When and How to Safely Tie Horses in the Trailer

Keeping Your Horse Safe on the Go

Updated August 28, 2023
A chestnut horse standing while tied in the trailer

Just like buckling your seatbelt in the car, keeping your horse secure while he’s in the trailer is key to safe travels. Every horse owner's worst nightmare is the possibility of something going wrong while your horse is being towed. Whether you’re trailering down the road for a lesson or hauling cross country, ensuring your horse is properly tied will help prevent injuries during transport and give you peace of mind in the driver's seat. 

However, many owners have their own opinions on whether to tie or their preferred knot, and these decisions may feel daunting to a first-time hauler. We’ll help you understand when and how to safely tie your horse in the trailer depending on your rig and your horse’s temperament. 

Types of Horse Trailers

Horse trailers come in three different interior designs: 

  1. straight load
  2. slant load
  3. stock (box) 

Stock or Box Trailer

Stock trailers are similar to box stalls in a barn. They are designed to give your horse more room to move around during the trip. This can be great for mares and foals or when traveling long distances. In a stock trailer, your horse may be tied or not. 

Slant Load and Straight Load Trailers

Slant load trailers are designed with the horses facing on a slant, with dividers between each horse. Straight load (also called walk-through) trailers keep the horse’s body straight facing forward during transport with a similar partition. 

Tying your horse is highly recommended with slant or straight load trailers. Left untied, your horse could get his head and neck over, under, or around the dividers. This can be a safety issue as he can seriously hurt himself or other horses in the trailer.

Tying Horses in the Trailer

two horses in the trailer

Using the correct type of knot or fasten that is secured at the right height is key to safe trailering

There are several ways to tie a horse in a trailer safely, including using a lead rope with a slip knot or using a trailer tie. 

Using a Trailer Tie

Trailer ties are roughly 3 feet long, which allows horses with just enough length to move their heads safely during transport. Once loaded, connect the trailer tie to your horse’s breakaway halter and unclip the lead rope. In the event of an emergency, the trailer tie’s quick-release buckle lets you untie your horse fast.

Securing a Lead Rope

If you use a lead rope to tie your horse in a trailer, use a quick release or slip knot. These knots can be untied or released quickly with a pull of the tail end of the lead rope in an emergency. 

Your horse should be tied with enough rope to rest his head comfortably, but not so much slack in the line so that he could get his head over or under the divider or to the floor of the trailer. Blocker tie rings are a safe trailer-tying alternative if you are uncomfortable or not confident tying a quick release. These rings easily release in an emergency and are simple to use.

Tying at the Right Height

Regardless of the method you choose, ensuring the proper height or the tie is important. If the tie is too low, your horse could easily get a leg over the rope or become tangled. Generally, tying your horse above his wither’s height is recommended.

Video on Horse Trailering Safety Tips

The information provided in the Horsemanship Library is based solely on our SmartPak authors' opinions. SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian or equine professionals regarding specific questions about your horse's health, care, or training. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or behavior and is purely educational.