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Maximizing Fuel Efficiency

June 25, 2008     E-mail this page to a friend!

The use of heavy-duty vehicles to transport horses consumes more energy than most passenger cars. However, horse owners can take several steps to maximize their fuel economy.

"Horse owners can do their part to reduce their fuel consumption with practical travel tips that actually work,” said Mark Cole, managing member for USRider. Through its Equestrian Motor Plan, USRider offers nationwide roadside assistance especially for equestrians.

The organization offers several suggestions for conserving fuel while traveling. These tips work for most vehicles.

A key to maximizing fuel efficiency is to maintain your tow vehicles. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for regular maintenance.

  • Keep the engine tuned. Depending upon the kind of repair done, this can result in an average 4 percent increase in fuel efficiency. Repairing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve fuel mileage as much as 40 percent.

  • Check and replace the air filter. The air filter keeps impurities from damaging the inside of your engine. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve your vehicle's mileage up to 10 percent.

  • Keep the tires correctly inflated. Correct inflation can increase mileage by around 3 percent. An added benefit is that properly inflated tires are safer and last longer.

  • Use the recommended grade of motor oil. Using the incorrect weight can increase fuel consumption by 1-2 percent. Look for motor oil that says “Energy Conserving” on the API performance symbol to be sure it contains friction-reducing additives.

Additionally, altering your driving habits will help save fuel:

  • Drive sensibly. Aggressive driving such as speeding and rapid acceleration and braking, can lower your fuel mileage by one-third. Sensible driving is also safer for you and your horse(s).

  • Observe the speed limit. Gas mileage usually decreases significantly at speeds above 60 mpg. The Department of Energy says that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 for each gallon of fuel. Driving the speed limit has the added benefit of increasing safety.

  • Avoid excessive idling. Idling gets 0 miles per gallon. Cars with larger engines typically waste more gas idling than do cars with smaller engines.

  • Use cruise control. Using this feature (where applicable) helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save fuel. Do not use cruise control if you are tired or fatigued. In fact, if you are tired or fatigued, you shouldn’t be trailering horses.

  • Use overdrive gears. When you use overdrive gearing, your vehicle’s engine speed decreases, which increases your mileage. An added benefit is that using overdrive gears reduces engine wear.

  • Lighten the load. Remove unnecessary weight from the vehicle. According to the Department of Energy, an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your MPG by up to 2 percent. Excess weight affects smaller vehicles more than larger ones.

  • Do not use the tow vehicle as a passenger car. When not towing, drive a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle.

If your tow vehicle is an older model, consider purchasing a new tow vehicle. New vehicles have more power but use less fuel. Another item worth considering is to switch from a tow vehicle that uses gasoline to one that uses diesel, as current diesel technology is more fuel efficient.

Cole cautions against purchasing any of the fuel-saving gimmicks being marketed. “Horse owners should be wary of ‘magic bullets,’ horse power in a bottle, or other weird devices being sold on late night television,” said Cole. “[They should] stick to the basics and drive as late a model vehicle as possible.”

In addition to maintaining your tow vehicle, USRider offers vehicle operation tips that will help reduce the impact on the environment. For more information about USRider and more equine trailer safety tips, visit the USRider website at, or call (800) 844-1409 or visit