Consideration for horse-haulers urged

Posted June 15, 2012, at 3:17 p.m.

Not so many years ago, horses were the mode of transportation. Whether ridden or driven, the horse provided humans with the means to cover distance quickly. If a traveler was lucky enough to have a smooth-gaited horse, that distance was covered comfortably as well.

Now, horses are mainly used for recreational riding (by people descended of those with the comfortable horses) and vehicles have taken over the transportation requirements. In fact, vehicles are now used to move horses from place to place.

Horses are being flown in from all over the world to compete in the Olympic Games in London this summer. More regionally, horses travel in trailers specifically built for their safety and comfort. People will put their horses in a trailer, haul them to a horse show, race or to a national park for a day’s riding, ride them, and then put them back in the trailer to go home again.

It may seem backward to drive a horse somewhere to ride it, but the lack of open space or trails available to a lot of horse owners means they have to travel. Trailering horses is not purely recreational, but often necessary. Horses may need to be taken to a veterinarian, or to a new stable when sold, or to a competition.

Driving a vehicle pulling a horse trailer presents challenges that aren’t an issue when trailering other items. Motorcycle riders don’t have to worry about their bikes possibly starting a fight with one another in the trailer. When driving a vehicle pulling a trailer, the driver is responsible for delivering the horse in the same condition as it was when it left the barn. That means highway speeds may have to be reduced. Turns have to be maneuvered slowly to give the horse time to readjust its balance. The same goes for braking and accelerating. A careless driver who turns too quickly or sharply or waits until the last second to apply brakes can cause the horses to fall and be injured. At the least, horses that receive a rough ride may refuse to get in that trailer the next time it is requested.

In order to understand a horse’s predicament, take a ride in a horse trailer sometime. Not on a public road, that’s illegal, but even just back and forth in the driveway will serve the purposes of this assignment. It’s like having to stand up in the back of a moving minivan blindfolded.

The horse has to learn to balance laterally and longitudinally with no forewarning of turns, or changes in speed. Considerate horse trailer towers will ease into stops and turns, and gradually accelerate giving the horse time to adjust and balance. Unfortunately, this consideration isn’t always available.

Too many times, other drivers will hurry to pull out in front of a horse trailer, afraid that they will get stuck behind a slow moving vehicle. What those drivers don’t realize is that a truck and trailer can not stop quickly.

Like a tractor-trailer, a vehicle towing a horse trailer has tremendous weight and it takes time to stop that weight. Following a horse trailer may slow down the commute slightly but passing opportunities will arise and sometimes the trailer driver will pull over, if that can be done safely, and allow traffic to go by. If passing is not an option, patience is required. Honking the horn, tailgating and other aggressive maneuvers will only agitate the horses in the trailer causing the driver to have to travel even slower. Mission: failed.

As horse people hit the roads in order to hit the trails, they will as much as possible, travel at a socially acceptable and legal speed. However, due to the cargo being volatile, there will be times when the horse trailer has to go slow. If everyone on the roads practices consideration for the other occupants, travel will go smoothly for us all.

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