Horse Trailer Hookup Safety – Don’t Skimp The Little Things

Horse Trailer Hitch

Started my day heading for my weekly coffee clutch with the boys. Every day has its learning experiences and this was no different.

While moving along the highway at 70 mph there was a truck and trailer just ahead of me.  All of a sudden I noticed the back end of the trailer seemed to lift and swerve to the left.  Being familiar with trailers and my instinct I realized the trailer had come off the ball on the truck.  I immediately slowed and fortunately the driver was aware enough and the truck heavy enough to stabilize everything and brought them to a safe stop. 

This truck and trailer belonged to a business and most likely the driver hauled trailers a lot of the time but still someone made a mistake by not double checking his hitch setup before he left.

We all spend a lot of time on the highways and see every kind of car, suv or truck pulling an assortment of different trailers and I often wonder if the hookups, hitches and braking systems
on all of these rigs are safe? This mornings experience answered that question……NO!

Make Sure To Sweat The Details

We are all capable of making mistakes but, a mistake when hitching up our trailer puts not only ourselves but our horses and other people on the road at risk.  Many times we are running late, in a hurry, or distracted talking with someone or numerous other things. 

Many businesses have a check off sheet their drivers are required to do everyday before driving.  This check off list should also be something we do as it is our responsibility to be safe for everyone on the road.

Horse Trailer Accident

Check your brake system.  You do that by adjusting the brake box in the cab.  The trailer brakes should take hold just a little before your vehicle brakes. Otherwise the trailer will have a tendency to push you around. 

Also check your safety cable.  Pull it apart and try moving the trailer.  If the wheels are locked its working.  The cable will pull out hard and it can rust so by pulling it out several times a year it stays clean and in working condition

Got Anything Electrical? Check That Also

If your system has a battery, make sure it is charged up at all times.  In some systems the battery will charge off the vehicle when the wire cables are hooked up.  Otherwise remove the battery and make sure it is fully charged.

All sliding and moving parts on your ball hitch should be lubricated and free.  Lubricate the ball itself to keep from wearing.  Lube the jack so it turns free and make sure all bolts are tight.

Check your safety chains so they don’t drag on the road and become worn.  Twisting the chain will take up slack but make sure when turning corners they remain free.

The Rubber Meets The Road

Check the condition of your tires. Tires blowing out can rip up your trailer fenders and result in accidents.  It only takes a few minutes to check and double check your hookups and can save a lifetime of misery.

5 Horse Trailer Flooring Options – Pros And Cons

Horse Trailer Flooring

In a past article, I showed you five handy steps to help you find the right trailer. For this post we’re going to dig a little deeper into five horse trailer flooring options. Now, you might be thinking that the type of flooring you have in your trailer isn’t all that important, but what you choose can make a big difference to your trailer, your horse, and your pocketbook.

I’ll talk about five options to consider: Wood, Aluminum, Rumber, Polylast and WERM. Each choice is different and has its own advantages and disadvantages. Differences range from cost and maintenance, to leg support for your horse. I’m going to take you through each options pros and cons, then you can decide for yourself which is best. We’ll cover these five main factors when considering trailer flooring:

  • Durability
  • Heat Transfer
  • Noise/Vibration Transfer
  • Maintenane
  • Cost

Wood Horse Trailer Flooring

When it comes to trailer flooring wood is a classic choice. Wood has been used for years and is still used today despite some more modern choices available and for good reason.

Durability: As long as the wood is installed properly with ¼” spacing and treated to protect against rot you’ll find that it lasts much longer than other types of flooring. The spacing helps with proper ventilation which allows for better drainage and keeps the wood from rotting prematurely.

Noise/Vibration Transfer: Because wood gives and bends slightly, it causes less vibrations and absorbs the shock of the road much better than materials like aluminum. This gives horses a much smoother, quieter ride while protecting their joints at the same time.

Heat Transfer: Unlike other options, wood won’t conduct heat from the road on those long summer hauls, and in the winter it won’t retain the cold. This means that you’ve got a comfortable ride for your horses year-round.

Maintenance: Wood floors are pretty low maintenance, but many people prefer to use rubber mats over them to provide extra cushion for their horse. If you do use rubber mats then you’ll have to take them out and hose them down about three times a year.

Cost: Wood is one of the most cost effective options for trailer flooring as long as it’s treated and properly maintained. If you ever have to replace or repair the floor the lumber is readily accessible, cheap, and it doesn’t require an expert to install. The typical range is from $600-900 depending on the size of your trailer and if you have a dressing room.

Aluminum Horse Trailer Flooring

Aluminum Horse Trailer Flooring

Heavily promoted by trailer companies, aluminum has been a very popular choice for trailer floors over the last few years. While it has its own merits, you might find that the drawbacks exceed the benefits.

Durability: Aluminum weighs less than other flooring options, but because it’s lighter, it’s also weaker. You have the option of planked aluminum floors- interlocked pieces that are stronger than the standard option, but even those require a lot more support than other types of flooring.

Noise/Vibration transfer: Unlike wood, aluminum does not absorb shock well and therefore creates a lot of noise and vibrations. Neither of these is going to help give your horse soundness of mind…or hoof for that matter.

Heat transfer: This just in! Aluminum is a highly conductive material! Surprised? I didn’t think so. This means the floors of your trailer are going to be burning in the summer and absolutely frigid in the winter.

Maintenance: While relatively easy to maintain, you have to be very careful to consistently clean your aluminum floors. This means taking out the rubber mats, rinsing them and the trailer, and letting everything fully dry before you replace them. You’ll want to do this at least 5 times a year. You’ll also want to have an acid bath done twice a year to help prevent oxidation and rust.

Cost: Being one of the most standard flooring options, aluminum isn’t as pricey compared to other options. However, if you end up having to replace it due to corrosion, the repairs run up to around $1000.

Rumbar Horse Trailer Flooring

A more modern option, Rumber is a synthetic material made of 60% recycled rubber and 40% recycled plastic. It is made into tongue and groove boards that are fitted together to form a solid surface without the need for rubber mats on top.

Durability: Rumber is an extremely tough material that lasts for a long time. Because of its textured material it provides good, solid footing for the barefoot or shod horse even when wet.

Noise/vibration transfer: The mix of rubber and plastic effectively reduce noise and vibrations which means your horse’s ride is a lot more pleasant.

Heat Transfer: Of the five options, Rumber transfers the least amount of heat making it a great choice for those down South.

Maintenance: Cleaning Rumber couldn’t be any easier. You simply hose it out and let it dry. You don’t have to worry about drainage either; it easily drains out the back.

Cost: Perhaps the only drawback of Rumber is that it’s a little pricier than the first two flooring options. It runs upwards of $2000 generally, but if you factor in the cost to replace other types of flooring you might end up saving in the long run.

Polylast Horse Trailer Flooring

Polylast Horse Trailer Flooring

Another eco-friendly option, Polylast is made of 100% recycled rubber mixed with an adhesive. It is mixed and poured to ½” to ¾” thickness and leveled off using a trowel.

Durability: Similarly to Rumber, Polylast is very strong and lasts long time. Because it is bonded to the trailer floor, it will also protect the trailer bed from exposure to moisture and acid.

Noise/Vibrations: Being 100% rubber, naturally Polylast absorbs road noise and vibrations better than the other flooring choices. It provides lots of cushion and is slip resistant making it an ideal option for long hauls.

Heat Transfer: Polylast is a great insulator against heat and cold, your trailer will stay temperate and comfortable.

Maintenance: Cleaning Polylast is very easy. You just rinse it out and let it dry. Since it’s a porous material, moisture is able to drain through and the supporting floor with 5/16” holes drilled every 12” on center completes the drainage. This helps protect the integrity of your trailer bed. If the flooring is damaged however, it is very difficult to repair.

Cost: The main drawback is how expensive Polylast is. I’ve since quotes ranging from $10-16/ square foot and if it is damaged at any point it is very costly to fix.

WERM Horse Trailer Flooring

This product is very similar to Polylast in that it is also made of 100% recycled rubber, mixed with adhesive and applied to the trailer floor in the same way.

Durability: WERM floors are quite durable and since they completely seal off the trailer floor the trailer bed is well protected. However they are prone to being damaged by horses that paw in the trailer, so if your horse gets restless on hauls this might not be an ideal choice.

Noise/Vibrations: Noise/Vibration reduction is top notch and the cushion, non-slip flooring provides excellent support for your horse.

Heat Transfer: Because WERM is made from 100% rubber it will not transfer heat and protects against the cold.

Maintenance: Just like Polylast, you simply have to rinse out your trailer with a hose to clean it. The only concern is that if, for some reason, moisture does find its way under the WERM flooring it will corrode your trailer bed and make it unstable. Also keep in mind that if the flooring is damaged, it is very costly to have repairs done.

Cost: The starting cost is around $10/square foot, but the size and make of your trailer can affect the end cost.

Everyone has their own ideas when it comes to trailer flooring. Some people swear that their WERM floors are the best thing they ever did for their trailer, others love the value of Rumber. I’m a no frills kinda guy myself so I prefer wood flooring above all. Whatever you choose, just be sure to take good care of it and you’ll have a trailer floor that won’t let you down.

5 Steps To Buying A Horse Trailer – What You Need To Know

Gooseneck Horse Trailer

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.

Breeds Of Horses

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.

Horse Trailer Weight – What You Need To Know

Horse Trailer Weight

With so many horse trailers on the market, which trailer is right for you? The answer to this question is different for every person and every situation. This article’s intent is to help you make that decision by breaking down how much different trailers weigh. Armed with this information you can consider what is best for your rig and your situation.

Horse Trailer Weights

There is an endless number of options and weights when it comes to horse trailers. Here is a general breakdown of horse trailer weights and the weights that the options place on them.

Aluminum Horse Trailers Weights

Aluminum horse trailers are renowned for their inability to rust and can last for decades. “In terms of visual appearance, owners can restore their trailer’s exterior with an acid bath that renders the trailer lustrous and pristine in minutes” (Featherlite). 

The aluminum trailers also weigh less than their steel compatriots.  There are some drawbacks to all aluminum trailers though. Most trailers nowadays are not constructed with 100% aluminum. But for those that are they overheat inside the trailer, horses can rear through the roof, and the floor can become brittle (Double D Trailers, 2014).

Using Featherlite trailers as a guide, the following aluminum horse trailers’ empty weight is:

Bumper Pull Horse Trailer Weights Without Living Quarters

  • 2 horse- 3,000 pounds
  • 3 horse- 3,800 pounds
  • 4 horse- 4,400 pounds

Gooseneck Horse Trailer Weights Without Living Quarters

  • 2 horse- 3,400 pounds
  • 4 horse- 6,500 pounds

Bumper Pull Horse Trailer Weights With Living Quarters

  • 2 horse- 3,000 pounds
  • 3 horse- 3,800 pounds
  • 4 horse- 4,400 pounds

Gooseneck Horse Trailer Weights With Living Quarters

  • 2 horse- 4,650 pounds
  • 3 horse- 5,400 pounds
  • 3 horse- 5,400 pounds

Bumper Stock Trailer Weights Without Living Quarters

  • 12’- 2,300 pounds
  • 16’- 2,750 pounds
  • 20’- 3,200 pounds

Gooseneck Stock Trailer Weights Without Living Quarters

  • 16’- 3,000 pounds
  • 20’- 3,500 pounds
  • 24’- 3,900 pounds

Steel Horse Trailers Weights

Though steel trailers can rust and weigh more than aluminum trailers, that in no way means they cannot last a long time and be a good trailer for many years.  In fact, a quick look on Craigslist will reveal that there are still all steel horse trailers that are over 20 years old!

There are also variances on how much steel a horse trailer has. There are many companies who use steel in conjunction with aluminum to improve the final product.

Using Double D Trailers as a guide, the following steel horse trailers’ empty weight is:

Bumper Pull Horse Trailer Weights Without Living Quarters

  • 2 horse- 2,400 pounds
  • 3 horse- 3,200 pounds
  • 4 horse- 4,100 pounds

Gooseneck Horse Trailer Weights Without Living Quarters

  • 2 horse- 4,600 pounds
  • 3 horse- 5,300 pounds
  • 4 horse- 6,300 pounds

Gooseneck Horse Trailer Weights With Living Quarters

  • 2 horse- 7,300 pounds
  • 3 horse- 7,900 pounds

Weight Analyzation

It should come as no surprise that the heaviest trailers are the ones that have living quarters. That is one thing to take into consideration when looking at trailers. Horse trailers that have living quarters are very convenient, but they come with a cost weight wise and money wise.

There is also a noticeable difference between aluminum trailers and steel trailers, with the lightest trailers overall being aluminum stock trailers. One of the reasons that stock trailers are the lightest is because they don’t normally come with a tack/dressing room and saddle racks.

No matter the trailer, weight distribution inside needs to be taken into consideration.  As seen in the video above, when a trailer has most of the weight in the back it is far more likely to fishtail out of control. Making sure the majority of the weight is in the back end if very important.

The Proper Towing Rig

Always beware of overloading your rig. Brice from CoolHorse.com’s trailer and truck sales says, “Go by your rig’s tow rating, but remember to figure in 1,100 pounds per horse and figure in 400 pounds for tack.” The bottom line is, keep the trailer weight plus everything else within that tow rating to protect your rig, your cargo, and yourself.

Tires are another thing to take into consideration when hauling a horse trailer.  Make sure the tire pressure is where it needs to be; “Underinflated tires create heat and friction, which transfers into the bearings and the brake system… if under heat for a long enough time they can burst into flame” (Bodin, 2013).

Whatever trailer you end up buying make sure that you follow all safety guidelines. Nobody ever walked away from an accident or broken rig being glad that it happened.

Index

Bodin, D. (2013, July 02). Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64LA-DX2SlQ
CoolHorse.com, B. (2018, March 2). Trailer Weight [Interview].

Double D Trailers. (2014). How Much Does Your Horse Trailer Weigh? Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.doubledtrailers.com/horse-trailer-towing/

Double D Trailers. (2014). The Rise and Fall of Steel and Aluminum Horse Trailers: Why Z-Frame is Taking Over. Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.doubledtrailers.com/the-rise-and-fall-of-steel-and-aluminum-horse-trailers-why-z-frame-is-taking-over/

Featherlite. (n.d.). Aluminum Trailers vs. Steel Trailers. Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.fthr.com/owner-support/trailer-use-and-care/aluminum-trailers-vs-steel-trailers


Featherlite. (n.d.). Bumper Pull Horse Trailer Weights [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved March 2, 2018, from https://www.fthr.com/-/media/FeatherliteCMS/Files/Weight%20Indexes/BP-Horse-Trailers.pdf

Featherlite. (n.d.). Gooseneck Horse Trailer Weights [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved March 2, 2018, from https://www.fthr.com/-/media/FeatherliteCMS/Files/Weight%20Indexes/BP-Horse-Trailers.pdf

Featherlite. (n.d.). Stock Trailer Weights [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved March 2, 2018, from https://www.fthr.com/-/media/FeatherliteCMS/Files/Weight%20Indexes/Stock-Trailer-Weights.pdf

S. (2016, October 04). Retrieved March 02, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jk9H5AB4lM

Most Common Horse Trailer Types – Quick Guide

Two Horse Bumper Pull Trailer

For even the most experienced riders, trailering their precious equine cargo can be nerve-racking.  If you’re shopping for a trailer for the first time, the options can seem overwhelming.  Below, you’ll find a guide to the most common horse trailer types.  We’ll discuss bumper pull, gooseneck, and rear facing trailers. We’ll also compare straight load, slant load, and side loading options.

Bumper Pull Horse Trailers

A bumper-pull trailer, despite its name, attaches to a hitch on the rear of the tow vehicle and not the actual bumper.  You might also hear these trailers referred to as “tag-alongs,” because they follow along behind the tow vehicle rather than becoming part of the total rig.  These trailers are usually cost-effective, lighter in total weight, and shorter in total length.

Advantages of Bumper Pull Trailers

If you have a smaller tow vehicle, such as an SUV, or a limited amount of space to store your trailer when not in use, the weight and length of your trailer will be a special concern.  Bumper-pull trailers are typically more available, and you may already have a rear hitch on your tow vehicle, which eliminates the need to install a special hitch assembly. 

 Another advantage to a bumper-pull trailer is the turning radius follows the tow vehicle while making a turn. There are less adjustments to make as you’re hauling, making the bumper-pull trailer less intimidating for many drivers  Finally, a bumper-pull trailer is less likely to be classified as a commercial vehicle. The lighter weight of these trailers means they are typically under the 10,001 lb. weight limit most states require.

Disadvantages of Bumper Pull Trailers

However, because bumper-pull trailers are shorter and lighter weight, this often means that storage space for dressing or tack rooms is limited or non-existent.  While bumper-pull trailers for up to four horses exist, some bumper-pulls are not recommended for more than two horses because of the strain placed on the hitch.  

Another thing to keep in mind when looking at bumper-pull trailers is the size of your horse.  Again, because bumper-pulls tend to be shorter in length, if you have a larger horse, he or she might be more comfortable and safer in a different trailer.

Safety Concerns for Bumper Pull Trailers

Perhaps the biggest concern with bumper-pull trailers is that they are often less stable, especially on curvy roads. Because of its attachment to the rear of the tow vehicle rather than over the tow vehicle’s axle, bumper-pulls have a tendency to “fishtail” or sway, which can be downright scary for the driver, and probably the horses too!  

This lack of stability can also lead to trailering accidents, so you’ll want to carefully ensure that your tow vehicle is properly rated for the weight you are towing.

Gooseneck Horse Trailer

Gooseneck Horse Trailers

The main difference between a gooseneck trailer and a bumper-pull is that a gooseneck attaches directly over the rear axel of your tow vehicle allowing for a tighter turn radius.  A gooseneck trailer is generally larger and more expensive than a bumper-pull, but offers more stability, options for towing, and other amenities.

Advantages of Gooseneck Trailers

Because of its attachment over the rear axel, a gooseneck trailer is often a better choice for towing more than two horses.  Since the weight of the trailer is placed over the rear axel rather than the frame of the tow vehicle, there is less swaying and more stability.

Goosenecks often offer more space for horses and humans, with larger stall areas, and more options for tack storage.  For those that travel with their horses frequently, living quarters can be easily included with a gooseneck.  In a pinch, even gooseneck trailers without proper living quarters can serve as an impromptu camper if you stash a mattress in the space over the truck bed.  

There also tend to be more configuration options with a gooseneck trailer, such as a side-loading option, which allows you to load and unload your horse head-first instead of needing to back them out of the trailer.

Disadvantages of Gooseneck Trailers

In addition to its cost, one of the biggest downsides is that a gooseneck trailer is usually longer and heavier than a bumper pull which then requires a larger tow vehicle.  

You will also have to install a gooseneck hitch in the bed of your truck, as many trucks don’t come equipped with this feature.  Each time  you hitch or unhitch your trailer, you’ll need to climb into the bed of the truck to reach it.  A gooseneck’s length can also make it harder to store your trailer when not in use.

Safety Concerns for Gooseneck Trailers

While a bumper pull trailer follows the path of the tow vehicle, a gooseneck trailer has a tighter turning radius.  This means a gooseneck can be easier to maneuver, particularly in reverse. You will also need to account for the tighter radius by making wider turns with your tow vehicle.  You can easily clip a fence post or run over a curb if you’re not careful!

Reverse Load Horse Trailer

Rear Facing Horse Trailers

While less common than bumper pulls and goosenecks, rear facing trailers might be the future of horse transport.  While a standard trailer often positions the horse facing the front of the trailer or on a diagonal, a rear-facing trailer positions horses so that—you guessed it—they face the rear of the trailer. These trailers typically include a side and rear ramp so that horses can be loaded head-first using the side ramp and unloaded using the rear ramp.

Advantages of Rear Facing Trailers

Rear facing trailers are thought to be easier on the horse, causing less stress and minimizing the strain on their legs.  Since horses balance more of their weight on their front legs, they are better able to balance when facing away from the direction of travel.  

According to recent studies by Dr. Sharon Cregrier, who researches best practices in transporting horses, the animals are less likely to fall in transit or collide with trailer partitions when travelling rear facing.  In addition, many horse owners can attest that if given the option (such as travelling loose in a box stall), horses often position themselves rear facing when possible.

Disadvantages of Rear Facing Trailers

In a trailer specifically designed to be rear facing, safety concerns are similar to other trailer types.  However, a rear facing trailer without a side ramp might pose problems for loading horses, because it would require you to back your horse onto the trailer.

Loading Options for Horse Trailers

Another consideration when determining the best trailer for your needs is the loading option: straight load, slant load, or side load. Let’s take a moment to address each of these loading option.

Straight Load Horse Trailer

Straight Load Trailers

In a straight load trailer, horses are loaded head first from the rear of the trailer and usually must back out when unloading.  A straight load trailer typically has a center divider and is limited to a two-horse option.  Straight load trailers often provide the horse with more space to balance while travelling, and are generally taller in height.  This makes them a good option if you have a larger horse.  These trailers also provide the horse with more headspace, which is particularly important if you tend to trailer long distances.

Slant Load Trailers

In a slant load (sometimes also called an angle load), horses are loaded diagonally, with their heads facing one long side of the trailer and their rear ends against the other side. A slant load trailer allows you to fit more horses into a shorter space.  Since the dividers can be pushed to one side of the trailer, creating a more “open” environment, slant loads can be helpful for problem loaders.  They also allow enough space for most horses to turn around and unload head-first.

Slant load trailers often provide horses with less space to balance, and the more limited head space can also mean a bit of claustrophobia for certain horses.  Some people also argue that slant load trailers cause uneven strain on a horse’s legs because the left hind leg and right fore leg must compensate more when travelling in a slanted position.  Finally, if you have multiple horses in a slant load, you will have to unload each horse to get to the horse in the front stall.  This can be at best, annoying, and at worst, a safety concern.

Side Back Load Horse Trailer

Side Load Trailers

A side load trailer includes a second ramp on the side of the trailer.  This allows you to lead a horse up one ramp and off the other without the horse needing to back off of the trailer.  Once on the trailer, the horse travels at an angle, similar to the slant load trailer.  Since the ramp is positioned on the side of the trailer, these trailers are often longer and require a larger tow vehicle. 

The side ramp can also be more expensive than other loading options.  However, the second ramp provides you with multiple access points, which can help solve some of the concerns of a longer trailer.  You can still get to the first horse while possibly leaving other horses loaded toward the back of the trailer.  This would depend on how many horses you have loaded.  Some trailers provide extra options for dividing horses, so if you need to transport a stud, a side load trailer can provide extra flexibility.

Towing Vehicle Guidelines

The final thing to consider when deciding what trailer is right for you is to determine the towing vehicle your trailer requires.  Ideally, it’s usually best to choose the trailer that suits your needs first. Once determined, you then find a tow vehicle that can safely tow the trailer.  

No matter the trailer and tow vehicle combination, you’ll want to make sure that your vehicle can safely handle the combined weight of your trailer, horses, tack, hay, and other gear.  Your trailer should come with information including the axle capacity and Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GSWR).  This number is provided by the manufacturer and will tell you the maximum weight that your trailer can safely hold.

Next, you’ll want to determine the towing capacity of your vehicle (or compare the towing capacities of vehicles you’re considering purchasing).  Every vehicle that can be used for towing should have a maximum towing capacity listed by the manufacturer.  

Make sure that you have the proper model and vehicle specifications for your particular vehicle, as sometimes the same model vehicle can have a different towing capacity due to engine size or transmission type.  It’s not enough for your tow vehicle to meet the GSWR weight of your trailer.  You will want to look for a tow vehicle that can safely handle about 10 percent more than your GSWR.

Towing Requirements for Bumper Pull Trailers

Since bumper pull trailers tend to be lighter and shorter and attach to the vehicle’s rear frame, you have more options in tow vehicles.  However, if you have a smaller vehicle such as an SUV, you’ll want to be especially careful that your vehicle is properly rated for your trailer and that it is equipped with the correct towing package and weight distribution hitch for your needs.  

Another important consideration is the vehicle’s wheelbase. This is the measurement from the front axle to the rear axle.  In general, the longer the wheelbase, the more stable the rig.  This is especially important for a bumper pull trailer.

Towing Requirements for Gooseneck Trailers

A gooseneck trailer requires a pick up truck because of the way the trailer attaches to the tow vehicle.  The longer and heavier gooseneck trailers also usually require larger, full-ton trucks, while you might be able to tow certain bumper pull trailers with a half-ton truck.

What is the best trailering option for you?

Each style of trailer fits a need.  From simple 2 horse bumper hitch models, to full blown goosenecks with every amenity possible included.

For every need there is a trailer built for it.  Next to your horse, this will likely be your most costly investment.  Getting all the information beforehand will make your decision easier and cost effective for now and in the future.

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