trailersNow that it is spring and our attention in going somewhere to trail ride, I wanted to share my thoughts on hooking up trailers. There are two sides to the all of this. First, the entertaining side: I often tell people they need to show up early for a trail ride, get a comfortable chair and a cup of coffee to see the show. The show is watching people try to direct each other to back a trailer in to a campsite. Usually it is not appropriate to have children watch as words become colorful and frustration grows. It gets worse as other people start gathering in anticipation to help but to the folks trying to park, it only adds to the misery.

My Grandparents were deaf mutes and we learned hand signals to communicate. You often see professionals use universal signals because of loud engine noises. I suggest you take a few minutes sometime this spring to practice with your fellow riders or family on parking signals. It needs to be precise, especially if you are backing onto boards or ramps for balance.

I recommend considering a backup camera as an aide to perfect parking. Personally, I use Trailer Eyes. It is very affordable and makes the job so easy. That being said, here are a few suggestions to keep in mind.

Before you pull or back into any parking area, get it and look at it. If you are driving a 30 or 40 foot rig, it is impossible to know what is back there, what someone left behind or to see the mud hole from someone leaving the water on. Keep in mind where the sewer hookup is and the electrical outlet is. It is very important for people with slide outs to leave plenty of room for an opening.

Sometimes, if we are going to be at a place for several days, we counter park our rigs. By that I mean, one pulls in and the other backs in so our awnings can come out for a large “porch” area for shade and room for tables and chairs. If you do this, you need to know how far the awning comes out ahead of time.

The source of the most common mistake is trusting your mirrors. Mirrors are made to have things look closer than they actually are. Therefore, trust your parking partner.

We never trust or listen to someone who says, “keep coming back, etc”. The parking helper needs to hold their hands up clearly in view of the driver to show actual distance. Your hands need to look like football goal posts and shrink smaller as the trailer backs up until the hands touch.

I do want to strongly express my horror of watching someone back up to hook up when they are hooking up the trailer. A simple slip of the gas pedal or muddy foot slipping off the brake will crush whoever is back there. MAKE THEY STAND TO ONE SIDE.

Another common mistake people make is not announcing or asking who is giving directions. Trust me, three people giving directions are three different sets of directions. Establish one director and follow that person.

Most people do not unhook their truck when parked, but if you do, remember the trailer is not perfectly level. Even if it was, when you jack it up, it becomes a sliding board effect of rocking backward on uneven ground. Use wheel chocks. They can be as simple as a short 4 X 4 or brightly colored commercial made chocks. (We use the wheel ramp from the side compartment for flats.). Either way, make sure you chock the wheels before you unhook, leaving the chains on until the ball is clear. (When you do not, you will be adding tremendous weight to the jack stands that will bend them over time.). Remember safety, safety, safety.

Finally, there is a type of politeness and courtesy in helping others. If you approach someone that is already frustrated, only problems will follow. The best way is to greet the person as they arrive and offer any help. They will thank you for your kindness or grab the opportunity to accept help.

Each of you can do these things well. My thoughts are to suggest how you can enlist those around you to be helpful and not a problem. Think it through and enjoy the new riding season.

Join Tom Seay and Best of America by Horseback on an upcoming ride:

April 30: Cattle Drive Weekend – Culpeper, VA
May 13-15: Gathering at the Farm – Culpeper, VA
May 15-19: Cowgirl Week – Culpeper, VA
May 21: Cattle Drive Weekend – Culpeper, VA
May 28: Cattle Drive Weekend – Culpeper, VA
July 5-10: Cattle Drive Weekend – Culpeper, VA
July 22-23: Day of the Cowboy Celebration – Humboldt, KS
July 29-31: The Bolo Club – Sherwood, TN
Aug 24-28: 300th Anniversary of the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Ride – Culpeper, VA
Sept 9-11: Lakota of Ohio Special Event – South Solon, OH
Sept 14-18: Jesse James Festival Weekend with Clay County – Smithville, MO
Sept 18-25: French Broad River Outpost Dude Ranch – Del Rio, TN
Oct 7-9: Fall Gathering at the Farm – Culpeper, VA
Nov 4-6: Airfield 4-H Conference Center – Wakefield, VA
Dec 3-10: Cruise to Belize

Learn more about a ride or the TV show:

Watch Best of America by Horseback on RFD-TV, Thursday at 2 pm est / 1 pm ct