Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Things I wish other drivers knew about hauling horses

My bumper sticker, now on order.
To my fellow horse-owning-and-hauling friends, this will be preaching to the choir. To my non-horse-owning-and-hauling friends (and I do have a few), please help pass the word to other non-horsie people and help me prevent trailer accidents.

All of us who haul horse trailers have stories and pet peeves. We even have fantasies of trailer-mounted weapons to deal with the idiocy that surrounds us while we attempt to safely haul our horses wherever we may be going. People cut us off. People tailgate. People flip us off when they pass us because they assume we're deliberately making their journey take longer.

Unfortunately, this can and does lead to tragedy.

As many in the horse community already know, Pollard Eventing--a prominent training team in the eventing world--lost three of their horses in a trailer accident over the weekend. Someone pulled out in front of them and there was no way the driver hauling the horses could stop in time. The trailer flipped over with six horses inside, one horse died at the scene and two more were euthanized over the weekend due to complications from the wreck.

This gives me nightmares. When I think of trying to get Bar and Lena out of a trailer lying sideways without causing any of us more harm, I can barely imagine how that might work. I hope I never have to find out. When I think of losing either of them, my heart squeezes in my chest and--yes--I have to blink back tears and think of something else.

But to lose my horses because someone else did something stupid? Because so many people do not understand the mechanics of towing a trailer--how that mass affects your speed, stopping distance and ability to correct on the fly? I honestly do not know how I would ever forgive that person--and that's assuming they made it safely away from the accident scene.

I've posted about this before, but here are some things I wish other drivers knew about what it's like to haul horses. (Feel free to add to my list in the comments field.)
  1. We have to drive the lower posted speed limit because we are hauling a trailer. I'm not getting a speeding ticket just because you're in a hurry.

  2. We are hauling live creatures in that metal box and we'd like them to be in good moods when we get where we're going. 1,200 pounds of cranky horse is not entertaining, let alone double or triple that. They are balancing inside, constantly compensating for the movement of the trailer, and driving like Mario Andretti makes that hard for them, which upsets them, can lead to injuries within the trailer and future trailer loading issues--all of which can be avoided by gentle driving practices.

  3. Rocketing around corners is both dangerous and nearly physically impossible. Not to mention it affects the aforementioned live creatures and leads to number two above. Passing us on the inside of the curve is stupid and dangerous, but if you insist, be sure you hit the oncoming traffic instead of our trailer. We might even forgive you for hitting the truck as long as the horses are okay, but no guarantees since we love the truck, too.

  4. We have to speed up slowly. Peeling out is unwise--even if we have the truck to do so--again for reason number two above. 

  5. We need more room to slow down than you do in your sports car. A LOT more room. We can slam on the brakes, sure, but when you pull out in front of us, you better accelerate so we don't have to choose between hitting you and slamming the horses around or (worse) jack-knifing the trailer. You, by the way, will be on the losing side of that choice should we have to make it. If there isn't enough room for you to accelerate, DON'T try to pull in front of us. That three-to-four-second long space in front of us is there for  a reason--actually, two reasons in our case, Bar and Lena. Please be coherent enough to notice the size of the trailer behind the truck and calculate additional space needed for us to stop that rig. If you are unable to calculate it, DON'T pull out in front of us.

  6. Tailgating will not make us drive faster AND it makes you harder for us to see if you're that close to the trailer so we may not notice you if and when we come to a pull out. If it is safe to pull over, believe me, we will. If it's not, we won't. We're not deliberately trying to slow you down, I promise. 

  7. If you have any doubt, don't "go for it" and risk an accident. It's not worth it. 
Really, I think everyone out there should try hauling something at least once so they can feel the way the weight affects the handling of the vehicle. Doesn't have to be a horse trailer, not really. To really get a taste of it, put your kids, friends, dogs, cats--cats would be a great example--in a trailer and drive how you think we should be driving. Then open up that trailer and see just why we drive the way we do.

Be sure to let me know how that goes for you, especially if you use cats.


Suzanne said...

Well put! Well put! Thanks for the PSA! I could not believe what happened to the Pollards and that thought haunted me everytime I took the trailer out this weekend.

lmel said...

As Suzanne said--very well put! After reading about the Pollards horses, I thought if it were me--my God, how would I deal with my horses in such an event. My heart goes out to them, and I have to admit, nothing but pure anger at the other driver! I deal almost weekly with idiots behind wheels approaching me on horseback and barely giving me a yard of room.
And to all you drivers--Part of your drivers test should have been passing horseback riders, and pulling a trailer--see what it's really like before you flip me off or cruise too close to my horse. And while you're at it--hang up the phone.

Sarah said...

What an excellent bumper sticker, and an excellent post. Miles, I'm sorry to say, has never left the farm since the day he arrived. I can only imagine the stress I would feel if we were trailering regularly. Good for you for spreading the word and keeping our equine souls safe!