Horse Trailering Checklist

By Terry Golson

My previous post talked about what I do to keep Tonka happy about trailering. I left out one, hugely important item. For him to get on willingly, ride without fuss, and exit calmly, I also have to be happy, and for that I need to feel confident and competent driving my rig.

This photo shows how I’ve achieved my goal: after a forty-minute drive in the rain, this is how relaxed we both are.


I didn’t grow up on a farm, comfortable with tractors and such, and being behind the wheel of a rig, with precious cargo inside, made me very nervous. So, after I purchased my pickup and trailer, before I ever loaded Tonka up, I spent hours driving it. Country roads and highway. Backing up in the post office parking lot on Sunday. When I could park my trailer into its designated spot at the farm, I felt ready to take Tonka places.


But, I still worried, and rightly so. There’s a multitude of steps that have to be attended to before one drives off. Steve is an engineer and I’m a detail-oriented person. We came up with a checklist. I keep it in my truck. I use it EVERY time I haul my horse. (For more about how checklists can improve – and even save – lives, read this book.)


My list includes what you’d expect.

Check the tires.


Check brakes.


There’s a box to tick off for each of these cables.


Before leaving, I check under the trailer.


You never know where there will be a cat.


Even though at this point the process has become routine, I still use the checklist. For one thing, it keeps me from worrying as I drive down the road, did I really clip the pin? and other such niggling thoughts.

The Departure Checklist is really important after a long day at a show, when I’m tired and ready to get home. I skipped it once, and didn’t check off trailer interior items secure. They should look like this.

I hadn’t hooked on the bungy cords. Luckily, the shovel didn’t hit Tonka when it fell on the way home.

There’s an Uncoupling Checklist, too. Also useful. The one time I ignored it, I drove off with the hitch cover on the bumper and lost it on the highway. This is the replacement. (Found it on Zazzle. Cute, huh?)


When I do follow the checklist, I know that all of the details are taken care of. I drive better without worrying that I’ve missed something. Tonka arrives at our destination in good shape. We do whatever it is we’re doing away, and then we head home. Sometimes we have something tangible to show for it!


Here’s my checklist. Use it as a starting point to make your own. Each rig is different, so do customize it for yourself. Let me know what you put on yours.

trailer checklist

I also have checklists for what to bring to shows. I really need one for trail rides, too. I once forgot my stirrups!

2 thoughts on “Horse Trailering Checklist

  • Gin

    I don’t have a checklist, I have a routine, but I do all that you have that pertains to my rig. A checklist isn’t a bad idea, I’ve been doing this so long it is second nature, which means I could forget something. I also do a final walkaround after loading the horses, leaving home and at the trailhead when headed home.
    Very good post on happy horse trailering, For some reason I couldn’t post a comment there.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Yep, it’s when I get over-confident and complacent that I lose things on the highway (there was once that girth that I left to dry on the tailgate…) I’ll check into the glitch on the previous post. Maybe I changed the setting by mistake? Thanks for your comment!

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