Friday, July 10, 2009

Horse Trailers

While sitting around the campfire recently on a week-long trip to Medora, North Dakota, there was a discussion about trailers: straight load vs. slant load, aluminum vs. steel, gooseneck vs. bumper pull; lengths, widths, heights and living quarters. The variations are endless and everyone has their favorites.

It seems that more and more horse trailers on the road these days are aluminum, since they’re lightweight and easy to pull. I remember, though, telling someone about the trailer I had just gotten and when I mentioned it was aluminum she said she would never have anything but a steel trailer. When I asked why, she said that she didn’t want to take a chance of a horse kicking the side and putting a foot through the aluminum.

Slant-Load Trailers
I think horses prefer riding at a slant, it’s easier for them to balance side-to-side as opposed to front-to-back, although I have seen horses loose in a stock trailer turning so that they are facing backwards. If you think about it, most of a horse’s weight is carried on their front end so it makes sense that it would be easier to balance while facing backwards. I like the convenience of loading horses into a slant-load versus a straight-load, it also seems safer if you’re leading a horse into the trailer as there’s more room to get out once the horse is in. My old mare seems to panic when backing out of a trailer and the further she has to back, the faster she goes until she’s running backwards, practically out of control. But in the slant-load, I can turn her around and then she’s perfectly calm walking out.

Bumper Pull vs. Gooseneck Trailers
My trailer is a bumper pull since we have a motor home we use when camping, but everyone I know who has a gooseneck trailer says that they are far easier and more stable to haul. Our decision was made because we don’t always camp with horses and we didn’t want to take the trailer along whenever we wanted to just go for a weekend without horses. I have to admit, though, that with the cost of gas, taking a truck and trailer for long distances is far more economical than the motorhome.

Trailers with Living Quarters
I have always thought that I didn’t want to give up all the comforts and space of our motor home, but gooseneck trailers with living quarters are getting more and more luxurious all the time. I was looking at new trailers at the Horse Expo in St. Paul last spring and was amazed at some of the trailers. One I looked at, admittedly on the high end of pricing, had a slide-out for a living room, 2 TV’s, complete kitchen, a huge bathroom, and even a gas fireplace!

4-Horse Trailers
Another consideration when looking at trailers is how many horses it will accommodate. I’ve always had a 4-horse trailer, but I seldom haul 4 horses any more now that both of my daughters are grown and off on their own. Even so, I still like having those 4 stalls for the extra room it gives me to haul “stuff.” The front stall has a stud gate – the partition going almost to the floor – so that I can put camping gear or firewood or hay in that spot. I had another stud gate installed for the last stall also so that if I am taking 3 horses I can fill the last spot with hay bales. It’s a little inconvenient to have to load the hay after the horses and then take it out before unloading, but I prefer doing that to attempting to make it fit into the tack compartment.

Whenever anyone asks me about trailers (when they are looking to buy one) I always advise them to buy a trailer with one more stall than they think they’ll need, just for the extra room. I have friends which only have 2 horses, but they purchased a 3-horse trailer.

Make Sure Your Vehicle is Rated to Tow the Trailer!
Whatever trailer you decide to buy, make sure that your vehicle is rated to pull it. There is nothing more frightening than driving down the road and having the trailer swing your vehicle – I know because it happened to me! I was talking to a truck dealer one time and he told me a story about someone who bought a large boat and when he came to pick it up he had only a car to pull it home.

The dealer tried to tell him it wasn’t safe, but the man insisted and so off he went. Yes, the car could pull the boat and trailer, but when he went around a curve, the boat pulled the car straight ahead into the ditch. Even if you're not going to be driving around curves, figure that your vehicle needs ample stopping time - for its weight plus the weight of your trailer - if what you're pulling weighs more than your car, the car won't be able to stop the inertia of the trailer. It’s not so much whether your vehicle can PULL the trailer, but can it CONTROL it!

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