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What’s Needed in a Horse Trailer

Western Mule magazineWhat’s Needed in a Horse Trailer

As published in the November 2018 issue of Western Mule Magazine

A horse trailer is a big investment and comes with a lot of big 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 when deciding what’s needed in a horse trailer. Here are my top considerations.

Size is Important – Does the trailer fit both your animals and you?

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 will be cramped, likely 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 for your riding and camping adventures.

Bumper pull vs Gooseneck

Eby Bumper pullFrom one horse bumper pulls to gooseneck LQ’s 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 long and hard about how you plan on using your trailer and features you’ll want and need. I ride and pack in remote areas throughout the west with 3 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 trailhead 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 both easier to tow and can carry more animals and “stuff.”

Ventilation – How well does it breathe?

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 that most horse trailers have and you’ve got 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.

Stock trailerI fight both heat and stifling humidity by going with stock trailers instead of traditional, enclosed, horse trailers and here’s why: Stock trailers have a naturally open and free flowing design that provides plenty of ventilation for the animals traveling inside. By going with a stock trailer I’ve dramatically increased my horses comfort level.

Since I’m on the topic of stock trailers here’s three more reasons why I’m a big fan of them.

  1. They can do a lot more than haul horses. Horse owners haul a lot more than horses, we move hay, barn materials, heck I’ve even trailered my tractor. A stock trailer has the flexibility to easily accommodate these frequent and varied uses.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

For the comfort of my animals I went with a stock trailer for the reasons listed above. 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?

Safety is my catch all in What’s Needed in a Horse Trailer, because everything about a trailer factors into this area in one way or another. 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 clinician’s 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 1,000lb 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 – A popular argument is aluminum vs 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 an easier task for me. [Note: Although aluminum doesn’t rust it will corrode, especially when covered with urine and manure. For this reason, I went with an impermeable rubber flooring from WERM that completely seals the floor. It’s non-slip and cleaning is easy and simple with no mats to move.] 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 their engineers designed the rig, and how well their mechanics built it.

Do you have a backup plan?

If it can go wrong, it eventually will. And at the most inopportune time. For those instances, I’ve always carried road coverage from US Rider because AAA won’t help with horse trailers. US Rider provides not only roadside assistance for your truck and trailer, they can also help with vet recommendations and even stabling help in the event of a problem on the road. Peace of mind is good thing.

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. Next month we’ll look at the world of trailer jacks and other accessories to make your hauling life easier.

I hope yo enjoyed this piece on What’s Needed in a Horse Trailer.