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Turn Your Horse Trailer into an All-Purpose Base of Operations

Here's how to turn your parked horse trailer into an all-purpose base of operations when you haul in to a show or other horse event.

Photos by Jim Bortvedt
With good planning and a few extra touches, you can turn your trailer into a personalized, all-purpose base of operations--and have some fun while doing it.
Photos by Jim Bortvedt

Operating from your trailer.
Whether this is something new to you or something you've long accepted as the norm for the particular horse game you play, headquartering from a parked trailer, not a rented showgrounds stall and tack room, happens to be your reality.

Once you arrive at your activity, the trailer that just transported your horse now becomes his stabling as he's tied to or corralled next to it. It also does all-weather duty as your tack room, wardrobe stowage and dressing area, lounging/social spot, and refreshment center.

That's a lot of necessary function (and related stuff!) to pack into what's essentially a horse-sized box on wheels. Making it all happen also requires a fair measure of effort on your part.

But, there are some tricks to operating from your trailer that will make your haul-in show day, practice day, even a trail-riding day less laborious, more convenient, and more comfortable for both you and your horse.

From our own experience, we know that utilizing these simple tricks adds up to a day of better results
and a more enjoyable experience.

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We'll share our key favorites here. Some may be tricks you're already using, butothers are bound to hit your "aha!" button, and perhaps even stimulate ideas for new trailer tricks of your own.

Stress Control
Use good organization to your advantage.
If there's anything we've learned from our combined years of hauling and setting up for horse events, it's that chaotic tack and dressing areas will translate to a chaotic, stressful day. And a sure way to end up in the midst of that chaos is to use the last-minute-grab method of packing, and the spreading-it-all-out technique of organization once you arrive at your destination.

Create a master checklist of everything you need to pack, make copies, and work from a fresh copy each time you load up. Don't assume that an essential item, such as your show saddle or necessary paperwork, is in your rig until you've seen it there and checked it off your list.

Maximize cargo space by investing in several stackable, heavy-duty plastic toting tubs with snap-on lids. Use to organize, then pack and stack such necessities as grain, horse clothing, grooming gear, emergency supplies, and so on. Besides helping you compress equipment to maximize space, stackable tubs can double as bench seating and/or makeshift counters for quick access to supplies.

Every traveling horseman fears leaving something critical at home on show day. To eliminate this possibility, replicate the true essentials of your home tack room in your trailer. If possible, give spare sets of grooming equipment, buckets, repair and first-aid kits, longeing gear, halters and leads, and other necessities a permanent home in your trailer.

&copy Jim Bortvedt
Be sure to keep valuables, such as your show tack and wardrobe, in a lockable compartment whenever you're away from your rig.
&copy Jim Bortvedt

Self Security
Plan ahead for securing valuables and keys.
When you're away from your trailer for whatever reason, your gear will be vulnerable to theft at worst, and to "borrowing" (shall we say), at least. If your trailer doesn't have a key lock to its tack compartment, look into having an alternative locking system installed at a trailer repair shop. If you'll be using your trailer's horse compartment for gear and clothing stowage, be sure you can lock that area as well.

One worry we've experienced is that of being so preoccupied by something that we'll absent-mindedly lock our keys in the truck or trailer--guaranteed to ruin one's day. As insurance, we keep extra keys in hidden key boxes made for this purpose. Pick up your own key box (or boxes) anywhere that sells keys.

Playing By the Rules
Be a good guest and a good neighbor.
If you're headed to the most common type of single-day events, like an open show or barrel race, a stalling option is a rare thing. Often, you'll be able to haul in and park wherever you wish, usually for free. Other times, you may be charged a nominal (typically $5 to $20) haul-in fee, payable at the secretary's table when you pick up your exhibitor number, or when you pre-register/pre-pay.

This fee is relatively new, and some shows will refund it if you leave your parking spot as clean as you found it. Don't bristle at the fee--often, these fees are charged by the showgrounds' host, and the show organizers are simply trying to be fair about covering these costs. (Look at the grounds in mid-afternoon, and visualize everyone heading home. See the mess of paw holes, loose hay, manure piles, and trash that has
to be cleaned up? Someone has to pay for those services.)

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