Before the days of slats or bars on safety-glass windows, before sharp edges were filed down and rounded for safety, trailer shopping was scary — and uneducated buyers were easily taken. Old-make trailers were often too small, cramping even average-size horses, and little thought was given to ventilation or the horse’s comfort and health. Fortunately, you rarely see these major problems anymore, since the??larger brand-name manufacturers??now make their trailers with safety and the horse’s comfort in mind.??
So trailer shopping is now primarily a question of deciding what you can spend and what features are most convenient for your hauling purposes. We surveyed two-horse straight-load, bumper-pull trailers and found good things happening in the hauling market, for horses and buyers alike.
We’re sticking with straight-load trailers because, even if the stalls on a slant-load are widened, they won’t give enough room for horses over 15.3 hands. There’s no access to the front horse without removing the rear horse, and horses ride at an angle as you pull straight, which makes it difficult for them to balance. The only benefit we see to a slant-load trailer is that more horses can be stacked in a shorter trailer.
Many popular two-horse trailers are bumper pulls, also called tagalongs. A gooseneck trailer may seem appealing because it has more stability and can take corners more quickly than a bumper pull. But you need a pickup truck for a gooseneck and you’ve got to deal with that hitch in the middle of the truck bed.
So if you want to avoid the bed hitch or haul a trailer with your SUV, you’ll need a bumper pull. Bumper pulls are easier to hook up to your vehicle, and they’re almost always less expensive than a gooseneck trailer.
Trailer weight is an important concern for most of us, especially since many people hauling two-horse bumper pulls are using SUVs, which already weigh more than a regular pickup truck and further limits its towing capacity. Most trailers are now mainly aluminum, which is lighter (but usually more costly) than steel.
We suggest you get a trailer with rubber torsion axles for independent suspension. They make for a smoother ride, and they also allow the trailer to be pulled more easily. In comparison, a solid axle will bounce, which means when you hit a bump in an empty trailer it makes an unpleasant jolt. Rubber torsion axles are becoming more common, but they’re often still an extra you need to request and pay more for.
Features To Consider
• Height: If you have a big warmblood, look at the Equispirit XL or XXL, which have heights 7’8”, or the Cotner, which has a stall height of 7’7”. Many of the trailers on our list are 7’6”, which is basically the industry standard.
• Doors And Windows: Side escape doors are key for your safety and because, if you need to get to one horse, you don’t want to have to go by the other.
Dutch or wraparound doors, which come on the Sooner and Exiss trailers, are nice because you can fold the doors back on the trailer while you’re unloading. Also, you can unload one horse without having to undo the horse on the other side.
Windows and vents are key for ventilation. The bigger the window, the more appealing to the horse the inside of the trailer will be. They are made with the horse’s safety in mind, of automotive-quality safety glass. Window features, like the screens and bars on a Merhow or Equispirit trailer, add comfort and safety. A trailer with stock slats, like Cato’s, might be useful if you’re in a warmer climate and don’t want a fully enclosed space for your horses.
A fiberglass roof, like those on Cotner and Trail-et’s trailers, helps with temperature control. In a hot climate, vents, windows and fiberglass roof can make the difference in a trailer being 90?° or 100?°. It’s easy to forget how hot it gets back there sometimes when you are in the driver’s seat of an air-conditioned truck, but the horses can get dangerously hot without adequate ventilation.
• Ramps And Floors: We like ramps, which almost all the listed trailers have, because a properly placed ramp allows no break in the horse’s action as he loads, making things easier on horse and hauler. It’s true that some horses tend to shy if the ramp makes a hollow bridge sound and that step-ups save expense and maintenance. However, with a step-up the horse has to unload by backing down a step with a blind spot, which they don’t have to do with a ramp. And on a less-than-ideal unloading surface, like cement, a horse can slip as he backs out.
Wood flooring is a money-saving option. Aluminum is more expensive but is lighter weight and will last longer with correct care. More manufacturers are focusing on how the horse feels as he rides along. Turnbow, for example, has a new product called the “Soft Ride” floor that is a cushion that fits under the rubber mat and improves shock absorption.
Remember, though, that all trailer floors do better with mats. Even when you add options like a Rhino lining or Rumbar floors (composite plastic flooring), you still need mats so that horses won’t slip.
• Inside: Partition type is a real matter of preference. Some drivers prefer removable because it increases the versatility of your trailer — you can haul a mare and foal or a golf cart as well as two horses. It is also nice to have the option if you’re going to be traveling with an aggressive horse or a stallion to have a stud divider. On the Merhow trailer, for instance, the two butt bars hold the partition in place because there is no center post between stalls.
Adequate padding is crucial for your horses’ comfort and safety. Look for padding on the butt bars, chest bars, and on the sides of the walls where the horses are going to brace themselves. Head padding is nice for horses, especially tall ones, but not as important, since you can always put a head bumper on your tall horse. And be sure the trailer has interior light, as you never know when you might need it at night.
The trailer industry is constantly adding new creature comforts for people and horses. These will, of course, cost you, but they may also make your trailer even more enjoyable. Trail-et offers swing-out saddle racks and hide-a-screen roll-up screens. Upright water tanks can be installed in the dressing area for hauling extra water without taking up much floor space.
Sooner has options all the way down to blanket bars, bridle bars, brush trays, hat shelf and boot boxes. Featherlite now offers feed doors with centered handle bars to allow more airflow and light into the horse area and rubber-coated tie rings to keep the trailer quieter, a really nice touch. Cotner offers a built in tack box, LED lights, and a built-in battery charger. We wish all manufacturers followed Cato Classic’s lead and offered online quotes, so that you get an idea of how much the options will cost you before you even head to the local trailer dealership.
Dressing Room Or Not
Dressing rooms are popular features on trailers, as they’re convenient and make for easy storage/packing, especially if you do a lot of one-day shows. There is a sacrifice, however, in that your horse will have less head room in most dressing-room-equipped trailers, which can lead to respiratory problems.
Horses need to be able to comfortably lower their heads during a trip to clear their airway passages. A breast-bar front, as opposed to a more solid front found in a dressing-room trailer, gives horses more space, as they can extend their head over and down.
You can also get a trailer with an extended front without a dressing-room wall partition, which will allow your horses lots of neck room but still give you useful add-ons, like saddle racks. It’s a trade-off, of course, but we think the horse’s comfort is far more important than having a dressing room. Be sure the trailer you choose allows your horses to adequately and comfortably adjust their heads.
Overall, you need to weigh your needs, budget and the trailers readily available in your area to determine which brand is most suited to your situation. And, of course, budget concerns add constraints. However, we don’t think you can go wrong with Trail-et’s Baron Spirit. It’s not the lightest thing on the list (that would be the Cato, at 1,850 pounds), but at 2,720 pounds it’s not overly heavy, either, and the spring-assisted ramp will be a real help to anyone who hauls alone.
Its flooring of pressure-treated wood is the cheaper way to go, but the mats you would put in any trailer will alleviate any slipperiness. The fiberglass roof is nice because it’s like an opaque skylight for a pleasant environment and will keep horses cooler. And, of course, it is a good value at $8,705.
When trailer shopping, keep in mind that you can negotiate for a better price. Like with most cars and trucks, trailers usually list “sticker prices” that aren’t necessarily the final selling price. In addition, many dealers will also work with you on a fair trade-in price for your old trailer.
Finally, ask the dealer for names of customers who purchased the model you’re considering so you can get first-hand information on how the trailer is when in use.