Horse-Drawn Vehicle Inspection

  • Margentino, Marjorie R.

Before starting out on a drive whether it be in the ring, on the road or at a show, it is important to inspect your vehicle for defects. Your safety as well as the safety of the horse, passengers and any other people in the area of the carriage depend on the soundness of the vehicle.

At the beginning of each season, it is important to check parts of your carriage that you normally wouldn't think about for fatigue and wear. From the ground up, start with the wheels. Are they sound? Sound means that the wheels are tight. The spokes are straight and fit solidly into the rim and hub. The wheel rim is intact, and the rubber fits snugly and evenly around the wheel, and is not offset from the wheel in any place. Make sure hubs have been properly lubricated.

Check the axle, springs and other means of suspension for fatigue cracks. Replace any broken or worn part. Make sure all bolts holding the suspension and carriage together are tight, and not worn thin in places where rubbing takes place. The fifth wheel on four-wheeled vehicles should also be lubricated. If the carriage is equipped with brakes, check to see that: the brakes are functioning properly; there is ample brake fluid in the case of hydraulic brakes; and that the drums are free of accumulated dirt, mud and sand.

Floor boards and side panels should be solid and free from cracks. Replace any broken, cracked or rotted wood. Check the shafts or pole and whiffletrees for cracks and soundness. Make sure all leather straps are in good condition and functional. Inspect the king bolt, whiffletree bolts, shaft couplers and pole housings for cracks and wear.

Inspect the spares kit to make sure all components are present. ALL vehicles must carry a spares kit. A spares kit is necessary in case of a breakdown or accident. A spares kit should contain: a halter and lead shank for each horse in the hitch; a good leather punch; an extra rein or rein splice; an extra trace or trace splice; leather lacing or twine; duct or electrical tape; a knife; screwdriver; hammer; pliers; and a first aid kit.

Regular inspection, maintenance and washing of your vehicle will prolong its serviceability and ensure your safety.

Marjorie R. Margentino, Program Associate in 4-H Animal Science

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