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Selection Of The Horse
Conformation Of Horses
Disposition Of Horses
Saddlery And Equipment For Horses
Care Of Saddlery And Leather
Feeds And Bedding For Horses
Care Of Horse Feet And Shoeing
In Or Out Of The Stable
Basic Physiology Of Horses
Genetic Considerations Of Horses
( Originally Published 1954 )
If a horse is purchased at a considerable distance from your home, one of various methods may be used to bring him to his destination. The railroads offer several choices. Sending a single horse by express is an expensive and not too satisfactory business. They will probably require that a stall be built and any saving in time on the road is more than offset by fluctuations in temperature, drafts, and the confusion of a general cargo. Expressmen are generally well-meaning but seldom qualified to handle horses, particularly those of a more nervous temperament.
One of the most successful dealers of the East tells me that she almost invariably uses a freight box car instead. Rough stalls are built to accommodate a single horse or any number up to four. The floor is then heavily sanded and well bedded down with straw. Four bales of good hay are placed at the back of each stall, two on the floor and two on top of these. All baling wire is removed and the horse can find ample forage for the duration of even the longest trip. Water is supplied by a barrel, firmly anchored and placed near the door so that railroad employees may refill it as required. A circular partial enclosure of the top of the barrel is made to avoid sloshing and spilling during transit. An attendant is not supplied and the horses usually travel extremely well. Shoes should be removed and bandages will not be required. Inspect the car carefully for protruding nails and projecting boards which might cause trouble.
There is still a third way to ship by rail and that is the special horse car which may be leased upon order. Stalls are ready made and the car will hold somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty horses. Your own attendants may travel with the animals. This method is prohibitively ex-pensive unless the car is well filled, but if a group wish to go together to the same show or event it may be the wisest choice. Before the war we shipped large strings of show horses in this manner and found the speed to be an advantage and the cost per horse reasonable. My last experience with this method was in bringing a new horse approximately twelve hundred miles in company with six race horses who happened to be scheduled for the same trip. The cost was approximately a hundred dollars per horse, probably very little more than a single shipment by freight.
In many parts of the country, particularly those in which the race tracks flourish, one may find firms that specialize in horse shipments by truck. Since they are usually carrying valuable race horses they find it necessary to have first class vans and competent trained drivers. If you can locate such transportation it may have many advantages since the trip from stable to stable can be made. without change. Be sure to investigate the integrity and reputation of any firm which solicits this business. Most of them are careful and reliable, but a few may be fly-by-night outfits that will injure your horse and leave you an impossible task in seeking settlement.
Whenever possible I avoid the individual trucker who hauls general livestock. These men usually have open trucks and spend most of their time hauling pigs, sheep, and cattle to the packing plants. Most of them mean to be careful, but their habits are adjusted to a more lowly cargo and they are likely to give a lone horse a pretty rough trip. In our vicinity we have had one or two notable exceptions who could be depended upon to use every care, but they are not the rule.
Shipping blankets, bandages, and halters will be discussed more fully later in this chapter.
In order to enjoy your horses to the fullest extent it is necessary to have some method of transporting them in your own vicinity and to adjoining cities. As you progress in your riding and training you will find no end of little shows, afternoon gymkhanas, polo games, and even group cross country rides which will be a lot of fun. It is both ex-pensive and impractical to depend upon outside trucking facilities. You may wish to be gone a few hours or several days, and that means you must either pay for the waiting time of the hauler or require two round trips with a double expense. In addition you will find that nearly everyone wants to be moved at the same time and that the supply of adequate shippers will be all too short.
If you do your own hauling you have the choice of a truck or a trailer. The former is limited to those who ship horses enough to justify a special van, and to those who can make the truck "pay its way" by use in business or on a ranch or farm. The initial cost, depreciation, upkeep, and insurance constitute a formidable outlay which is beyond the means of the average person. For this reason I omit any detailed description of horse vans except to say that they should be closed if the weather is inclement, and that the head room must be ample. The size, shape, and other factors will depend upon the make and power of the truck and the space available for the standing of horses.
This brings us down. to the individually owned horse trailer which can be built to fit one's needs and one's purse. It can be parked in the yard or barn when not in use and the upkeep and depreciation will be comparatively low. Most states require a small annual license fee, and be sure that your automobile insurance is written to cover the use of a trailer. The cost of this extra insurance will be very little and it may mean a great deal in the event of accident, even though you are blameless.
Nearly any passenger car can be used to haul horses satisfactorily if the following general rules are taken into consideration. An automobile of the light or low price group -can handle a one horse trailer. A car of the medium size and weight group can handle a light weight two horse trailer if the hills are not too steep or the going too heavy. For heavy, enclosed two horse trailers the safest and most satisfactory power is that supplied by the truly heavy weight models such as the Cadillac or the largest models of the Buick, Chrysler, Packard, etc. It is better to have one of these, even if it is a number of years old.
Even the lightest car may develop the power to pull the heaviest trailer:, but that is only one of the factors to be considered. The trailer load may often equal or exceed that of the car, and the transmission, brakes, and clutch simply aren't made to stand such abuse. In addition there is the important safety factor of the added weight for stability and braking power. I have seen a pair of horses step back in a single axle trailer and lift the hind wheels of a light car off the ground. Since horses must be started slowly and care-fully even on the steepest hills, it is usually the clutch in the car which takes the worst beating, and even with greatest care it will tend to wear out rapidly in the most ruggedly built cars. Recently several forms of automatic transmissions have come into vogue. It is believed that those which shift automatically at certain speed are less satisfactory than those which can be shifted at the will of the driver. The latest innovation is a transmission entirely, without gears, and this seems, in theory anyway, to be ideal. Over two years of using a torque converter has spoiled me for gear shifting.
Before concluding the matter of the motive member of the tandem we must mention the lights and the hitch. Regardless of our original plans we are often forced to haul after dark and proper running lights, tail light and stop light connections must be provided. A double wire can be run from the tail light and stop light connections while the ground to the trailer will. be made through the hitch and the ongue, or better still, by a third wire. The ball and socket type of hitch is by far the most satisfactory and there are many available on the market. The best are those which are made for the large house trailers and they come complete and ready to install on the car and the trailer tongue. Some have a built-in jack and wheel which will take the labor out of lifting a light trailer and make even the heaviest one a simple task to hitch or unhitch. There is no sense in straining your back when a little tool will do the job easily and safely.
When making the hitch for the car never use anything but the most competent workmanship available, preferably in some large and well equipped shop. No weld is any bet-ter than the man who makes it and failure is disastrous. And never, never, use the bumper for the sole attachment of any hitch. It is not strong enough for the task and the leverages put it to severe strain. In some states it is illegal. A heavy piece of channel iron should be welded or bolted to the frame of the car, and lateral or diagonal braces should be added to resist sway. With this accomplished it is then well to incorporate the bumper into the structure by bolts or welding. The construction of cars is so variable that it is impossible o design a standard hitch to fit more than one model. The ball should always be behind the bumper and never on top of it or in front of the end member. Failure to heed this suggestion may result in damage on a tight turn or injury to the deck of the car when backing in preparation to make connection.
Last but not least there must be a strong safety chain connected in such a way that it will remain solid even if the ball and the socket both are dislodged from their moorings. A safety chain is required by law in most states, but my reasons for insisting on one come from more bitter personal experiences. Some years ago I was hauling a friend's trailer. Since it was empty I did not concern myself with the fact that the ball on my car and the socket on his trailer were not mates, and I also overlooked the chain. As I came flying down a steep hill on a major highway, my vehicles parted company and the trailer went crashing across the road and smashed into an embankment. I paid for the repairs and thanked my lucky stars that there wasn't a car coming in the opposite direction at the time. The damage could have been frightful. Only a short time ago a friend of mine was hauling his valuable Arab stallion to an exhibition. Some-one had tampered with his hitch or the chain had been lost. As he pulled up a steep hill in a small town the connection gave way and his load went hurtling backwards down the hill. By a miracle the horse escaped permanent injury, but he was badly bruised and frightened. I am not trying to alarm you and tell you that trailers are an invention of the devil, but only to remind you that eternal attention to little details makes for safety in this, as it does in all things.
There is certainly an advantage in having some sort of roof or closed storage space for your trailer when it is not in use. The construction may be simple, but be sure there is adequate clearance for the top and at the sides. It is not easy to back a trailer at any time, and it is particularly difficult in the dark. For this reason it is wise to allow a much wider space than you would plan for a car or truck. If the trailer is entirely closed, and well made to resist weather, it may be cheaper to let it stand out and spend the money for an occasional coat of paint rather than a shelter.
The majority of trailers on the road today are made in small shops or by a horse owner who has a knack at construction. As a result there is no standardization whatever, and some of the :results are flimsy and made without any true conception of the problems involved. Even some of the Iarge companies which manufacture horse trailers as a business, fall into errors which would never occur if the designers had personally loaded and hauled a lot of different types of horses. The most common errors, other than weak structure, may be generally designated as vehicles "a horse and a half wide and three-quarters of a horse tall."
It is truly surprising the way that metal braces find them-selves in places most likely to do damage to a horse's head if he acts up at all. I have seen one factory group made in such a manner that a front half metal top dropped down at the area above the withers. If a horse threw his head up and backed suddenly (these movements usually go together) there was a more than likely possibility that he would bang his brains out on the iron cross piece.
During the past ten years my friends and I have designed, built, and rebuilt a considerable number of trailers. I think that we have made most of the possible errors somewhere along the line. The following is a summary of what experience has taught. We have to start somewhere so it may as well be from the ground up.
Wheels. These should be sturdy and preferably of the light truck type. The tires should be heavy duty, and this is particularly true if a single axle is used. The size will depend upon the weight to be carried. Calculate the weight per wheel of your loaded vehicle and compare it with the load per wheel of an average passenger car, and then allow a generous safety allowance. A single horse trailer would be satisfactory with one axle carrying 7.00 x 15 tires and wheels to match, while the same trailer would require no more than 6.00 x 15 (or x 16) if two axles are supplied. A light two horse trailer will require truck tires if built with one axle, or 6.50 x 15 passenger tires for a tandem rig. At very heavy trailer had best be made only in the four wheel version, and 7.00 x 15 heavy passenger tires will do very nicely. Wheels may be purchased from a wrecking yard, but the saving is slight. The same is definitely not true of tires or tubes. A blowout in a single axle may be fatal.
Axles and bearings. These should be of heavy type and I prefer that they be new. Old front axles may be obtained from junk yards and the spindles welded for stability. No matter how solid the job looks, one can never be sure that there is not some crystallization in such a part. In the days before so many house trailers, the often made uses of these rebuilt items, but at the present time there are many good trailer axles available at a reasonable price. An axle with a drop center is usually much to be desired since the center of gravity is thereby lowered several inches. I would select a straight axle only if additional clearance were made imperative by rough and rutty roads. In any case there is no point in having more clearance in a trailer than there is in the car which tows it.
Two wheels versus four wheels. This is a much discussed point and one which has been clarified by experiments of the recent years. All of our first trailers had a single axle and they seemed to do so well that most of us did not want to change. The construction is a bit simpler, and certainly much cheaper. A light single horse trailer will ride well with one axle, but even these are made better by the additional axle. I would never again trust two horses to one pair of tires if I could help it. A single axle must be very accurately placed to insure dynamic balance. Changes in speed or the position of the horses will alter this factor rapidly, as will the weight and temperament of the animals being transported. At the start the horses tend to move back and the weight shifts so the back of the trailer goes down and the weight on the rear wheels of the car lightens. At a stop or rapid deceleration the horses first pitch forward and put a heavy weight on the car. Next they try to compensate for the sudden tip and move back with a resultant rocking motion of the trailer floor around the single axle. This alone will frighten inexperienced horses who will scramble forward again and a vicious cycle is set up. If the axle is a few inches behind the ideal center, the riding qualities will be improved, but the weight on the rear of the car will be excessive and the rear springs will sag badly unless overload mechanisms are installed. Even worse is a position which is too far forward. All goes well until at speed the front end of the trailer lifts slightly, the horses tend to move back and the weight on the car hitch becomes zero or even a lift. Without warning a whip and sway will start and you will be lucky to get it under control without an accident, particularly if on a down grade or at high speed. I have had that happen o me just once, but that was enough. Last but not least, a blowout at speed may turn the trailer over suddenly and take the car off the road with it.
Practically all these headaches are eliminated if two axles are installed in tandem, in the manner of the four rear wheels of a six wheel truck. One axle is placed behind the center of balance and the other an equal distance in front of it. The trailer will thus stand level, even when the live load shifts position. A certain fixed amount of weight is sup-ported by the car; or perhaps it is better to say that a constant weight depresses the rear of the car at all times. I like to have several hundred pounds, or about the same amount that two heavy persons riding in the rear seat of a sedan would depress the springs. A tandem trailer does not dip back on a sudden start, and even with sudden braking the forward pitch is minimal. Not only does this make driving safer and pleasanter, but the horses soon acquire confidence in a steady platform and do not pitch, move and worry. With four wheels so close together it is possible to blow one tire with a minimum of disturbance. One of my friends had such an experience and did not know it had happened until he pulled into a stop. Recently I pulled an empty trailer with one flat tire and never knew the difference. Four wheel trailers are definitely not harder to pull, to back, or turn. There will be a little dragging of one pair on a tight turn, but on such occasions the speed is always very slow. On any highway it will be unnoticed.
Some manufacturers have insisted on staggering the wheels so that the pair on one side are a few inches in front of their fellows. This will smooth out bumps and make riding easier on some types of concrete, but I believe that the advantage is offset by the fact that individual spindles are required in place of axles. I do know that some of the first models made had trouble with keeping the wheels in line and free from sag. If spindles are used one must use heavy channel iron braces to give the strength otherwise furnished by axles. Since the base of support is lengthened, the sliding and wear on the tires is appreciably increased, as is the difficulty of making sharp turns.
Springs. My answer is an emphatic not No horse is made unhappy by a little roughness even on a long trip, just so long as the footing under him feels solid. I have hauled hundreds of miles in a day with no apparent ill effect except slight fatigue, and usually the horse looked and acted a lot fresher than I did. Four big tires will give all the cushioning required. Springs are most needed on a rough road and it is there that they are the most dangerous, often starting the horse to pitch and fight. It is particularly true in a two horse trailer which has but one occupant. There are now some airplane type coil springs which will not tip to the weighted side, and are declared to be safe. I have not used them, but I fail to see that they are an appreciable advantage or will justify the extra. cost. Another bad feature of leaf springs is that they raise the center of gravity to a marked degree.
Brakes. Here we have another point which may be settled for you by the laws of your state. In some places all trailers of a weight sufficient to carry even one horse must be so equipped. Where I live they are not required and most of us have avoided them. This is probably due to the fact that the earliest braking equipment for trailers was most unsatisfactory and there was frequent grabbing or locking with resultant severe strain on the trailer hitch and a rather jolting stop. More recently there has been marked improvement in the electric type of brake which is self-energizing; this means that the brake can be applied and it will build up its own gradual amount of pressure. Those who use them have become quite convinced of their merit particularly in hilly regions. They afford an extra factor of safety particularly on wet roads and in all cases where the car pulling the trailer is lighter than it should be. Nearly all large house trailers have this type of brake and you can get further ideas about them from the manufacturers and dealers in this rapidly increasing commodity.
Lights. Running lights, stop light and tail light are essential and reflectors are an added safety factor. Consult your local traffic office for requirements.
Dimensions. There have been more errors in calculating the size of the horse box than in any other single factor in trailer construction. If you go to many shows you will see numerous cramped and horrible contraptions which are enough to upset any but the most placid horses. The people who are associated with western and rodeo events seem to be the worst offenders in this regard. You will find two miserable cow ponies pushed into a space fit for one, and frequently they cannot hold their heads in a normal position while they travel, much less have any room to spare. Just why this is, is hard to understand except that the influence of the lower automobile seems to make people think that they must "streamline" the trailer to match. Some will argue that a high top increases wind resistance and makes them harder to handle. So far as I am concerned this is a fiction based on murky thinking. The riding qualities of a trailer come from the weight, balance, and the lowest practical center of gravity. This last will be governed by the height of the floor above the road surface and by the size and position of the horses. An extra six inches clearance composed of plywood or canvas will be a negligible factor.
Horses vary greatly in weight, height, and general size, but I can see no practical reason for building anything too small to accommodate any saddle horse that you might want to handle. You can never tell when you or your friends may change from little polo ponies to big hunters. If you build for the large mounts they will be comfortable and the small horses will load and handle even more easily because of the added room. An Arab or a polo pony may stand about fifteen hands and weigh less than a thousand pounds, while big hunters may reach seventeen hands and weigh over thirteen hundred pounds. These figures allow sufficient latitude for variations above or below those measurements.
The length of the standing space should be not less than seven feet and preferably nearer eight in outside measurements. With the latter figure it is possible to have tail chains a foot from the tail gate, an advantage which will be discussed later. In addition, there should be not less than two feet in front for head room and a manger. In order to re-duce the overall length this may be in the form of a protruding hood from the manger level, but if travel is on uncrowded major highways it is nice to continue this space to the floor in order to have room to store tack, feed, and buckets. Some of the more elegant trailers even have a small space which may be used as a dressing room: If you wish to have the box full height for the entire length I would advise starting with a floor ten feet long.
Width is a figure frequently arrived at by careless guessing, with a result that one horse is allowed to bounce about or two are squeezed to the danger point. I think the reason for this is that many people have used standard length car axles and made the box as wide as they would accommodate. Make up your mind at once whether you want to carry one horse or two horses, and then build accordingly. It is unnecessary to sate that a properly built double trailer will carry one horse with no difficulty. A single trailer box need not be wider than thirty or thirty-two inches. This will al-low plenty of comfort and will prevent the animal from getting on a diagonal or from being thrown on one side with his legs out from under him. A fifty inch width does nothing but cause trouble and tempt one to squeeze two into it. The proper figure for two horses is sixty inches (outside measurement) . If we deduct an inch for thickness of each side and two inches for the centerboard or bar, we still have enough space for two strapping big horses without making the trailer too wide for narrow highways. With this five foot width the axles must be slightly wider than the conventional car tread, but I have never found this o be a disadvantage.
Materials. The floor should be of heavy tongue and groove hard wood, not less than one and a half inches thick. A nice way to start is to make a rectangular box of four inch angle iron and have it welded at the corners and cross braced several places along the length. The axles can be bolted directly to this structural member and the flooring laid in and bolted. This will allow a flange all around to which the sides and front may be bolted. The rear brace should be arranged so that it will not project above the flooring where the tail gate is fastened.
From this base we may proceed in several ways, each of which has its advantages and problems. The sides and front may be of plywood, sheet metal, or of reinforced aluminum sheeting. Wood is the material of choice for the home builder or for one who must depend upon the local carpenter. Be sure that your plywood is of the waterproof variety or you will find that in a season or two it will split and crack at the seams and edges. Five-eighths thickness is sufficient for a single horse box, but the three-quarters or seven-eighths type is needed for large trailers. Sheet metal re-quires a more complete set of manufacturing equipment, but the results are often very fine and the durability is unexcelled if it is kept free of rusting. Since the late war a few builders have been doing very interesting things with heavy sheet aluminum which is carefully braced outside by steel struts. If I were building another trailer today I think that I would try this design since it combines strength with lightness and unlimited durability.
The inside height is the last dimension to be considered and it is here again that so many go astray. If we consider that a sixteen hand horse is a full five feet at the withers and that his head normally rests about a foot and a half higher, without including the ears, we find that a seven foot clearance is mighty skimpy. I think that seven and a half feet is a far better figure. This works out nicely with ply-wood which usually comes in sheets four by eight feet. If two sheets are set up vertically it will give the ideal length for the standing space and also allow a little extra for the height. Before cutting off the extra length allow for the amount lost below the level of the floor and the lining of the top. The highest point should be above the horses' heads and then there should be a gentle slope to the rear to allow the rain to run off. Do not drop the rear half so much that the entrance makes the horse duck. A low roof in the rear has frightened many horses and is one of the reasons why so many people object to closed trailers. They insist that their horses won't load if there is a roof over their heads and it is no wonder.
The decision as to the top will depend upon the weather in your community and the amount of weight you want to handle. Practically all trailers have a half roof or hood to protect the horses from wind and rain. In Southern California and similar climates this may be all that is necessary, but in most places it is a decided advantage to have a full top. The objection that they are too hot may be easily overcome by judiciously placed ventilators. A half top will provide ample protection during bad weather only so long as the trailer is in motion. As soon as a sop is made the horses be-gin to get soaked as do the floor and any bedding placed upon it. With a big closed trailer one can stop for hours and know that his horses are warm and dry. This is a great ad-vantage if you attend hunts, or shows which are followed by social functions. With a warm blanket and a manger full of hay before him, your hunter will be content to stand there and rest while you go on about your business.
If you wish to reduce both your cost and your weight I advise making the sides several feet lower and then fastening a heavy canvas over bent U-shaped braces made of strap iron or light pipe. Be sure to carry the walls straight up to the desired height and then make a relatively sharp bend. Braces made in a semicircle, in the manner of the old covered wagon, reduce the clearance at the outer side of each horse's head and save nothing in total height or material. Faulty top braces are exceedingly common. If you live in a warm climate have the canvas so made that it is snapped or laced to the sides along the rear two-thirds of the length. If this is done it is possible to roll the canvas forward and have an open trailer at will. The chief trouble with any canvas top is that it will wear and rot out in a season or two and replacement will be frequent, especially if the trailer is not stored when not in use.
For the ultimate in satisfaction in the two horse trailer I favor a complete roof made of metal and an angle iron square at the top in a manner similar to the one at the bottom only much lighter. It adds materially to the strength of the box. In order to reduce noise and heat the sheet metal can be laid over a light layer of plywood covered with a tarred piece of burlap. As a final touch an inner layer of plywood can be put in with an inch of airspace above it and a molding around the sides. This will give a neat appearance and eliminate any danger of injury on bolts or projecting braces.
If the sides are of wood, the two front corners should be braced with two inch angle iron and the rear corners should be supported by iron braces from beneath the floor. At the junction of two pieces of plywood an iron strap at least three inches wide is needed. Throughout the entire construction bolts rather than nails should be used.
The tail gate should be in one solid piece and sturdily attached by a rod and strap hinge that runs the entire width. Remember that you may have several thousand pounds standing on the gait at one time, since it makes the entry ramp. The surface may be made of the same material as the floor, or out of a sheet of the heaviest plywood. In either case it should be reinforced with ample steel bracing. A few wooden cleats will prevent slipping during loading.
Exit doors should be provided at the sides so that the loader can get out once his charges are tied in place. This is particularly essential in a closed trailer, since after your horse or horses are in you are standing at their heads with no way of escape except to crawl over them. I once had a pair of sensible old hunters who would walk in quietly and then permit the to scramble up their necks and crawl over the side via their backs. A lot of horses are not so cooperative, and if they start a struggle you may find yourself in a very tight spot. In any case such an exit is hard on clothes and energy. With properly placed doors it is often possible to unload by simply reaching in and unsnapping the chain after a lead strap has been attached. A few trailers have been designed to unload at the front. This large door weak-ens the structure unless very heavily braced and the average horse will back out more easily than he walked in.
The manger should set forward of the front of the standing space and should be high enough to touch the horse at the neck. As an additional protection, the front of the trailer should have a crash pad to protect the knees and chest in case of a sudden stop, or even to keep a horse from bumping his knees when pawing. A simple way to make such a bumper is to obtain an old coton mattress such as the one used on the army cot. When cut in half it will cover the entire area and it can then be covered with a single layer of canvas. Have the pad as high as the wall of the manger, but do not extend beyond six inches from the floor. If it is lower than this the horses will cut it with their shoes and it will become soiled by bedding and manure.
A two horse trailer should be divided in the center by either a full partition or a heavy wooden bar at the height of the middle of the body. The full board is better if you have a horse who is inclined to kick, but the high bar will keep most horses in place and allow them a little more room for their feet. In general I think the full board is best, but in my present trailer I was forced to take it out and substitute the bar because one of my horses developed the habit of leaning on the side and trying to scramble up the center-board at every turn no matter how slight. He had once been frightened in a trailer accident in which he had slipped and cut himself. Strangely enough he quieted immediately when the centerboard was removed.
Horses should be held in front by a stout chain and the heaviest possible snaps. Some horses never give up the habit of trying to pull back at times and nothing encourages them like finding that something will break if they struggle long enough. The average cast iron halter rope snap is utterly worthless, and I have seen nasty accidents when they broke before everything was in readiness for unloading. In a two horse trailer the chains should come from the sides and the length adjusted so that the horses have freedom to eat in the manger but cannot reach over and bite their mates on the neck.
A tail chain is of great value in many ways. It should be heavy and with a strong snap at each end. In the two horse box it is fastened through the rear end of the centerboard and thus holds it in place after loading. Incidentally any center partition should be fastened on a hinge at its front so that it may be moved from side to side in order to facilitate loading. The chains should be covered with rubber tubing and nothing is better than a section of a discarded bicycle tire. The height of this member is most important, and it should be approximately six to eight inches below the prominent point of the buttocks. If it is too high it will rub the tail, and if it is too low it may frighten a horse badly by pushing his hind legs out from under him if he backs into it. With two horses the chains are particularly useful since one can be loaded and securely held in place while the other is loaded or unloaded. Many horses will develop the habit of pulling back the minute the tail gate is dropped and this usually is stopped by the additional restraint. If horses are left free in a trailer many of them tend to move back as far as possible and practically sit on the tail gate. The result is that many will end a trip with a badly rubbed and raw tail and sometimes even sores on the buttocks. If the chain holds them about a foot forward, all this trouble is eliminated, as is the damage to hocks which may occur if they get restless and try to kick.
In discussing; trailers I have tried to stick to general principles rather than give specific specifications of a single type. So much depends on the owner's particular needs, and his funds and facilities. If you buy a trailer ready-made I would suggest that you examine it critically in the light of these recommendations and then give it an actual road test before you conclude the deal.
The problems of hauling horses by trailer are greatly simplified if the animals will load and unload without a struggle or excitement. The average horse will learn readily if the same patience and perseverance are used in this as in all matters pertaining to horsemastership. A few high strung` ones will cause trouble indefinitely, but a careful analysis will show some basic error of handling of most of these unless they are of a hopelessly unstable mental makeup. One of the common mistakes is to defer training until the last minute and then to force loading just before the trip must be made.
Hook the trailer to a car before you start or you may have an uncalculated upset if the horse climbs on the tail gate of an unfastened vehicle. Allow him to walk around it and let him stop, sniff, and satisfy himself that all is well. Next try to get him to put his front feet on the ramp. If he is frightened let him try it again and again, encouraged by the voice and by carrots or sugar. This is the critical period of training and may make or break your future success. Avoid punishment if possible. I have seen an expert of the old rancher's school load a frightened range horse by the method of gently lifting one front foot and advancing it a couple of inches, to be followed by a similar action on the opposite side. This method seems as long as a chess game to the casual observer, but it usually works if the horse is not hopelessly frightened before the start. If a horse is stubborn, rather than terrified, lie may be urged along by having two men clasp hands behind his rump and gently hoist him forward.
A rope may be fastened to the side of the trailer and looped behind the hindquarters, but it takes tact and strength to use it properly. As soon as the horse finally moves in make a fuss over him and reward him with carrots and a manger full of choice hay or grain. He will soon learn that there is nothing to fear. Let him stand awhile and then back him out quietly. It is best not to tie him the first time and let him get out if he will. After it is all familiar he should be reloaded and tied so firmly that nothing will break if he does start a struggle. He then learns that a trailer is not to be feared and at the same time that a tie means business. Do not make the mistake of taking him on a trip the first few times; it is better to allow him to go in and out and eat.
One of my friends has an excellent idea for his young stock. He moves, a trailer into the paddock and blocks it in a solid position. He then fills it with hay and lets the colts learn to go in by themselves as they follow the hay toward the front. By the end of a few weeks they are climbing in and out as if it were simply another stall.
If you have a two horse trailer the problem is much simpler. If you load a steady old horse first, his green stable-mate usually will walk in beside him with little trouble. And take them both on the first few trips. When you unload always take out the green or nervous one first or he may start a struggle when his stablemate appears o be leaving him alone. Most of my horses have caused me very little trouble, but I have one high strung Thoroughbred mare who puts up a battle and usually tries to pull back. On the other hand I can put her stablemate in first and then I must hurry to get out of the way before she climbs in be-side him without even a lead from me.
A few items of protective equipment are essential for safe hauling, no matter how short the trip. A high percent-age of accidents occur in the first few minutes of a trip and it is then that the ounce of prevention comes into action. The halter should be exceedingly strong and not the light show type which may be used upon arriving at your destination. Probably the stoutest halter of all is the cheap sash cord variety which is available at nearly all stores and is used by dealers who must supply a halter with even the cheapest sale. Its only objection is that it may cut or burn the skin at the poll or on the bridge of the nose. This can be prevented by installing a felt or leather covered felt head bumper with the crown ropes passing through the loops made for that purpose. Not only does this eliminate the danger of a chafed spot but it protects the top of the head and forehead in case the horse rears and strikes the top. The rope over the nose should be wrapped with soft flannel bandage and if a piece of soft leather is laced over the pad-ding it will be permanent.
The most common injury is a wound of the coronary band of the hind legs. Most horses are shod with heel caulks behind, and in trying to balance they frequently put a sharp spike into the opposite foot as they shift back and forth. It does very little good to put a bandage on in the conventional manner, even if a layer of cotton is placed underneath, since the cotton will tear away at the bottom and leave the most vulnerable spot exposed. A cheap and efficient protector can be made in the following manner. Obtain a quilted cotton mattress pad at any department store or filch an old one from the household. Cut it into sixteen inch squares and bind the edges with bias tape. Anyone handy with a sewing machine can do this for you in a few minutes. Wrap one around each hind leg with the overlap at the front, and the bottom edge as low as possible without having it trail on the ground. Hold it in place with the regular tubular leg bandage, wrapping well down to the top of the hoof. Tie securely with a double bow or fasten with a big safety pin.
A bandage of this type gives a lot of protection and it will last indefinitely. It will outlast many rolls of ordinary cotton and it has the added feature of launderability.
On long trips I usually bandage the front legs in the same manner, but this is more for support than protection. Some horses will travel for years without ever hurting themselves but others seem destined for trouble. If you study your horses you will soon learn by their way of handling themselves whether protectors all around are advisable.
If you do much shipping it is a good investment to buy regular felt shipping boots. They are more easily and quickly put in place and they offer the best protection if they are properly made. The best ones come in two pieces which are joined together. The upper one conforms to the leg while the small lower piece straps around the hoof and pastern. They are obtainable at all the better major saddle shops, or perhaps your local repairman can cut a pair for you.
If your horse is not held away from the tail gate by a chain it is wise to wrap the tail also. Put a few pins through the bandage or it will slip down in short order. Leather tail protectors are also on the market if you need them. Blankets will depend entirely upon the weather at the time of any given trip. In the summer I usually use none at all but I carry along a light sheet in case a chilly night overtakes me. In rainy weather a waterproof blanket, or a rain sheet over the regular blanket, is needed unless the trailer is entirely enclosed. When it is quite cold the regular winter stable blanket can be used but it is nicer and more comfortable to have a wool cooler which covers the neck as well. It should be held in place by a body roller. Wool is particularly helpful if your horse comes in from a ride or hunt and is still damp from rain or sweat.
With your horses and tack safely loaded the trip begins and a few words are in order concerning the actual driving. They are pretty well covered by Newton's ancient observations concerning bodies in motion. As near as I can recall he propounded the theory that "a body remains in a state of rest or motion until acted upon by some external force." A horse is no philosopher but lie obeys these laws rather thoroughly. He will ride very happily so long as the state of rest or motion continues, but he protests emphatically when the "external forces" begin to work suddenly. If you start and stop slowly, the ultimate speed seems to make absolutely no difference and I have often followed trailers travelling at excessive rates and noted that the passengers were quietly munching their hay. A sharp turn or a sudden twist is quite another matter. Forty miles an hour is not unreasonable on a straight open highway, but all turns and curves must be taken with due forethought and caution. With the extra load your acceleration and deceleration are more than doubled and all attempts to pass another car require full consideration of that factor, particularly at night. It is a sad but true fact that other drivers will show you absolutely no courtesy and will frequently cut around you and then slam on the brakes. For this reason never travel so close to the preceding car that someone will put you in a tight squeeze when they pass. Heavy trucks are a particular problem. They will slowly groan up a hill and make it impossible to get by and then upon reaching the crest will start down at a terrific rate, only to block you at the next rise. If you get into one of these traffic jams you may save both time, and disposition by pulling out for a cup of coffee until the situation clears. It is amazing how much horses will stand when they learn to have confidence in their conveyance- and its driver. It is not hard for a good driver to learn to handle a trailer safely and well, and, regardless of the hazards, horses will usually be safer with the man who owns and loves them than with a stranger.