In a recent online horse forum, they asked what would your dream horse trailer look like, if cost wasn’t an issue? Forum conversations stemmed from slant loads to luxury living quarters. Every forum member felt that the horse’s comfort was first and foremost. The most important thing to remember is that no matter how appealing a trailer looks–with decked-out living quarters, a spacious tack room, and a fancy paint job–if it’s not safe and suitable for the horses you will be hauling, it is not worth the money.

With so many decisions to make when buying a trailer, the facts needed for an informed decision go beyond the scope of one article. An excellent resource is the book The Complete Guide to Buying, Maintaining, and Servicing a Horse Trailer, written by Neva Kittrell Scheve with her husband, Tom. The Scheves have developed numerous lines of horse trailers through their company EquiSpirit, and Neva travels nationwide giving seminars on all aspects of horse trailers.

“A trailer need not be expensive to be safe, but the wrong trailer is not a good buy at any price,” write the Scheves.

Grand Tour of Villa Country EstateGrand Tour of Villa Country Estate

According to the Scheves, there are three major health criteria for selecting a trailer: Size, ventilation, and safety in design.

Size–Is there enough room and light for the horse(s) to be comfortable? A horse needs room to spread all four legs and enough head room to use his head and neck for balance, according to the Scheves.

Lonny Smith, product manager for Featherlite Trailers in Cresco, Iowa, recommends measuring your largest horse’s height, length, and width, and buying a trailer that will fit him. Then any of your smaller horses will fit, and you should be able to make adjustments, such as adding special brackets to lower butt and breast bars or moving them forward or backward. It’s also important to make sure the structure is strong enough to contain your strongest horse. This goes for all parts of the trailer–butt bars, tie rings, dividers, etc.

Keep in mind that the height in trailers with rounded roofs is sometimes determined at the highest point. If this is the case, is your horse going to bump his head as he moves toward the outside wall? When measuring floor width, make sure to account for wheel wells, which (depending on the design of the trailer) might take up your horse’s available standing room.

Ventilation–Not all trailers have adequate ventilation, which is important for temperature control and air quality. James Jones, DVM, MS, PhD, research advisor at the Equine Athletic Performance Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, says, “There is likely to be a greater danger of horses getting too hot when being transported than getting too cold. When trailers get stuck in line at construction, accidents, etc., the interior of the trailer can be as much as 20°F warmer than the outside temperature, and it may get more humid inside, making it very difficult for horses to evaporate (sweat) and lose heat.”

During a trip, a horse is exposed to dust and mold spores from hay and shavings, say the Scheves. Gases from urine and manure–as well as misdirected exhaust fumes–can also cause the horse severe health problems during a trailer ride. Jones says he has heard of horses that came into the UC-Davis clinic which died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty exhaust system.

Safety in design–Horses have a knack for finding some way to get hurt. Smith recommends checking the trailer for any sharp edges or protruding objects. Inspect all parts of the trailer for functionality, durability, and safety. There should be an appropriate-size emergency exit for the handler. Door frames should not be so low that the horse bumps his head while getting on.

Ramps should be solid, low, non-slip, and long enough so the handler is not in danger of flying hooves when the ramp is being raised. Step-up trailers should be wide enough to allow the horse to turn around and walk out, if possible. For a step-up trailer, the Scheves prefer to have a front unload ramp.

Remember to check the condition of the floor and underbraces. All lights and brakes should be working, tires should be in good condition, and the trailer should be constructed to hold the size, weight, and strength of your horses and maintain its structural integrity in an accident.

Once these basic items have been evaluated, then you can decide on other features such as insulation, removable hay bags, mats, screens, bar guards on windows, water tanks, etc. And as always, more expensive features can be considered, such as interior fans, air-ride suspension, closed-circuit television cameras, living quarters, etc.

Motorhome, Single Level Trailer or Transporter ? Transporter manufacturers will quote at least ten reasons why tractor and triple deck or tri-level trailer combinations have many advantages over motorhomes or single level trailers.

  • Cost: We can build any transporter for far less money than a bus or motorhome.
  • No More Towing: With no front driver or rear engine, front, rear and side access for large cargo is made possible which means no more towing cargo which is protected inside.
  • Center of Gravity: Eliminating the massive center framework and drive train creates low floor levels for easy loading and unloading and makes “tri-deck” or triple deck levels possible. And unlike RV, Nascar, NHRA, Formula 1 and other auto transporters, this places the weight down near the ground where it belongs for improved handling and creates massive office space and an observation lounge on the second and third floors.
  • Lightweight Aluminum:The reduced weight from traditional heavy steel framework, engine and transmission means cargo weight can be substantially increased.
  • Turning Radius: The forward central axle placement and fifth wheel connection makes turning and maneuvering much shorter and easier than a motorhome.
  • Security: The detached trailer becomes a safe storage garage on wheels and the upper level living quarters/ offices or military control centers cannot be accessed from ground level.
  • Two RV’s In One: The relatively low cost of a tow vehicle and reliability is unmatched while detaching it (with RV amenities) for convenient every day transportation is simply unbeatable.
  • More Space: With custom built dropped axles creating a lower deck as low as 10” above the road, three floors for cargo and living quarters including a huge top deck are also possible. And the first floor’s massive space makes it easy to load and unload heavy or bulky cargo including cars and boats, keeping the center of gravity low where it belongs improving handling.
  • Reliability: The evidence of this is found every day and on every highway in this country. Everyday freight hauling requires constant reliability and the combination of truck/trailer cannot be duplicated.
  • Versatilty: While these trailers can be pulled by most medium to heavy duty trucks, a custom tow vehicles with amenities and a tri-deck trailer means having two RV’s in one!
  • Customer Service: Unlike motorhome/bus repairs which can be almost impossible to find, there are thousands of certified Ford/Kenworth/Peterbilt service centers nationwide

Regardless of what you chose to haul your horses, there are endless choices from numerous manufacturers. You can spend a few thousand dollars or a few million dollars. The horse world is your oyster.