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Choosing the right trailer for travel

There's a lot to consider when choosing a trailer

There's a lot to consider when choosing a trailer

The trailer you select for your horses isn’t a decision to make lightly. It’s a huge investment, so you want to pick something sturdy. That said, you also want a trailer that fits your animals’ needs and doesn’t exceed your vehicle’s capabilities. Below are a few things to consider during your search for a horse trailer:

Style

Choose a style that works well for you and your horses.

“Straight-load trailers are suitable for transporting multiple horses.”

Straight load: Horses are loaded and ride straight in line with the tow vehicle. These trailers provide more stall length, making them ideal for large horses. In addition, if you need a trailer that holds multiple horses, then any animal can be unloaded first without removing the others.

Slant load: Horses ride at an angle, allowing more animals to fit into a shorter area. However, if the trailer only has an entrance at the end, you’ll have to unload the horses in the back before you can get to the one in the front. This can be difficult if you encounter an issue while traveling and need to pull over to the side of the road. Also, as noted above, slant loads aren’t ideal for large horses. According to Equisearch, trailers legally cannot be wider than 102 inches, so slant loads have less stall length than straight loads.

Entering and exiting

There are two ways your horse can access the interior of the trailer: either by stepping up into it or walking up a ramp. Each has its own pros and cons:

Step up: This style works well for loading, but keep in mind the height of the trailer. The step may be too high for your horse to enter comfortably. Straight-load step-up trailers can also cause horses to panic when exiting. The animal must climb backwards out, meaning it can’t see the ground as it steps down. Your horse may struggle to find footing and develop a phobia.

Ramp: These make loading and unloading easier. Choose one with a low, gradual slope and a non-slip surface. Also, make sure it’s light enough for you to lift it alone.

Towing

Your vehicle will determine whether you can choose a gooseneck or bumper-pull trailer.

“Bumper-pull trailers are less expensive, but gooseneck provide better balance.”

Bumper-pull: The less expensive option and suitable for some SUVs. If you do have a truck, bumper-pull trailers keep the bed free so you can store additional items.

Gooseneck: More expensive and requires more fuel to tow. However, gooseneck trailers provide better balance and are therefore easier to drive with. In a conversation with Equisearch, Tom Scheve, co-author of “The Complete Guide to Buying, Maintaining and Servicing a Horse Trailer,” said this style is the proper choice for transporting three horses.

Safety

Some trailers have add-ons that enhance the safety of you and your horses while traveling:

Video monitoring: These systems cost an additional $600 or more, but the extra visibility they provide makes them well worth it.

LED lighting: Turn signals with LED lights are brighter, more energy efficient and last longer than traditional bulbs.

Secure locks: Most trailers have deadbolt locks on the door handles, avoid using them when driving. Otherwise, if you have an accident, the lock will prevent rescue crews from getting to your horses quickly. Only use the deadbolt to protect against theft when not transporting a horse.

Material

The type of material your trailer is made of greatly contributes to its weight.

Steel: Strong, sturdy, but very heavy. Steel trailers require a vehicle with a large towing capacity.

Aluminum: Lighter and more expensive, but lasts longer and requires less maintenance.

Dealing with a panicky horse

Even with your best efforts and research, the trailer you choose might not be the best for all of your horse. One of your equines might be panicky when loading whereas the rest are completely fine. If this becomes an issue, use a soothing product like Finish Line’s Quia-Cal to support healthy nerves.

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