Friday, 29 April 2016

Trailering Skills

I'm not a fan of hauling horses. I find it stressful and tiring because I am always hyper vigilant. I can't handle hearing about trailer collisions or rollovers (especially rollovers) at ALL, because I have such a visceral reaction and can far too easily imagine that happening to me. If I accidentally come across such a story while looking at other stuff on the internet, I must immediately shut my whole browser down so there is no chance of my seeing an image that might become burned into my mind and haunt me for all of eternity.

That said, I have to admit that I have gained some trailering skills.

Hooking Up

I have an extra long SUV (the tank!) with no back-up camera, and haul bumper-pull trailers. That's not the easiest combination for lining the ball up under the hitch. Some of the most competent haulers I know still use one person backing up, and one person signalling, and it takes a couple tries to get it in the right place.

My tank and trailer on the right

I rarely ever have a second person, so I have developed my own system where I can hook up by myself, with only jumping out of the tank 3 times to sight my line and judge distance. It used to take me jumping out 7 or 8 times, and driving forward to adjust a couple times, but now I can reliably do it with only 3 checks (occasionally only 2).

From start to finish, I can fully hook up a trailer in less than 10 minutes, including lining up the tank, and checking lights and brakes.

I can do it in less than 15 minutes even if you give me a truck and trailer that I haven't ever used before.


I certainly must give Kachina most of the credit for this one, as she is generally great at loading. But even when she is at her most resistant, I can load in less than 10 minutes and handle securing all dividers, doors, etc. in a safe, Pony Club approved order, completely by myself.


This is probably the easiest part. I first towed a horse trailer at age 16 (did the driving part, but had my Dad to help with all the other parts back then). Doing gradual acceleration, deceleration and turning takes a bit of getting used to, but it is mostly second nature to me now. I also know exactly how much I have to slow down for at least a dozen rail crossings in the area so that the trailer doesn't bump too much (unfortunately, the answer for the one on the highway closest to the barn is 5km/hour max).

Backing Up Trailer

This was the part that took me the longest to get. For years of hauling, I would fervently hope that I could pull through at my destination and wouldn't have to back up the trailer. I would sometimes park in the furthest edge of the field at shows so that I had more room to maneuver. If I did have to back up in a tight space, I would hope that I had lots of time and that there was nobody watching (please let nobody see me!) because it might take a million corrections and it was very possible that I would make a dumb move at some point and get myself into an even worse position than when I started. I didn't haul very often so I never really got better.

Then, for one year, I hauled to another barn for a lesson every single week. And every week after my lesson, I would have to park my trailer back in its spot, which meant backing it up to a fence between two other trailers. This was absolutely the ideal way for me to learn: I had quite a bit of room to maneuver in front of the spot, but had to eventually get it into a narrow slot. My lessons were late in the evening so by the time I was parking the trailer, my barn would be dark and deserted with nobody to watch me fail. I always unloaded Kachina and put her back in her pen before parking the trailer, so I didn't have to worry about her. The first few weeks, it took a lot of corrections and screw ups for me to park the trailer, and it would still end up crooked. However, as the weeks went on, I steadily got better. I learned how the trailer moved relative to the tank. My number of adjustments slowly went down and I could park it better.

Parked perfectly (though there was no trailer on the other side this week)

The culmination of my trailer backing journey was after the show two weeks ago. I had been driving my friend's trailer, so I had to park it at her barn. After unloading, K's husband jumped in the truck with me to "help" me park and unhook the trailer. I drove up to the spot, and backed the trailer into the space in a line of other trailers, off an awkwardly angled road, on the very first try. I saw a momentary look of surprise on K's husband's face and to me it looked like victory!

I've never tackled a gooseneck, four-horse or living-quarters trailer though, that can be the next challenge!

How are your hauling skills?


  1. I can reliably put a bumper pull exactly where I want it, but I got my GN almost 2 years ago and I'm just starting to feel comfortable backing it up!

    1. Wow, I had heard that goosenecks were easier than bumper pulls, good to know that they aren't!

    2. I think if I hadn't spent over 10 years backing up bumper pulls first it would have been easier. My default is to try and maneuverer it like a bumper pull and that just doesn't work

  2. I think it is a matter of what you are used to. Because I am decent with a gooseneck (rusty now) but terrible with a bumper pull.

    1. Makes sense. I should maybe find a gooseneck to practice with.

  3. I learned to haul with a gooseneck and felt very confident in my ability to hook up, drive, and back up with it. Then I switched to a bumper pull- it's been a learning curve! It hauls really well and I can hook up okay, but I'm still learning to back it up! Like you, I park it between two trailers in a relatively narrow spot. I'm slowly improving, but it's a process.

  4. Can I just say, horsewomen show a level of competence and bad-assery that is hard to beat, not everyone can say that they can handle a large truck and trailer with large living animals inside. You should all give yourselves a pat on the back =-D