Choosing your first horse trailer is no simple feat. With so many types to choose from and so many considerations - like budget, horse, vehicle, purpose - it can difficult to know where to focus your decision-making, even for the most experienced of riders.
David Murphy Towing, a manufacturer of towbars and trailers, share their experience of the most important elements you should consider in buying your very first horse trailer:
The size of your horse is normally the most obvious buying criteria that comes to mind. In its most basic sense, the trailer needs to allow enough room for your animal to spread all four legs and lift its head and neck fully, all of which enable it to balance while being towed. Then, as well as size, we need to think about weight and ensure that the trailer is strong and durable enough to hold your horse.
The needs of the horse should be the next criteria considered. One of the most crucial is their comfort from a health point of view. This means managing temperature and air quality (mainly through ventilation). It’s common to assume that a small window or back open hatch is enough to let air in, but remember that journeys aren’t always smooth and getting stuck in traffic for any reason can cause the temperature and humidity inside the trailer to rise. This is especially a concern in modern metal construction trailers which trap heat inside. That rise in temperature can make it difficult for your horse to lose heat by sweating.
To reduce stress in the animal, also ensure the trailer is well-lit and not too dark. A light-coloured interior can also make it feel more open and a bit more inviting to the horse.
Of course, you will want to ensure that you know which trailers are suitable for your vehicle, that you can easily hitch them (on your own if you need to) and that you can legally tow the trailer on your motor. This means considering options between a bumper/tow bar attachment or a middle of vehicle attachment (Gooseneck) which can absorb slightly more of the road conditions, but both are suitable depending on the trailer. Horse trailers usually require a Class III or Class IV hitch but it’s the size and weight of the trailer that is the big issue, so be sure to measure the weight of the trailer plus your animal and any additional equipment/food/hay/etc. You can end up in the situation where your potential car-to-trailer ratio is off balance, perhaps because you need a larger trailer than you thought, or because you decide to buy a two-horse trailer to prepare for future use. In this scenario, we definitely recommend considering moving to a larger vehicle, because the balance of size issue is a contributing factor in horse safety during towing accidents.
Some aspects of the journeys you will make while towing your trailer may have an impact on the style and design of trailer you purchase. For example, long journeys in terms of time spent in built-up congested areas may mean your horse is exposed to a lot of exhaust fumes. This would suggest side windows are a better option than an open rear-end hatch. On the other hand, long journeys by distance, especially through more rural road conditions may require you to consider suspension and safety bars as a more important aspect of the design, ensuring your horse is both safe and comfortable.
Similarly, long distances or time spent away from home overnight for shows may spur you to need storage capabilities in your trailer, at least feed compartments for the animal if not living quarters for yourself.
A trailer doesn’t need to be expensive in order to guarantee it a good buy, however choosing the wrong trailer for you and your animal is a bad buy, no matter what the actual cost. While we know the benefits of bespoke boxes because we manufacture our own Broniss trailers, it is just as workable to purchase a basic trailer and then think about adding the specific features you might need, such as insulation or interior fans, mats, window screens or even CCTV systems.
If you’re leaning towards a second-hand trailer rather than a new or bespoke trailer, be sure to look for the signs of wear and tear that might affect its safety and basic comfort for your traveling horse. Sharp edges and protruding objects are the first dangers to search for. Floor slippage or leakage is another common issue. Then check that all functionality is working as it should (such as ramps that have their non-slip walkway intact) as well as floor durability, under braces, tires, and lights.
Trailer material is also a budgetary consideration. Steel was traditionally the most cost-effective for the strength and safety it provided, however, the rust and weight issue meant it gave way to aluminum alloy in terms of popularity, being one-third the strength of steel. Fiberglass is similarly lightweight but doesn’t stand up to kicks or damage in the way metals do. And of course, wood is often favored because of the natural material benefits but is difficult to maintain. If you still want to include these, the options are there to include a wooden flooring for example or a fiberglass roof and create a bespoke trailer that works for you and your horse.