By Julia Latham
Is your horse float registered and up to Warrant of Fitness standard? Just because it has a current WOF sticker does not necessarily mean that it is legal or safe to use on the road.
Prior to backing in and hooking up your vehicle/trailer, check that the tow ball is compatible with the hitch receiver on the float. There are two trailer tow ball/hitch sizes used in New Zealand. This is generally stamped into the top of the tow ball. The tow ball and the hitch receiver must be the same size.
Also stamped into the ball is the Maximum Tow Weight Rating. For example, 1200 kilograms means that your loaded float can weigh no more than 1200 kilograms. Given that an average double horse float weighs 800-1000kg empty and an average hack weighs 300-400kg then a heavier rated tow ball may be necessary.
With the average float costing between $5,000 to $10,000 (many a lot more) plus the value of your horse (although your horse may be priceless if he is one in a million) there is a lot riding on a tow ball, especially in an emergency!
Now that your satisfied the tow/hitch is correct go ahead and back your vehicle in and hook it up, ensuring that the hitch locks down securely onto the ball.
Ensure the one or two chains are attached for safety in case there is a problem with the main hitch. The safety chains and shackles should be ‘rated’ and approved and attached separately to the vehicle. The double chains should be crossed over.
Plug in the light connector ensuring it is long enough to allow for turning corners but not dragging on the ground. Some Loom Tube or old garden hose can be used to protect the cable from stone damage.
Get some help and activate all the lights, indicators, brakes and confirm they are all working on your float. Often a poor connection or earth is responsible for faulty or intermittent trailer lights.
Does the float move freely? Brake or wheel bearing issues commonly occur after a trailer has been stationary over winter.
Check the tyre tread for depth and uneven wear and most importantly, check the pressure. Tyre pressure on a trailer should be 30-40 psi depending on the weight of the load. A tyre that looks alright now may be underinflated once the weight of the horses are loaded. Remember to check the spare tyre.
Does your vehicle jack/wheel brace fit the float/wheel nuts? Check all the wheel nuts are tight.
A good idea after winter is to lubricate all the door hinges, latches, catches with a bit of oil or CRC. Horse manure and urine is highly corrosive.
Check that the floor of your float is sound and there are no rotting or soft areas. Also check there are no protruding screws or fasteners anywhere inside or out of the float. Get any loose rivets or fasteners replaced.
If you are satisfied that your horse float is serviceable and ready for the new season both you and your horse should be able to travel safer and with less stress.
Remember while towing to always drive with your horses welfare in mind at times.