I first wrote this blog in May of 2012, after the devastating loss of eventer Michael Pollards horses after a trailer accident, when an impatient driver pulled in front of his trailer. Over the course of 3 days, he lost 3 of the 6: less than 5 miles from home, VDL Ulando was killed at the scene. Judes Law and Icarus were dead within 2 days from their injuries. I had seen Michael guiding Icarus or Fly as he was known by around Ocala a few weeks earlier and they were aiming for the Olympics later that summer in London.
Not long after, Michael and Nathalie Pollard and their groom, Katie Thorton, discussed the accident in a radio podcast, which no longer exists. I don’t know how they did it, but they talked about the accident itself, including the condition of the shipping boots, which were down around the horses ankles and looked like they had been sliced with razor blades. They mention that all horses had lost their halters. They discuss how they extracated the horses from the wreckage, the injuries sustained and how the trailer industry needs to make changes to protect our valuable cargo.
First off, they mention that all the horses were wearing shipping boots. Not bandages, something they regret.
Do you ship your horses barelegged? Do you use shipping boots? Or shipping bandages?
For years, I always shipped in bandages. Then, I moved to a barn, where I was the only one who wrapped legs when trailering to horseshows, and I always felt that I was holding everyone up while they waited for me to wrap my horse’s legs. So I switched to shipping boots. The thing about shipping boots, is that yes, they are faster to apply and save time. They also cover the hocks. And they were easy…my daughters were able to master applying shipping boots long before they mastered wrapping. But none of my horses liked them. They are stiff. They are hot. They don’t like them covering their hocks. And unless you buy the very expensive brands, they will slip and slide down, making for a potentially dangerous situation.
Eventually, I returned to shipping bandages. My daughters learned to wrap. Through trial and error, I learned which materials I liked and which I didn’t ( I prefer the flannel extra long stable bandages to the knit ones, and quilted-back wraps. I do not like the no bows). My horses do not get into the trailer, no matter how short the ride, without being wrapped. Michael’s accident occurred less than 5 miles from home. Remember what you learned in Drivers Ed? The majority of accidents occur within 25 miles of home.
If you don’t know how to wrap, DON’T!!! An improperly wrapped horse is an injury waiting to happen. You can harm the tendons or the wraps can come undone and cause the horse to panic if he gets wrapped up in them. And if you do wrap, do so in a manner that the bulb of the heel is covered! It is useless to wrap a horse and stop at the fetlock. Learn the difference between a shipping bandage and a stable bandage! My biggest issue with bandages is their size. They typically come in 12″, 14″ and 16″. For taller horses, 16″ is not enough to extend from the bulbs to just below his knees or hocks. I like that the U.S. Pony Club has their upper level kids make their own. The set that my daughter Jen made were measured specifically for her mare, Impulsive, and covered all vital areas! Since the bulbs are going to be the area that is most vulnerable in a trailer, that is the area you need to make sure is protected. Adding bell boots will also protect the bulbs, but it is best to put them on first and wrap over them, rather than trying to apply afterwards.
Katie mentions that the horses lost their halters. There were spare halters in the dressing room, but that was inaccessible.
We all like to put our horses in the nicest leather halter there is! But the chances of those triple stitched halters breaking are slim. While you don’t want a horse loose without his halter, nor do you want a horse that can’t escape because he is tied tight. The answer? Make sure your trailer ties are attached not directly to the trailer, but to a piece of hay string, which is attached to the trailer. That will be the weakest link and will break in an emergency, hopefully leaving the halter still on, but giving the horse freedom. An inexpensive leather halter that looks nice but will break is probably your best bet for trailering. Also, move the spare halters to the truck, not the dressing room.
The Pollards dressing room was inaccessible, which meant that first aid could not be reached. I now trailer with my emergency kit located in the truck and not in my dressing room. This includes extra halters and leads, a knife, sedatives and syringes, first aid kit and my fire extinguisher. This way, I will know that they are accessible.
How many of us place manure forks, wheelbarrows or other pieces of equipment in an empty stall? In an accident, these all become flying missles and they all have the capability of injuring a horse. It is best to place these items and anything that isn’t a horse, in the dressing room or the bed of your truck.
Bumpers are always a good thing, although I must admit I have only used them on some of my horses.
Trailering can be hazardous, no matter how many safety precautions we take. All it takes is one idiot texting on his cell, or too impatient to wait, and disaster can occur in the blink of an eye. Therefore, it is important that we do the best we can to protect our horses.
Flannel wraps over quilts. They cover the bulbs, but honestly, they could be taller. These are 16″ wraps on a 17.1 hand draft cross. Unfortunately, 16″ is the tallest one can purchase. Pony Clubbers learn to make their own and measure from the bulbs to just below the knees.
The photo below shows standing bandages. They are not acceptable for shipping, as they do not cover the bulbs.