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Tips for Choosing Your Next Horse Trailer
Choosing a Horse Trailer

by Shane Jensen, National Sales Manager at Trails West Manufacturing
Today’s horse trailer industry has so many choices that purchasing can be confusing for even the savviest consumer. Although there are many features to consider, most people simply want a trailer that is safe and sound.

The steel trailer has been around the longest and has a proven track record. Modern steel trailers are designed to weigh less while remaining structurally sound. Most steel trailer companies make corrosion protection a priority using different variations of galvanized material and automotive -quality paint processes. A steel trailer has more frequent exterior maintenance, but it is easy and feasible requiring only a routine wash and wax.

The aluminum trailer was designed to weigh less than the traditional steel trailer. A typical weight comparison shows the aluminum trailer weighs 10-15% less than a steel trailer. Aluminum has better corrosion resistance, but oxidizes over the years. Maintenance on the exterior of an aluminum trailer is less but more expensive when it is done. Traditionally an aluminum trailer costs more than its steel counter part, ranging 10-25% more.

A steel-framed aluminum-skinned trailer combines the strength of a steel frame with corrosion resistance of aluminum skins. Weighing somewhere between the aluminum and steel trailer, it is also priced between the two. Maintenance on this type of trailer is similar to the all-aluminum trailer. Make sure to inquire about the type of barrier placed between the two dissimilar metals, to avoid electrolysis.

Regardless of construction and materials, it’s a good idea to observe used trailers at the show/rodeo grounds and trailheads. A trailer that is 3-5 years old can show a particular trailer’s structural and cosmetic wear, unless the manufacturer has dramatically changed construction recently.

All trailers have tongue weight, the amount of weight that is actually sitting on your tow vehicle. A bumper pull tows the trailer from the very rear of the tow vehicle. Typically, these trailers are two- to four-horse in size. The axles are positioned where the trailer handles most of the load’s weight. The average weight range placed on your tow vehicle is approximately 10-15% of the overall weight of the trailer. In this case, the rear axle is taking all the tongue weight of the tow vehicle.

When backing up a bumper pull trailer, the trailer is quick to respond to the change in direction from the tow vehicle, making it harder for beginners and novices to back up. Depending on the tow vehicle and size of the trailer being towed, a weight-distributing hitch is beneficial. This type of hitch equalizes the trailer weight through the frame of the tow vehicle, making a big load safer to tow. A bumper pull trailer works well when there is a camper or shell in the truck bed or when towing with an SUV.

A gooseneck trailer applies the tongue weight to the center of a truck’s bed and over the rear axle (opposed to behind the axle), making steering safer.
The average weight range placed on your tow vehicle is approximately 23-28% percent of the overall weight of the trailer. These trailers will range from two- to eight-horse in size. When backing a gooseneck trailer, it is slower to respond to a change in direction from the tow vehicle, making it easier for beginners and novices to backup. The gooseneck trailer is longer in length than the bumper pull and requires wider turns when maneuvering. Larger loads are towed more safely with a gooseneck trailer, but with losing the storage of the pickup bed.

Carefully consider the actual function of the trailer, primarily the function of the working parts that get utilized the most. When looking at different trailers visualize yourself loading your horse and tack. Notice how well tack doors shut, dividers close, feed doors drop, swing-out saddle racks operate, etc. Also, be sensitive to noise and rattle. One of the largest contributors to a horse’s stress while being trailered is noise. Shut all of the doors, gates and dividers and start jumping up and down in the trailer and see how much noise you can hear. It may be the difference in your horse’s performance at the next show, rodeo or trail ride.

Another point to consider when purchasing your next trailer is storage space. Many manufactures offer rear tacks, mid tacks, side tacks and mangers with underneath storage, realizing the need for sufficient space for equipment and personal items. Picture yourself loading all of the tack and vet supplies you normally take and make sure it all fits.

There are many convenience options that are available on most trailers in the industry. Water tanks are a very popular option, averaging approximately 25 gallons. Normally installed in the dead corner where the angle wall meets the tail-side wall, they take up very little space. A door-mounted tack organizer is very feasible and a space-saver, providing compartments for supplies such as wraps, bug spray, brushes, combs and all sorts of vet supplies. A boot box provides space for extra boots, goodies, camping supplies and other extras. Also offered by some manufactures is a cooler insert that will fit inside the boot box, perfect for beverages and snacks. This cooler has a bottom drain plug, making drainage easy.

There are all sorts of vanity cabinets available allowing one to store anything that may be stored in your home’s bathroom vanity. These cabinets have a mirror on the door. When looking inside a trailer, make sure there are plenty of hooks for tack, coats, ropes or anything that you may bring along with you. Hat racks are very nice and allow you to get your cowboy hat out of the road when it is not on your head, plus it will not get stepped on.

Load lights are very important items that are essential in the inevitable event of loading, unloading or saddling in the dark. An on-board RV battery is also beneficial to insure all interior and exterior lights work (even if you are not hooked to your tow vehicle) and a DC plug is handy for powering various accessories like cellular phones.

From a safety standpoint, look for a NATM sticker on the trailer that you are considering to purchase. This sticker signifies that the manufacturer of that particular trailer is a member of the National Association of Trailer Manufactures. Members of this association adhere to safety standards and are updated with safety information and standards as they change in this ever -changing industry.

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