If your horse could go trailer-shopping with you, the want/need list he'd bring along would be simple: construction materials that protect him; adequate space, light, and ventilation; and design details geared to his health and safety. By keeping his priorities uppermost, you can pare down your choices among the many options in today's two-horse trailer market. And you'll end up with a trailer that makes travel less stressful for him--and for you.
Features to Look for:
- Combination steel/aluminum construction, dual wall with insulation (except in the roof)
- "Walk-through" design (with front escape door)--provides room for horse to stretch head and neck
- Exterior wheel wells for uncluttered floor area
- Ample front windows for ventilation and light
- Light-colored interior makes confined space less frightening
- Well-padded breast bars
- Shoulder divider keeps horses' heads in front of forward center post
- High center divider allows horses to spread their feet--and swings aside for loading first horse
- No rear center post
- Snug-fitting, heavy-duty floor mats for security underfoot
Safety and Comfort Checkpoints
Construction materials: Stainless steel or zinc-plated steel rivets, bolts and other fasteners on all-aluminum trailers are stronger than aluminum fasteners. Beams supporting an aluminum trailer's floor need to be no more than about 5 inches apart. Steel subframes bolted and welded to an aluminum trailer's frame provide strong attachment points for axles and drawbar.
Dimensions: When measuring trailer stall space, remember that interior wheel wells can reduce the usable floor-level width of an apparently generous stall. (Such wheel wells are safer if the trailer's interior wall is slanted to cover them.) Be careful, too, about manufacturers' measurement of stalls in slant-load trailers hauling more than two horses. Those stalls may measure 10 feet from corner to corner yet have only 8 feet of usable length.
Most straight-load trailers are built on 96-inch axles. If the wheel wells are located outside the stall area, the total floor width will be 6 feet (3 feet per stall) and the trailer's exterior hubcap-to-hubcap width will be 8 feet, which is legal on all U.S. roads. If you're considering a straight-load trailer with 102-inch axles for extra width (the total inside floor width, without inteior wheel wells, is now 6 feet 9 inches), check with the Department of Transportation in the state(s) where you'll do most of your driving to make sure those maximum-width axles are legal.
Height: Make sure the height you need extends for the full width of the trailer. A rounded-roof trailer that's 7 feet 4 inches high in the center will be lower on either side--where the horses will be standing!
Fresh Air and Light: Trailer windows are made of glass or plexiglass. Shatterproof, tinted safety glass is preferable. It doesn't expand or contract with temperature changes; plexiglass does, and may eventually crack. (The two mateials may look the same; tap windows to check.)
Make sure interior bar guards that protect windows don't have sharp edges or protrude into the trailer. Check that spacing between bars is too narrow to let a hoof get stuck.
Tom Scheve and Neva Kittrell Scheve have served as product-improvement consultants to several trailer companies and have also developed their own EquiSpirit trailer line.
Excerpted from "The Best Wheels for Your Horse" in the July 2000 issue of Practical Horseman magazine. For complete information on choosing the right tow vehicle for your horse trailer, see the Scheves' "Tow-Vehicle Math Made Easy" in the July 2006 issue of Practical Horseman.
Are you looking to upgrade your trailer? Go to Equine.com, the premier classifieds site of the Equine Network to search for the perfect trailer for you!