Riding

A Close Call

Prevent an accident by installing your trailer hitch properly.

Headed home to Ohio from a show in Oklahoma, Fred and Sue Mazzarini had been on the road for almost 500 miles when they decided to pull off at a truck stop in St. Louis to switch drivers.

The Mazzarinis’ friend, Justin Billing, was following them in his truck and trailer and decided to pull off as well. After they parked, Justin thought that the Mazzarinis’ trailer was sitting low to the ground.

He called the Mazzarinis’ daughter, Kristin, over for a second opinion, and she noticed they had “a big problem.” That was when they found a fracture in the metal of the hitch underneath their motor home.

“Had we not gotten off the highway, the hitch would have broken sending our trailer with two horses careening on the highway” Sue says. “The safety chains would not have helped as they were attached to the metal hitch frame that was tearing away from the vehicle.”

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Due to incorrect installation -- the factory-installed hitch was missing stress bars that would have prevented the hitch from breaking like it did -- the hitch metal split and almost came off from the Mazzarinis’ motor home.

“We trusted the folks since they were the ‘experts’ to do the right thing, and have a quality program that would have caught this oversight prior to the motor home leaving the factory,” Sue commented in hindsight.

By the time Fred carefully and slowly moved the motor home and trailer to a location that was out of the way of any vehicles, the trailer stand was dragging along the pavement and the hitch was inches from completely tearing off of the motor home.

The Mazzarinis were carrying precious cargo in the form of Turn It Blue, “Elle,” and A Certified Edition, “Winston,” their American Quarter Horses. Elle, a 2004 chestnut mare, found her home with the Mazzarinis in 2006 and has since earned a ROM. Winston, a 1997 brown gelding, and Kristin have been a team since 2002 and have racked up eight world champion titles and four reserve world champion titles in pleasure driving and hunter under saddle together.

With more than 400 miles left to go on their return trip home, Sue, her family and two horses were stuck in St. Louis. Luckily, Justin had an extra slot left in his trailer. Elle was loaded in the spare slot and finished her trip back home with Sue riding shotgun in Justin’s truck. Winston and Kristin hitched a ride with Barb Johnson and her daughter, Jessica, who are friends who had been showing at the same show as well, and were only four hours behind the Mazzarinis on the road. Fred stayed in St. Louis with the motor home and trailer to get the trailer towed and a welder to fix the hitch. He arrived home a day later.

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As Sue started to share her story with other horse people, she discovered that there were a number of people who also had issues with hitches on either motor homes or trucks.

When asked for advice about purchasing or installing new hitches, Sue says,“Verify the installation and load limits on the hitch. Even though you purchase a new vehicle with the hitch, have a representative of the dealership verify installation.”

To avoid this and other potentially disastrous trailering situations, follow this pre-travel checklist provided by www.extension.org to make sure everything is in proper working condition:

    • trailer lights and turn signals
    • trailer brakes
    • trailer hitch--is it secure?
    • trailer safety cables
    • spare trailer and truck tires, and tools to change a tire, including a tire jack
    • trailer and truck tires
    • trailer floorboards

Sue takes it one step further.

“Every time you stop along the road, take a moment to look at the equipment: trailer, truck, hitch etc.”