What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Accident, Horse Fell through Trailer Floor


Old, weak or rotten trailer floorboards may break under the weight of a horse during transit. Unfortunately, the driver usually does not know that the accident has occurred for some time, and injuries to a horse can be fatal.

When equine feet and limbs contact the road, tissue and bone is ground off. While a variety of life-threatening injuries can be sustained in this circumstance, the injuries that I have seen most frequently are severe wounds to the front of the fetlock joint or loss of the entire hoof and underlying structures. Some of these injuries have not been treatable, and resulted in euthanasia.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

your role


What To Do

Call a vet and 911, and tell them what happened. Once help is on the way, you can try to help your horse. At all times, keep in mind that the most important thing is your own safety. Turn on any and all emergency flashers, apply the parking brake and turn the vehicle off. If it is possible, set out warning flares or triangles and stay out of traffic lanes.

If the horse is down in the trailer, you should wait until you have help. Listen to and work with emergency personnel to ensure an orderly approach towards stabilizing and saving your horse. If you remove a horse from the trailer, have a confident handler hold the horse rather than tying it and risking its escape and further injury.

These are usually severe wounds to the lower limbs. In some cases, there will be severe bleeding. If possible, you can place pressure directly over bleeding vessels with a pressure bandage, until help arrives.

Note: Over time, trailer floorboards can easily rot or weaken due to the cumulative trauma from the weight of horses, coupled with the corrosive effect of shavings, manure, urine and environmental moisture. Often this is hidden from view by rubber floor mats. Regular monitoring, maintenance, cleaning and replacement is a MUST to prevent tragic injuries during transport. Pull up your mats and carefully inspect trailer floorboards on a regular basis!

What Not To Do

Do not attempt to handle this emergency alone. Do not assume that trailer floorboards are intact and safe. Inspect them regularly!

your vet's role

Your vet helps extricate the horse from the trailer, stabilizes general health if possible, then assesses the injuries and discusses prognosis and potential treatments.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Are you ok yourself?
  • Give me directions to your current location, so I can get to you as soon as possible.
  • Have you been able to get horses out of the trailer?
  • What injuries do you see?
  • How many horses are involved?
  • Do you notice lameness?
  • How lame does the horse seem to you?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP