Secure Locks. Many door handles now have deadbolt locks, but they should never be used on horse doors while hauling horses. The need for keys can greatly slow rescue crews in an accident. However, deadbolts are great protection against theft on tack room and dressing room doors.
Safer, Larger Vents. Larger, better-positioned vents and larger windows with safety screens have improved ventilation.
Floor Space and Feedbags. Many trailer models have abandoned the traditional fixed manger. Though you can still find them in some new trailers, you may want to look for breakaway breast bars, which allow floor space for a horse to balance. Removable fabric or vinyl feed bags replace the often-dusty fixed mangers.
Inviting Interiors. Many modern straight-load trailers also have done away with fixed interior posts and dividers. With removable rear posts and dividers that swing to the side, trailers are safer and appear more open, encouraging reluctant loaders.
Safe and Smooth
Safety is a key concern for any horse owner, and new trailers offer features from smooth-as-silk suspension to technology that helps you keep an eye on your horses in transit.
Smooth Rider. Almost all trailers now use rubber torsion suspension, also known as "rubber ride" axles, for silky-smooth road performance and independent suspension at each wheel, a benefit in case of a flat tire. There have been some new developments in "air ride" suspension, but because of the expense and installation, it's generally only available on van-sized trailers for six to 12 horses.
Video-Monitoring Systems. This eyes-in-the-back-of-your-head technology can make trailering safer and easier. A visual monitor allows the tow-vehicle driver to see the horses in the trailer, or to see the ball and coupler when hooking up. A good system will cost $600 and up, but can be worth every penny if it helps avert disaster on the road.
Bright Ideas. Another innovation toward road safety is the new LED (light emitting diode) lights that are replacing bulb lights for trailer turn signals, brake lights and running lights. They're much brighter, last longer, burn cooler and use less power.
Balanced Loads. Today, you'll see sport utility vehicles used to haul horses, but their relatively light weight and short wheel bases make them more likely than heavy-duty pickup trucks to be unbalanced and overwhelmed by a horse trailer's weight. A weight distribution system (often mistakenly called "sway bars") helps spread and balance the load, which increases the vehicle's safe towing capacity and prevents its front end from floating. EquiSpirit Trailer Company installs weight distribution brackets as standard equipment on all trailer tongues to encourage use of weight distribution systems.
If your budget allows, a little luxury can go a long way toward making life on the road more comfortable.
Walk-In Wonders. Check out the spacious walk-in tack and dressing rooms offered on many trailers. Floors are covered in sturdy, non-slip mats or durable, low-weave carpet, and safety-tipped bridle brackets and hooks are plentiful. Swivel-style blanket bars swing out for easy use and back against walls for storage. Saddle racks utilize the stacking system to keep the bulkiest items in a tidy vertical column, and often slide on their frames and are removable for easier cleaning.
Space You Can Live With. If year-round competition or an equine business takes you and your horses on the road, consider a trailer with living quarters. You can cook a meal, take a shower, kick back under an awning, watch a DVD, and get a good night's sleep without leaving the show grounds.
In-Slide-Out. Most living-quarter trailers now offer the option of "slide-outs." When the trailer is parked, these side-to-side wall extensions increase interior space without making the trailer longer. Sooner focuses on the premium and custom market, but sister company Exiss Trailers also offers slide-outs in the mid-range aluminum market.
Adapted from an article that originally appeared in Horse & Rider magazine.