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Livestock Towing Made Easy: 6 Tips for Hitching Up

Loading a horse into a trailer

When hauling livestock or horses, safety should be the first thing on your mind. Whether you tow your trailer every week or occasionally to a show, equipment, towing capacity and performance are just a few necessary considerations. Here’s a list of things to keep in mind when livestock towing needs arise:

The Right Stuff

Before you even back your truck up, you should perform a quick inspection of your equipment to ensure everything is up to the task. Make sure you check your latches and safety chains, test your brakes, inflate tires and secure wiring connections and brake controllers before you get underway to keep yourself, your livestock and others on the road safe.

Max Capacity

Installing a hitch won’t accomplish much if your vehicle is ill-suited for towing. Some important specs to consider are the gross vehicle weight (GVW) and combined vehicle rating, which are the recommended weights for your tow vehicle and the total weight of the vehicle and trailer together. You should also be conscious of the actual weight of your vehicle, trailer and cargo independently.

Weight DistributionHorse being loaded into trailer

If you’re using a bumper pull trailer, move the heaviest animals in front of the axles to distribute their added weight equally across the trailer and vehicle. This is also a good time to secure your animals using slipknots and lock the gates to prevent movement during travel. When loading your livestock, patience will make the job easier and keep the animals calm.

You should load your animals such that they can see you when entering and exiting the trailer. This will keep them from being surprised or startled during loading and unloading. Also stay aware of your surroundings and avoid getting squeezed between two animals or between one and the side of the trailer.

Handling and Pulling

The wheelbase, or distance from the front axles of the truck to rear axles of the trailer, is critical to the maneuverability and stability of your vehicle and trailer. It will distribute the weight further back on the towing vehicle and keep more weight on the front wheels to improve steering. The trade-off is that a long wheelbase rig is harder to maneuver through tight turns. If you’re uncertain about your trailer’s turn radius, have a spotter direct you from outside the vehicle.

The Open Road

Traveling at a safe speed will give you the added time you need to react and slow down your vehicle, trailer and livestock — an entirely different process compared to normal braking. You should always drive with your headlights and trailer lights on to help others on the road see you better and avoid being cut off. Finally, don’t lock your trailer; in the event of an emergency, rescue workers will be able to get the animals out if it is left unlocked.

Traveling with your livestock can be easy and stress-free for everyone involved if you keep a few safety points in mind when loading up. Always keep everything on your rig to specifications, attend to your animals and drive carefully and mindfully.

Check out all the towing products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on livestock towing, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Image courtesy of Flickr


Erich Reichert View All

Erich Reichert has been an editor and on-air personality in the radio control car hobby for 12 years. A certified car nut since birth, he has written for internationally published titles such as RC Car Action, RC Driver and Xtreme RC Cars, as well as Stuff Magazine, Road and Track and Super Street. He's covered everything from product reviews and tech articles to high-profile lifestyle pieces and celebrity interviews. Erich found his passion for writing after a successful career as an art director, working with brands such as Pepsico, NASCAR, MTV, Nintendo, WWE, Cannondale Bicycles and HBO. He's also a father, an avid hockey fan and an FIA race license holder who enjoys hiking, playing drums and movies.

One thought on “Livestock Towing Made Easy: 6 Tips for Hitching Up Leave a comment

  1. Whenever we moved horses to shows, I was so nervous about them being in the back of the trailer. These tips are very reassuring and definitely calmed my nerves about ever pulling a trailer. Thank you for sharing!

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