What Trailer is Right for You?
If you have a horse, chances are you have at least considered getting a trailer at some point. While they are an investment, they give horse owners the freedom to not rely on barn mates traveling to certain shows, they bring about opportunities to haul your horses to fun places like nearby trails or riding clinics, and they are great to have on hand in the event of emergencies like evacuations or veterinary problems. Once you decide that purchasing a trailer is right for you, there are a few variables to consider before you write the check.
Straight Load vs. Slant Load
It’s the age-old debate of what type of trailer is best for our horses. One thing both sides agree on is that the horse’s safety is paramount.
Straight loads were originally thought of as Thoroughbred trailers due to their taller ceilings and narrower standing areas, but sizing is now standard and comparable to other types of trailers. The main advantage of a straight load is that it has a more open and airy appearance which can ease claustrophobia in nervous haulers. There is also a bar that goes across a horse’s chest and that can be a great way for them to brace during trailer movement, while still being able to raise and lower their head to ensure lack of respiratory disruption. A major disadvantage is that if you want to haul more than two horses, the length of the trailer gets significantly longer with each added pair. A larger trailer means a heavier trailer, which needs a strong towing vehicle.
On the flip side, when loading horses at an angle in a slant load, you are able to haul more horses in a much shorter trailer. When loading a horse, they have a wider entrance than a straight load which can be more welcoming to horses who tend to get anxious while loading. Speaking of nervous loaders, if you have a horse who refuses or is unable to unload backwards, slant loads make it possible for some horses to turn around for headfirst unloading. One major downside to slant loads is that if there is an emergency with a horse in the first slant, you will need to unload all horses behind them to access. Additionally, trailers are only able to be a certain width to be considered road-friendly, so these slants can be too small for larger horses.
Introducing the Reverse Load
Traditional trailers load from the rear, but studies quickly revealed how horses are able to brace for movements better with their stronger rear end. With this new discovery came a new type of trailer: the reverse load trailer. Reverse loads have a ramp on the side of the trailer toward the front where horses load and face towards the tail lights of the trailer. This entrance at the front also allows haulers to access horses at the front quickly if there is an emergency. One thing people don’t often consider when it comes to trailers set up as reverse loads is their versatility. There are entrances/exits in the back and the front of the trailer, so you can load your horse in one direction and out the other. You also have the flexibility to have your horses face forwards or backwards, depending on preference and if that specific trailer is set up with that ability.
Do I Need a Ramp?
Some trailers have built in ramps which can seem like a great addition, but may not be necessary. Without the right traction, ramps can get slippery when wet which can pose a threat to both you and your horse while loading. They also add a significant amount of weight to your overall trailer weight and one more moving part that can be intimidating to nervous loaders. However, ramps are great for unloading backwards since horses don’t have to blindly step off the edge of the trailer. They can also prove to be very handy in uneven loading scenarios where your trailer might be significantly higher than the ground your horse is loading from. For those with senior horses or horses with certain injuries, buying a trailer with a ramp can be a wise choice to make loading less strenuous since they won’t need to step up high.
Now that the basics are covered, there are plenty of accessories you can decide you need or not. For example, if you plan to haul to overnight shows, a living quarters section might be a great addition. This negates the need for expensive hotel stays and you can truly make it your own with your unique needs like a kitchenette, a shower, a bed, and even a TV. And it goes without saying… air conditioning! Tack areas can also vary greatly, so consider how many saddles and bridles you’ll need based on your hauling goals. Some trailers come with special water and hay storage – both of which are convenient, but can be very beneficial in emergency situations like being stalled off a busy road for hours. You can also add high-tie systems or portable fencing which will allow your horses to graze near the parked trailer. There are fans and cameras for an added layer of luxury and safety for horses while in transit. The sky really is the limit when it comes to tricking out your horse trailer, but there is one thing you do need: a first aid kit (for both horses and humans).
Once you consider your goals for hauling, compile a list of need-to-have and nice-to-have trailer features. Compare local listings with this list while keeping in mind your hauling vehicle’s towing capacity and budget. Before too long, you’ll have a trailer of your own and you’ll be hitting the road with your equine companion. Safe and happy travels!