Horses relax in a parked slant-load trailer. Photo: Lesley Ward
To determine what type of trailer will best suit your equine family, you’ll need to take a look at your riding style. Are you a weekend trail warrior or do you plan to haul to horse shows or camp overnight? Your intended use will play a role in determining just how large of a trailer you need. If you plan on hauling to local shows or events that last only a day, a trailer with living quarters may not be necessary. If you haul to multi-day events or if you plan on camping with your horses, some form of living quarters may be helpful.
The type of trailer you purchase is truly a matter of preference, both yours and your horse’s. Available options include: slant-load, where the horses ride on the diagonal; straight load, where horses ride with either heads or tails facing the tow vehicle; and stock, which is generally an open trailer with no dressing or tack rooms, though they can be added.
Determining what is best for you and your horse is sometimes a matter of loading them into different styles of trailer and seeing in which they ride most comfortably. Slant-load, the most-common layout for trailers, take up less length of a trailer, allowing for more room for a dressing room, tack room or living quarters. A stock trailer is typically less expensive, but can be customized easily.
Bumper Pull or Gooseneck
Tow vehicle will determine if a gooseneck trailer is an option, but in general, bumper-pull trailers are less expensive and leave the bed of your truck available to haul additional items such as bales of hay or shavings. A bumper pull trailer can also be hauled by some SUVs.
Gooseneck trailers sway less and are significantly easier to steer and back. However, they are more expensive, use more fuel and can only be hauled with a pickup truck. They also take up the truck bed while hauling.
Trailer height and length are key to your horse’s comfort. If you have a tall horse, you’ll need to look at trailers that are “extra tall” or “Thoroughbred height,” meaning that they are 7’6” and taller. Larger horses may also require longer stall length, usually around 11 feet in length. Very tall horses may have difficulty fitting in a slant-load trailer, which typically have smaller stall lengths.
Step-up vs. Ramp
Once you decide which style of trailer you prefer, you’ll need to decide if you want a step-up trailer or a ramp for your horse to access the interior of the trailer. While this is typically a matter of equine preference, be cognizant of how high your horse will need to step to get into the trailer if you choose a step-up. If you opt for a ramp, be sure that you’ll be able to lift it by yourself.
What material your trailer is made of could also play into your purchasing decision. While steel is a strong, traditional trailer material, it’s heavy and requires a vehicle with a large towing capacity. Aluminum trailers, on the other hand, are typically more expensive, but will last longer with less maintenance. A compromise could be to purchase a steel frame, aluminum skin trailer, which tends to be more affordable than all-aluminum and not as heavy as solid steel.
Considerations for Used Trailers
If you’re in the market for a used trailer, be sure to lift the mats and look at the floor, which should be free from degradation. Look at the wiring and the welds, especially around the doors, and keep a sharp eye out for any rust or corrosion. Any of these issues should be considered purchasing deal breakers, unless you plan on paying for up-front repairs.
Deciding what features you want in a horse trailer can seem overwhelming, but paying attention to the needs of your horse and always putting safety first will ensure that all your trips down the road are uneventful.
Need more trailer info? Check out these videos and articles
What Your Horse Needs to Know Before Getting in a Trailer
Ten Things to Know About Financing a Horse Trailer
How to Hitch a Horse Trailer
Video: Inspecting a Horse Trailer