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2002/02/05

Prevent Disasters, Check Trailer Floors by Lynn Allen In most trailers, the only thing between a horse and the road is a two-inch board. If that two inch board is weakened by cracks or rot, a horse's life may be forfeit. Richard Wittman, owns a welding shop that replaces floors in trailers. Checking trailer floors isn't complicated, and it doesn't take much time, he said, but it can mean the difference between an uneventful excursion and a horse dead on the highway. He supplied the following recommendations from his years of determining the soundness of trailer floors. If there are mats over the floorboards, pull them out and wash away the remaining debris with a hose. Visually examine the ends and edges of the boards, and if there are any dry-looking or off colored patches, use a screwdriver or similar instrument to prod the area. If the wood is soft or crumbly, rot has invaded the boards. Keep probing and scraping to determine the extent of the damage. It doesn't take a very big area for a horse to put a foot through. Pay particular attention to the surfaces where wood comes into contact with metal. The double corrosion of rust and urine make these edges extra vulnerable. Obviously, a board has two sides, but its hard to see the other side of a board bolted into a trailer floor. A crack from a knot in the wood can be invisible from the top side until it breaks completely through. If the trailer is too close to the ground to crawl under, hoist it and look for those tell-tale splits. When loading a horse, always watch how the boards react to the horse's weight. A noticeable sag under the horse's hooves should sound a warning that something isn't safe. If the entire board is giving evenly to pressure, it isn't properly fastened down. If the board is only giving in certain areas, or looks spongy under the horse's hooves, rot has damaged the integrity of the boards and the horse is in danger of putting a foot through the floor. An audible cracking sound is equally ominous as a board is probably split almost completely through. A floor that has been patched with plywood is not safe as plywood can have hidden hollow spots that make a perfect environment for rot to grow without being noticed. Often a bad spot in a plywood floor isn't obvious until a horse goes through it. The key to long-lived, safe trailer floors is cleanliness, according to Wittman. Urine and manure are caustic too wood, and result in rapid deterioration of the fiber. He recommends cleaning a trailer thoroughly after every use. "We've had trailers in here that are 20 years old and still had the original floor. Others are only five years old and need replaced," he said. "It depends on the quality of the wood and whether or not it's kept clean."

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