Design Features to Consider Before Purchasing a Horse Trailer

Horses in a field

Because of various trailer sizes and configurations, the number of horses one wishes to transport, as well as the amenities one can afford, it’s always a wise idea to become familiar with the various styles of horse trailers to ensure an educated purchase.  Much like buying a car, knowing the pros and cons of various features helps one gain valuable insight towards choosing a trailer that caters to ones needs and pocketbook.  A basic-model horse trailer can cost as little as $20,000 while a deluxe model with air-conditioning, for example, can soar to $200,000!


Basic Design Features to Keep in Mind


Hitch Types


The majority of horse trailers are designed with a bumper-pull hitch or a goose-neck hitch.  Of the two, bumper-pull trailers are often smaller in size, making them ideal candidates to be pulled by a lighter-weight vehicle.  With this type, the coupler reaches out from the front of the trailer and connects to a ball that is mounted on the bumper of the tow vehicle.  Bumper-pulls are, typically, the most cost-effective horse-hauling rig on the market and have the capacity to haul up to four horses at one time.


The goose-neck variety connects to the ball in the bed of the hauling vehicle.  Here, the trailer coupler is found under the overhang on the front of the trailer.  Goose-necks are known for their enhanced stability and increased safety features when it comes to hauling heavier loads.  Since goose-neck trailers are heftier, they require the use of larger tow vehicles or tugs.  As one might guess, the goose-neck horse trailer will cost more than the bumper-pull; but part of that extra cost allows the driver of the tow vehicle to handle turns and back-up maneuvering with much greater ease.  Goose-neck trailers are designed to haul three or more horses.


A third type of hitch trailer is called the fifth-wheel; and though its appearance is very similar to a goose-neck, the hitching mechanism is designed differently, allowing a stronger connection between the tow vehicle and the trailer.


Load Types


Load types regarding horse trailers would include straight load and slant load.  With the straight load variety, horses stand parallel to one another and face the front of the trailer where a handler’s exit door is conveniently located.  Small, 2-horse trailers are usually of the straight load design which is typically less expensive than the slant load variety.


The slant-load configuration allows horses to stand side by side, but at an angle with the faces of horses  in the direction of the middle of the road.  A handy storage area is usually found in a slant-load trailer and is, actually, the dead space created from the slant configuration.  This section of the trailer often serves as a stash area for saddle racks and more.  Between straight load and slant load,  research indicates that no legitimate safety advantages exist with one design over the other.


Entrance Types


Horses have one of two choices when it comes to their entrance into a horse trailer:  walking up a ramp or simply stepping up into the trailer.  The trailer’s back door design will dictate which of the two entrance types will be included.  For example, a front door that is hinged at the floor will fold downward, creating an instant ramp.  Conversely, if the door is hinged on the side and opens like a door, a step-up design is created.


Ramps should be checked for their strength since lesser-quality ramps can be lighter weight and create creaky noises when horses enter and exit.  With the step up design, it is important that edges of the step are padded to prevent any potential injury to hooves or legs.  Between the two designs of ramp vs. step up, no safety features are favored with one over the other.  Again, the choice is simply a personal preference.


Stock Trailers vs Horse Trailers


There are two very important considerations to think about regarding stock trailers and horse trailers:


  • Horse trailers are usually fully enclosed while livestock trailers tend to be partially open-slatted on the sides.
  • Horse trailers will usually have dividers to safely separate each horse, while livestock trailers often do not include dividers.


It should be noted that a livestock trailer can be used as a horse trailer as long as several criteria are met:

  1. Taller size
  2. Wider width, and
  3. External wheel wells

For the average horse, a trailer should be seven to eight fee high and six to eight feet wide, on the inside.  Generally speaking, the trailer’s ceiling should rise a minimum of ten inches above the horse’s head, at normal resting height.

Being aware of fundamental details regarding horse trailers allows one to make a decision that will best suit not only the needs of the trailer owner but the needs of the horses, as well!