needed: vise grip (or a GRABBIT), knife, permanent marker, a water hose & detergent
Do you know what material the floor in the back of your horse trailer is made of? This is a good time of year to clean and examine the back of your trailer! Trailer floors can deteriorate, and when they do, heavy horses and livestock fall through the floors when being trailered, with disastrous results. We hear these horrible stories at least once a month & the animals usually have to be put down. Cleaning and inspection of the floor should take about an hour on a warm day.
Grab a vise grip (or a Grabbit mat mover tool), apply it to the rear rubber mat and pull the closest mat out of the trailer. Using 2 vice grips is a better idea, so you won’t hurt yourself---these mats can weigh 40-50 lbs. each and they are an odd shape to handle. Then pull the remaining mats out. Arrange them carefully in a pattern on the ground, so you can put them back in the reverse sequence that you took them out in. Most rubber mats fit ONLY where they were originally positioned, and you will see that they are all cut a little differently to fit in their place, with assorted notches & angles. Inspect the mats, then wash them and let them dry. Replace any defective or damaged mats if needed, with exactly the same thickness and shape.
What do you see? Take note of what the floor made of--aluminum, wood boards or a plastic/rubber composite. The floor will need to be washed to remove all organic material, such as shavings/ manure/ hay/ soil buildup. Either pressure wash it, or use a plain hose and a broom, with some detergent. Wash out all the dirt and debris from every nook & cranny in the trailer and let the floor dry.
Next, step in the trailer and look for cracks, soft spots and sagging, especially near any discoloration. Pay special attention to where the equine’s hooves are most likely to be positioned when traveling in the trailer, because these are the boards or areas that are consistently carrying the most weight. Draw circles around any of these “bad” or questionable areas with a permanent marker. For wood floors, stick a knife in the questionable areas. If you can turn the knife & the board splinters, it is rotten or getting rotten.
Now, using a thin board or piece of cardboard, slide yourself under the trailer floor and examine the entire underneath of the floor, including the metal support beams. Rust can weaken these beams, and in addition to urine and manure, both the underneath beams and the floor are additionally exposed to water, salt & de-icing materials. Again, look for cracks, discoloration and sagging. Use the knife test for any questionable areas on wood floors. While you are there, take note of the distance between the metal floor support beams. Sixteen inches is good, 18 inches is OK, and 24 inches is acceptable. If the spacing is wider, think about adding more support beams.
If urine, manure, moisture and salt have corroded a metal (or aluminum) floor, it MUST be replaced, no question. For wood plank floors, individual boards can be replaced as necessary. If there is rot on the top, but not on the bottom of a board, replace it because you already know the board is compromised. Yes, you may have to “break a weld” to do it, but make that appointment at the metal fabricator anyway. For replacement boards, well-cured oak or pine are the best. Pressure-treated wood is ok, but it will eventually rot also if the floors are not maintained. Be sure to leave a “pencil” space between the boards, so urine can drain out and air can dry the boards. And on that note, plywood (no matter how thick) is the worst material for trailer floors and is also commonly used in the construction of trailer ramps. So ramps must also be inspected carefully with the same methods. We recommend that you replace all plywood trailer floors with a plank floor. Plywood splinters when it breaks or a horse kicks it, etc. It will more likely to injure an equine in any type of accident.
At the point your trailer floor is dry and you have determined it is in good condition, consider treating it with some kind of waterproof material. For wood floors, oil-based paint is the easiest & readily available, but consider applying rubber truck bed liner, which also works well on aluminum floors. And about those composite floors—they are usually tongue & groove and will last longer than the trailer. But you still have to be concerned about the frame and the underneath support beams corroding and becoming weak. Which means you still have to clean the back of the trailer & let it dry before also inspecting it from above and underneath. Think about it---where does the urine go in a composite floor?
Put the mats back in, tight and in the correct order. Equine hooves will find the gaps in between mats & this can cause tripping while loading and unloading.
Your equines thank you for taking the time to read this article! After this inspection project, you now know a lot more about your trailer than you did before. Now you can load your precious livestock and proceed down the road without wondering if they are safe back there.
GRABBIT mat mover tool: get it from http://www.horsetraileraccessorystore.com/GRABBIT : $22.95 + shipping