Horse trailers have evolved from small two-horse steel contraptions to luxurious accommodations for horses and people. Options and price vary, so consider which features best fit your needs before investing in a new or used trailer.
Trailer Pull Types
Equine trailers are available in gooseneck and bumper pull styles. Gooseneck trailers require pickup or semi trucks as towing vehicles, but some larger SUVs can safely tow bumper pull trailers.
Gooseneck trailers attach to a ball in the towing pickup's bed over the rear axel. This reduces sway and makes gooseneck trailers more stable than bumper pulls even though they are larger. They can haul more horses and include space for larger tack rooms or living quarters. However, their weight may qualify them as commercial vehicles, depending on each states' weight limits. Gooseneck trailers have tight turning radiuses, so they are easier to back and park, but inexperienced trailer haulers may turn too tight and damage bumpers. Gooseneck trailers range in capacity from two to nine horses, and they sell from $13,000 to $70,000 for new models.
Bumper pull trailers attach to a ball hitch at the rear of the towing vehicle's frame. These trailers weigh less than gooseneck trailers and cost less. Their turning radius is wider and makes them harder to back up, but it also reduces the risk of damaging bumpers in tight turns. Larger models require sway bars for stability. Bumper pull trailers range in capacity from one to four horses, and their price tag ranges from $8,500 to $19,000 for new models. This is a good option for people who haul only one or two horses or tow with SUVs.
Horse trailers are available in straight, slant, and head-to-head configurations. Each configuration is safe, so the choice depends on the horsemen's preferences.
In straight loads, the horses face the front of the trailer when they are inside. This is the most common style for small, two-horse trailers. A center divider separates the horses from each other, and butt bars prevent the horse from backing out until the handlers are ready to unload. The handlers walk into the trailers with the horses and exit through doors at the front.
- Opening the front escape doors while loading brightens the trailer and reduces horses' claustrophobia.
- Horses brace with their front legs when the tow vehicle reduces speed, so they have good balance.
- Straight load trailers are narrower than slant loads so they fit into narrower parking spaces.
- Most straight load trailers only accommodate two horses.
- Rear and side ramps increase safety while loading and unloading, but they also increase the trailer's weight and put more strain on the towing vehicles.
In slant loads, the horses stand diagonally side by side with their heads facing left. Swinging dividers separate the horses, and the handlers secure these closed as each horse loads.
- The trailer is shorter but fits more horses.
- Horses can turn around and unload head first.
- Slant load trailers appear more open, so they reduce a horse's claustrophobia while loading.
- The United States Department of Transportation limits width to 8.5 feet.
- Handlers are unable to unload just the horses in the middle or front of the trailer.
Head-to-head trailers hold four to six horses, depending on the configuration. These trailers have two or three stalls at the rear of the trailer, an open space in the center with a loading ramp, and two or three stalls at the front of the trailer. The horses in the front stalls stand facing the rear of the trailer.
- Handlers can unload one horse from any location in the trailer which makes this a good option for professional horse haulers.
- Seeing other horses in the trailer relaxes nervous travelers.
- The unit can be converted into three box stalls.
- Head-to-head trailers are longer and weigh more so they require larger towing vehicles.
- They cost more than slant load trailers that haul the same number of horses.
Modern horse trailers include a variety of safety and convenience features.
Drop Down Windows
Some slant load trailers have drop down windows on the head side. These add light and ventilation to the interior. The handlers drop the windows and safety bars to feed and water horses. In hot months, the handlers may drop the windows and leave the safety bars up for extra air flow. Trailering with safety bars down is not safe because the horses may try to jump out of the windows or sustain eye injuries from debris. Some drop down windows include screens to maximize air flow while protecting horses' eyes.
Ramps attach to a trailer's rear with hinges. When folded down, they allow horses to enter and exit on gradual inclines. This increases safety in a straight load trailer; when horses back out, they will not experience sudden drop offs which might make them throw their heads or skin their legs. Ramps can be slippery and must be well constructed to prevent collapsing under a horse's weight. Some trailer models include an additional side ramp for loading and unloading.
Water tanks mount in dressing room corners. These are made from translucent plastic so the water level is always visible. The hoses attach to the tanks' bottom so the water is gravity fed. Full water tanks increase trailer weight, so use caution if the trailer weight is already close to towing vehicles' capacity.
Cameras in the horse area make it possible for drivers to check on the animals without stopping. This allows them to address any problems immediately and make the trip safer.
Slant load trailers have extra space at the back of the horse area, so some manufacturers fill this with a rear tack. These may be fixed or collapsable and contain saddle racks and bridle hooks. Handlers can become trapped between rear tacks and horses, so they must use caution if their trailer has this feature.
Most trailers have dressing rooms, and dressing rooms often have saddle racks and bridle hooks so they can double as tack rooms. This type of room is located at the front of the trailer and is wide enough for people to step into and change clothes. A large room increases a trailer's length and weight.
Some slant load trailer manufacturers add stud doors in the first stall. Most interior gates start at the ceiling and end at the horses' bellies, but stud gates go all the way to the floor. This prevents stallions or other aggressive horses from kicking at their trailer mates. These gates can be cumbersome to close if not hung properly.
Living quarters are usually located in gooseneck trailers, but some manufacturers have small living quarters in bumper pull trailers. Living quarters range from small weekender packages without running water to luxurious accommodations with stainless steel appliances and slide-outs. Living quarters trailers cost more and are heavier to tow. They range in price from $30,000 for a new, entry-level, weekender living quarters trailer to $400,000 for top-of-the-line luxury. Living quarters are a good option for people who show their horses or enjoy horse camping.
Aluminum trailers cost more than steel horse trailers up front, but they have fewer maintenance costs over time. They weigh less, and this lets handlers safely transport more horses within a particular vehicle's towing capacity. These trailers do not withstand impact as well as steel horse trailers, so this increases the chance of injury in an accident. Horses that kick may damage trailer walls and leave holes with dangerous jagged edges.
Steel trailers are heavier than aluminum trailers, so they have less motion transfer. They are prone to rust, but galvanized or galvanneal options eliminate this problem. Steel trailers cost less than aluminum up front but have more maintenance costs because they need paint to prevent rust. Steel trailers withstand impact better, so they're a good choice for horses that kick. They also provide more protection for horses in accidents.
Popular horse trailer brands are well-constructed and offer a variety of options for horsemen. Some brands allow buyers to custom order their trailers and get exactly what they want.
Featherlite is the pioneer of aluminum trailers. Their all-aluminum trailers feature 3/4-inch rubber mats, rubber coated tie rings, and spring loaded slam latch gates. The dressing rooms include adjustable saddle racks and water-resistant turf flooring. This company manufactures bumper pull and gooseneck trailers with slant or straight loads. They range in capacity from two to six horses. Living quarters models range in size from four feet to 17 feet and vary from weekender packages to luxurious full campers.
One reviewer on TrustPilot.com notes that her Featherlite trailer "pulls great every time she pulls it." Another notes that he bought a new 45-foot horse trailer with living quarters, but already has problems with sagging exterior doors and failing hinges on the ramp. He notes that he has only towed the trailer 15,000 miles.
Logan Coach manufactures aluminum bumper pull, gooseneck, and living quarters trailers. These trailers range in size from a small two-horse Crossfire bumper pull to the deluxe seven-horse XTR gooseneck. This manufacturer uses Whiz Proof aluminum plank flooring sealed with Vortex spray rubber and topped with SureGrip rubber mats sealed to the floor so that the mats do not shift during transport. To protect the trailer, Logan Coach adds 48-inch-tall double kick walls sealed with Vortex rubber coating.
One reviewer on HorseTrailerWorld.com reports that she hauls an average of 600 miles per week through inclement weather, and her trailer is "really easy to handle and tows well." Another reviewer especially likes "the big windows and solid construction."
Double D manufactures each trailer to the buyer's specifications. This is a cost-effective way to purchase a custom trailer without dealership markups. These trailers have zinc frames, white zinc Galvalite interior skins, and aluminum exterior skins, so they are sturdy like steel trailers yet lightweight like aluminum trailers. The company's Safe Tack rear tack swings out like a second door and eliminates the risk of handlers becoming trapped between rear tacks and panicked horses. Large windows enhance air flow while grated stall dividers let horses see each other. Buyers can customize their trailers online and get cost estimates before ordering. Double D offers nationwide delivery for a low flat rate.
In the Chronicle of the Horse Forum, one poster loves "the quality of the workmanship...solid, well built and tows beautifully." Another poster says, "On the two horse straight load, everything that would make the trailer capable is extra. Price goes from 11,500 to over 17k when everything that makes the trailer comfortable for horse and human are added."
Trails West manufactures aluminum trailers with steel frames. Their wood floors reduce heat transfer from the road and keep the interior cooler. Rubber wall mats and triple wall construction prevent horses from damaging the trailer with kicks. Sizes range from a two-horse bumper pull to a six-horse gooseneck.
On Facebook, a Trails West trailer owner states, "I would give them 0 stars but it's not possible. After seeing first hand the way that they respond to their customers on social media I would NEVER recommend anyone that I know to buy one." Several other reviewers note that Trails West refuses to fix trailers with manufacturing defects.
Another reviewer reports, "I have owned a four-horse slant load Gooseneck for 15 years... The trailer was great for showing in 4-H and for all the clinics we have attended over the years."
CM manufactures steel and aluminum trailers. These trailers feature telescoping rear dividers and removable interior slant gates for horsemen who prefer hauling without dividers. This company's steel Drover model is one of the few steel gooseneck horse trailers available on the market with drop down windows.
On BarrelHorseWorld.com, one CM trailer owner notes that she likes "everything about it except where the tie rings are placed inside; hard to get a hay bag in the right spot and kind of awkward." Another notes that "the welds, heavy latches, floors, and the insulated roof is what sold us too. Extremely well made trailer."
Brenderup is a unique trailer designed in Europe but available in the United States. Fiberglass construction makes this trailer easy to tow with SUVs. These trailers look small, but they can fit two large horses such as draft breeds or Thoroughbreds.
In the Chronicle of the Horse forum, one Brenderup owner reports, "I've had a Brenderup for 5 years, hauled one or two horses for distances as far as 1,000 miles round trip with my minivan and never had any issues." Another says, "The ramp was nothing more than a glorified piece of plywood. I swear the entire thing turned into a parallelogram when it started moving, the sides were so thin."
Think Safety First
When purchasing new or used trailers, safety is the most important element. Consider the towing vehicle size, take time to learn about optional features, and thoroughly inspect any prospective purchases to find the best, safest trailer to meet your needs.