So your thinking about buying a horse trailer. Size Matters, but think about this…
You decide to buy a shiny new slant-load advertising a roomy 10’ stall length. You’ve got a big horse so 10 feet is sounding darn near perfect right?
Except it’s not. That salesman forgot to mention the way they measure stall length is from the front corner to the opposite back corner. The is how TV screens are measured as well.
So now you’ve got a big horse squeezed up like a sausage against that divider with his head up against the trailer wall and no way to keep his balance.
There’s a lot more to think about than just size when buying a horse trailer. This is why I’ve made a comprehensive checklist to help you find the right fit.
1. What Are Your Trailer Type Options?
You have two basic options when considering trailers: Bumper pull or Gooseneck.
Bumper pulls are good starter trailers if this is your first rodeo. They tend to be less intimidating than gooseneck trailers for people who are new to hauling horses. They are also less costly since you may not have to buy a truck to haul a bumper pull. An SUV ought to be just fine.
However, you get what you pay for so with a bumper pull. You’ll have less space to work with and if you’re interested in a sizable tack room you might want to consider the other option.
Goosenecks are great for those with more experience towing trailer. They have more space which gives them more options for you and your horses.
If you’re hauling bigger horses, or want a living quarters, a gooseneck is going to be your best bet. The biggest advantage with buying a gooseneck is the stability. Because of the weight distribution, goosenecks are less likely to sway than bumper pulls. This gives you a greater degree of control.
2. What Breed of Horse and How Many Will You Be Hauling?
How many horses are you going to be hauling on a regular basis? If you’re taking more than one horse regularly, then you’ll need to consider their combined width. With two average sized horses (14-16 hands) you’ll want around 6 feet to fit them comfortably. For anything bigger you’ve got the option of 6 foot 6 inch or 7 feet.
What breed are you hauling? Breeds like Saddlebreds and Warmbloods carry their heads higher than other breeds. You’ll need a trailer with enough height to accommodate them. 7’6 is a good place to start when dealing with bigger horses. Always better to have a bit too much headspace than too little.
3. What Features Do You Need?
Do you need a standard tack room? If you ride the show circuit you might need a full living quarters for overnight shows.
The inside of your trailer is extremely important and there are plenty of options to consider. You can choose between aluminum, steel, wood, rubber, and poured rubber. You can check out the pro and cons of each in my article detailing trailer flooring options.
Head bumpers are a feature to think about when considering your horse’s safety.
Mangers are an option for hay feeding and water. Of concern is the possibility that your horse could get a foot up and stuck in the manger. This is dangerous for both the animal and anyone trying to help get the horse out.
Ventilation is an extremely important feature to think about when considering a trailer. There needs to be plenty of airflow to allow your horse to breath clearly and to keep from getting overheated on Summer hauls.
Give consideration to adding remote cameras. When you’re traveling long distances it’s a great tool for keeping an eye on what is happening in and around your trailer while on the move. You may also consider installing a backup camera to help with maneuvering into tricky spaces.
What kind of flooring are you looking at for your trailer. There are many different flooring options. Each has their pros and cons and are important considerations.
4. How Do You Want Load And Unload Your Horse?
Horses can be pretty particular when they want to be. Some prefer a ramp over a step-up. There are those that simply refuse to back out. This requires extra space in the trailer for them to be turned around and led out safely.
If you go with a ramp make sure to get one that goes up and latches behind the doors of the trailer. It’s much safer and more secure in hauling.
If you prefer to turn your horse around and lead him out be sure to get a wider trailer to accommodate this. The last thing you want is to be stuck with no place to go if your horse start to panic. With wider trailers you can opt to have the tire wells inside. Just make sure this won’t interfere with the horse’s comfort.
5. Will You Buy New Or Used?
Buying a horse trailer is a big investment and the costs can be daunting to think about. Whether you buy new or used, the most important factor is safety along with durability. If you think buying a used horse trailer is the way to go, there are a few things to look out for…
The underside of the trailer if often overlooked. Be sure to check for corrosion or rust due to ground moisture.
Be sure the breaks and break assembly are working properly. This should be obvious :-)
Check all tires including the spare for wear and tear.
The hitch MUST be in excellent condition. No middle ground here.
If there is a dressing room inside the trailer. Make sure it is higher than the areas where the horses stand. If not, urine and moisture can get into your living quarters. This is NOT a pleasant smell one that is not easily removed from clothes and other items.
If you are looking at an aluminum trailer ask the owner for proof that it has been acid washed at least two times a year. Manufacturers will not issue a warranty with proof of proper care.
Tying It All Together
Now if I were a horse, I’d say the heck with all the fancy stuff and get a good stock trailer. This would give me plenty of room to move. Place a slam gate in the middle so I can have a companion for the rides. It wouldn’t be the best looking trailer to pull into a show with, but I’d be one happy horse and far easier to deal with :-)
Buying a horse trailer can be a huge undertaking. Knowing exactly what you want it half the battle. Once you gone through all the steps and decided what trailer is best for you, the rest is just putting in the legwork to find that perfect fit for you and your four legged buddies.