What to Look for in a Horse Trailer
By Robert Eversole
A horse trailer is a big investment that comes with a lot of decisions to ensure that we make the right choices for us and our mounts. Let’s break down these decisions into the main factors to consider. Here are my top considerations.
Size is Important
Your horse or mule doesn’t get to decide on whether it’s going for a ride, so we need to make sure that they’re as comfortable as possible. If the space is too small, he’ll be cramped, unhappy, and may decide that he doesn’t like trailers in the future. Measure your horse from nose to rump (height, length, and width) before going trailer hunting. And consider how many horses you’ll be hauling.
The right trailer is not only comfy for your horse(s), it should be the right size to tow safely behind your vehicle and hold all the gear you need on your adventures.
Bumper pull vs. Gooseneck
From a one-horse bumper pull to a gooseneck living quarters trailer with all the bells and whistles, you have a lot of choices! Bumper pulls are generally the least expensive and simplest of trailers. Some of them can even be pulled by an SUV. Gooseneck trailers offer better stability and often come with added options such as living quarters but require a robust truck to pull them. These trailers offer the most room for you and your horses and can be outfitted as opulently or as simply as you desire.
Think about how you plan to use your trailer and the features you want and need. I ride and pack in remote areas throughout the west with three or more animals for several weeks at a time. What I need for those trips is far different from someone who takes a single horse camping for a weekend.
Like most horse owners, I started my horse trailering adventures with a bumper pull model. My 12-foot aluminum EBY stock trailer has taken me and my animals from coast to coast with no problems. Now that I’m hauling more animals and staying out longer on my trips, I’m moving to a gooseneck trailer that is easier to tow and can carry more animals and gear.
Not all trailers have adequate ventilation, which is vitally important for temperature control and air quality. Heat is far more of a concern than cold in this instance.
Consider a summer day when you’re hauling to a trailhead and you’re stuck in traffic. The interior of the trailer is going to become much warmer than the outside temperature in a hurry. Couple the rise in temps with the less-than-adequate ventilation most horse trailers offer, and you have a recipe for disaster. The best way to fight both the temperature and the humidity in the horse compartment is by adding air. Lots of air.
I fight both heat and stifling humidity by going with stock trailers instead of traditional enclosed horse trailers. Here’s why: stock trailers have a naturally open and free flowing design that provides plenty of ventilation for the animals traveling inside. Stock trailers have dramatically increased my horses’ comfort levels.
Here are three more reasons why I’m a big fan of stock trailers and why I went with one:
- They can do a lot more than haul horses. Horse owners also move hay, barn materials—I’ve even trailered my tractor. A stock trailer has the flexibility to accommodate these varied uses.
- You have more options when hauling horses. Stock trailers are designed to haul completely open or with only a few dividers. There’s a lot of empty space in a stock trailer, which can be good for larger or multiple horses who need to ride together. You can also haul your horses untied.
- There are no dividers for your animals to get stuck over, under, or in between. In my mind this makes the stock trailer much safer as it removes the possibility of having a horse become wedged under an immovable metal object. Consider the case of a roll-over accident where what once was the floor is now the ceiling. With a stock style trailer, there are no barriers to keep your animals from finding solid footing.
During the design process with the professionals at EBY, we also raised the height of the trailer roof to provide even better ventilation and accommodate my mule’s majestic ears!
Safety – Will it keep me and my animals safe?
From design and materials to the items we’ve already discussed, the safety of me and my beasts is paramount.
Design: Trailer loading issues are what keep clinicians’ kids in college. It seems that everyone has had a loading “event”, myself included. I’m convinced that we cause a lot of them by trying to force a 1,000-pound animal into a tiny enclosed space. Which would you rather walk into; a dark, stuffy, cave or a wide open, airy, space? Our ability to safely and efficiently load our animals often reflects the design of our trailers. I’m a fan of stock trailers but good design goes far beyond that.
Materials: Aluminum versus steel? They both have benefits and problems. For me aluminum works best for several reasons. Weight is one. Aluminum weighs less than steel, which makes it easier for my truck to pull it, but it’s not the only factor.
Aluminum doesn’t rust, which makes maintenance easier for me. [Note: Although aluminum doesn’t rust it will corrode, especially when covered with urine and manure. For this reason, I went with impermeable rubber flooring.]
Third, aluminum trailers have been shown to hold their resale value better than steel trailers. My EBY aluminum bumper pull is over 20 years old and it looks like new, despite my near constant abuse. I want a trailer that will last and hold its value.
I think the biggest safety factor is the company that manufactures the trailer. How well do their engineers design and how well do their mechanics build?
Buying a horse trailer can be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t rush, do your homework, and you’ll be fine. I look forward to sharing my new trailer adventures with you.
Robert Eversole, ”the trail meister,” owns www.TrailMeister.com, the largest database of horse riding and camping areas in the U.S. with free trail and trailhead information, trail maps, and much more to help horse enthusiasts experience the joys of trail riding. Robert is a registered riding instructor with PATH International, a mounted search and rescue team member, and a U.S. Marine who has served on the board of the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington (BCHW). He is enjoying his new career helping fellow trail riders stay found and safe on the trail. When not on the trail, The Trail Meister resides near Spokane, WA and teaches land navigation to a wide variety of outdoor groups across the nation. For North America’s largest horse trail and camping directory, trail tips, and more, visit www.TrailMeister.com.