Nightmare In The Horse Trailer
By Eleanor Blazer
It's been over 40 years but I remember the sight and sounds as if it were yesterday.
We were at a horse show, and I was grooming a horse as it stood tied to the trailer.
Suddenly screaming interrupted the normal sounds of people preparing for the first classes. People quit what they were doing and ran in the direction of the screams.
My parents and I were some of the first to arrive.
We came around the back of the trailer that had just arrived, and inside was a palomino. The horse had broken through the floor boards and a hind foot looked like it had been ground off. There was blood everywhere. My dad grabbed me and pulled me away...but not before I had seen the horror, and it was embedded in my mind forever.
To this day I am a fanatic about the trailer floor and you should be, too.
Trailer floors take a lot of punishment. They have to support horses that weigh over a half of a ton. Urine, manure, road dirt and salt deteriorate the structure. Support beams are being corroded, aluminum is oxidizing and wood planks are rotting.
Inspect the trailer floor at least once a year.
If the trailer has stall mats, these should be removed. Lifting the corner of a mat and looking at the easiest part of the floor to view is not a thorough inspection. Yes, they are heavy and they are hard to get back in, but protecting your horse from pain and death is worth the effort.
If the trailer has a wood floor, use a screwdriver or knife and stick the tool in the planks at various places. Be sure to pay close attention to the area along the walls where urine and manure tend to accumulate.
Inspect the boards. Are they spaced evenly? (They should be about a quarter of an inch apart.) Some trailer manufactures do not fasten floor boards to the support beams, and if they shift a large gap can develop. Are the boards firmly resting on the supporting rails and beams?
Crawl under the trailer. Use the screwdriver or knife and check the integrity of the boards from the bottom. While you're under there inspect the cross-members, welds and frame. Notice if there is any pitting, broken welds, rust or corrosion that has compromised the strength of the material.
If the wood planks are soft and crumbling; if they do not fit properly, if the support structure is weak the trailer should be condemned and not used until it is repaired.
A common misconception regarding aluminum floors is that they are more resistant to urine and manure when compared to wood. But urine is highly acidic and creates oxidation when it comes in contact with aluminum. Over time the aluminum floor will pit and become weak. Do not put off inspecting the trailer because it has an aluminum floor.
Regardless of the type of floor in your trailer, routine cleaning and inspection is not to be neglected. Remove all manure as soon as the destination is reached. After every use pull out the mats, hose off the floor and allow it to dry before replacing the mats.
The horse at the show was euthanized. My dad told me the shock prevented him from feeling pain, but I know better. The trauma and fear the horse endured during that trailer ride has haunted me for years. Please don't let it happen to your horse.