trailer for securing carriages.
  • Maximum trailer width of eight (8) feet, makes for easier fit of carriages.  They will actually fit across the trailer thereby taking up less room.
  • Gate between carriage and tack area and the horse area, that way the horses are safe and the equipment is not eaten.
  • At least two stalls that can be made into one pen in case your stuck overnight, your horse can have a place to lay down and rest.
  • Insulation in the walls and ceiling.  Unless you live in the perfect world, you will either have excessive heat or cold somewhere you will be showing.  Your horse will thank you!
  • Outside water faucet on your trailer that you can fill your horse water bucket, this will save you countless steps.
  • Plenty of windows and overhead vents for proper air circulation, your horse will also thank you for this!
  • Plenty of inside and outside lighting because you will always either arrive late or leave early.  It also makes that early morning feeding a lot easier.

About now, you are thinking that you will have to spend your retirement account to be able to find a trailer to fit all of these needs.  You need to figure out which of the items are the most important to you and which will fit the horse and carriages that you have.  If you drive a pony that is 14 hands or under in a two wheeled cart and you like staying in a motel, than a three horse slant will probably do you just fine.  If your plan is to stay in training and preliminary divisions in combined driving, or in local fun and training arena driving shows, then smaller trailers that will hold your single horse and your cart, will work just fine.

Building My Trailer!

In my situation, I was working for a slot on the US Singles Driving Team, so I needed a trailer that would fit two carriages, my horse and all the tack for both carriages, along with living space for myself and my husband who is my navigator.  The trailer also needed to be able to make it back and forth across the country several times so I could compete at the required events.

Keeping this in mind, I had my trailer custom made by the Silverado Trailer Company. The trailer specifications were as follows:

  • Total size 8′ x 34′ on the floor with 7′ gooseneck
  • 11′ living space
  • 12′ carriage space with electric wench
  • 11′ horse space which makes, 2 single stalls or one 8 x 11 stall
  • 66′ side ramp for carriages
  • 7′ 6″ tall
  • Total trailer insulated
  • Carriage tie downs for two carriages
  • Extra windows and vents

As you can see, the living quarters is the least amount of space because for the most of the time at a horse event you are outside.  The mandatory items needed are a bathroom with toilet, sink and shower.  Some sort of sleeping arrangement and some way to prepare food.  I chose to have a small refrigerator, a two burner stove top and a microwave, and I refused the oven, because I never saw myself baking at all in the trailer.


I’m sure you have all seen the movie with Ben Stiller, “Night at the Museum”.  Do you remember that scene where the bad guy was driving the runaway horse and carriage and Ben tells him to stop and the driver replies that he can’t without the special word.  At which point Ben hollers out “Dakota” and the horses immediately come to a screeching halt.

Anyone who has experienced a runaway horse and carriage, I am sure wishes that they could have just hollered out “Dakota” and their horse would have stopped.

Anyone who has ridden a horse for any length of time has most likely experienced a runaway horse and carriage to some degree. There are several ways of stopping a horse when you are astride that work fairly well if done correctly.  But for the most part these aids do not relate to the driven horse.  One good example is the one rein circle that works well astride, but if you try that with a carriage horse you will most likely flip your carriage. With the one rein circle, you basically shorten one rein to the point that the horse is turning tightly one direction, thereby, slowing and halting forward motion, this cannot been done within shafts.

First, one must understand the thought process of the horse to be able to stop him when he runs away.  The horse is a flight animal, so when he perceives danger, his thought process tells him to run until he feels that he is out of danger.

A scared runaway horse cannot be stopped by you pulling as hard as you can in a backwards direction on the reins while in a carriage.  This only makes the horse think he has to runner faster and harder, and if he throws his head, he can pull you out over the dash of your carriage.

The most common reactions of a driver when their horse runs away is to:

1) pull on reins

2) scream and yell

3) tense up their muscles throughout their body

4) jump out of carriage

5) jump onto the back of the horse

6) become panicked

7) stand up in carriage in an attempt to get more leverage

And then, there are the want to be helpers that may or may not know anything about carriage horses (DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM):

1) they chase after the horse and carriage

2) they scream and yell

3) they grab at the reins close to the horses head

4) they grab onto the back of the carriage in an attempt to become a brake

5) they run in front of your horse and carriage

6) they stand in front of you and wave their arms

7) then there are the other stupid drivers

The very first thing one should do when they find themselves with a runaway horse and carriage while driving is to continue to drive their horse.  So many drivers are too concerned about stopping their horse, and they forget to drive them.  Even if your horse is frightened, you are still able to guide him if you stay focused and just drive. You as the driver, need to stay calm and not allow panic thoughts to interfere with the job at hand.

Next you need to be sure that you are in the proper position on your carriage seat.  Your back should be against the seat back and your legs should be out in front of you pressed against the slant of the floorboard or the foot rail so that if your horse jerks his head, he will not pull you out over the dash. Keep your shoulders back and stay relaxed so you can keep your balance on the seat.

Now, start squeezing the reins ever so lightly and then release and repeat.  This starts a conversation between you and your horse.  You are telling him that you will not let the big boogie man get him and that everything will be all right. While you are squeezing the reins you need to take deep breaths and let them out as this will help keep you relaxed.

While you are driving your horse through this situation, you need to be aware of where you are going with your horse.  Guide him into any large open area, preferably where there are no other horses or people, do not make any sharp turns or tight circles, for this will tip your carriage.  Stay off of pavement and cement if  possible,  as the horse could slip and fall.

I know this sounds like a lot to process in the moment of a runaway, but if you run all the possible scenarios in your head before you even have a runaway, it will just come automatic.  It is the same as going over what you would do when you are driving your car and another car cuts you off.  It becomes a learned response!

The other major way to both prevent and stop a runaway is proper training of the horse from the ground up.  I train all of my carriage horses to immediately stop when I say whoa.  The whoa that one uses on an everyday basis is just a whoa.  But the whoa that is taught for an emergency is a mandatory, immediate and absolute whoa.  If taught properly, your horse will know the difference between the two.  One must practice the emergency whoa so that your horse knows the difference.  There is no better way to help your horse in a runaway than with proper training from the beginning.

Most runaway horse and carriage situations last only seconds, but I know that in your mind at the time it seems like hours.  I have had several runaways in my career, so I know how it feels.  Staying calm and quiet and talking to your horse through the reins and your voice are the two most important things to remember, and Drive Your Horse!

October 26, 2015

Sailor gets a couple days off before we start getting ready for the next event in two weeks.  I can use a little down time too before learning the dressage test for the Katydid CDE, our last event.

 October 27, 2015

Woke up this morning to showers, cold weather and a phone message from the barn where Sailor is being boarded at.  Now we all know, that is the last call we want to get first thing in the morning from our barn.  On returning the call I was told that Sailor broke out of his outside run and that she found him out grazing in the grass.  But upon checking Sailor out I found a small wound on his lower left leg and then a larger one on his right stifle. Upon investigation I found about a four inch cut and a round puncture wound that I am concerned about.  I am now waiting for a call from a local vet to look and assess the situation.

Finally met the vet at the ranch at about 4:00 pm to check out Sailors cuts.  The one I was concerned about was the one that looked like a puncture but after the vet checking it out, he felt that it would heal just fine without stitches.  So for the next few days I will be cleaning and applying antibiotic cream to the wounds, also he will be on butte for a couple of days for any discomfort.

We still have no idea what happened but we are relieved that he will be fine and that it should all be healed before the next competition.

October 28 – 29, 2015

The rain finally stopped after two days and I was able to take Sailor out for a drive in the arena of the ranch.  He was quite back to his normal self and the leg didn’t bother him at all.  Now if I can just get him to do, at the next show, in dressage what he did for me today here at the ranch, life would be great.

October 30 – October 31, 2015

Since the rain finally stopped yesterday I let the ground dry up before driving today.  It is another beautiful day here in North Carolina.  I was able to get to the stable by 10:00 am this morning to work with Sailor.  GladysAnn’s trainer came over to watch again while I drove him.  It is amazing that when one does not have a knowledgeable ground person, to occasionally watch how you are driving, the bad habits that one can get into without really realizing it.

At home with GladysAnn and Tim in NC with the dogs!

We worked today on a working trot, 40 meter circle on a long rein, for the next dressage we will have to do at Katydid CDE (Combined Driving Event).   Instead of checking Sailor in when his attention goes to something around the arena, I am now using it as a way of focusing the energy to help bring him round and on the bit, and it does work.  Sailor caught on quickly in that if he misbehaved he would have to work harder.  Amazing how that works?  So today’s workout turned into a great teaching lesson for Sailor and for me.

November 1 – November 3, 2015

After rain all day Sunday and Monday I was finally able to do a little with Sailor at the ranch. Was not able to drive him as the ground was so saturated with water so I turned him out in the arena to just noodle around.  He was having none of that so he proceeded to run around, buck, kick up his heels and then rolled in the sand.  I’d say he was getting a little stir crazy.  When he was all done with that I took the chance to brush and comb him out in an attempt to get him a bit ready for the coming CDE.

I am hoping that we will be able to connect the trailer to the truck for a morning departure on Thursday.  It will be about a four hour drive to Aiken South Carolina.

November 4, 2015

Well it’s Wednesday morning and it rained again last night, which means the ground is even more saturated.  We are heading over to the stable at noon to hook up and try to get the trailer onto solid ground.  Will let you all know???

We started with my friends’ trailer as it was parked in her back pasture area since the last competition. It was a slippery and very soggy project but with lots of tenacity and determination we got it hooked up and were able to get it pulled through the saturated ground onto the driveway.  Hurrah one down!

Next came the trailer she uses to haul her mule and carriage on.  Now this was not as hard because the hitch part of the trailer was over the cement so we did not have to get the vehicle onto the soaked ground. Hurrah two down!

Now we headed over to the ranch where Sailor is boarded to hitch up our Dodge one ton dully to our trailer. Now our trailer is larger than both of my friends put together and the ground at the stable was just as soaked.  My plan was to back the trailer along the arena fence which is a bit higher than where we were parked. Then I took a slow and easy first gear in the truck and eased my way to the left of the muddy driveway up onto the hard ground just in front of the barn. Hurrah three down!!!