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Choosing the Right Horse Trailer
Purchasing a horse trailer is an expensive investment, and before you buy you should ensure that you know exactly what you need. As with any large purchase, it's extremely important to do some research before you spend your money.
The information below is designed to help you choose the right horse trailer for your needs. Regardless of what you're looking for, these tips will help you find it more quickly and feel more confident that you're making a smart purchase.
New or Used?
Assuming that you can find exactly what you need in the used horse trailer market, there's really no reason to buy a new one. If you do decide to purchase a used trailer, make sure it's been well-maintained and that all necessary repairs are taken care of (or knocked off the purchase price).
The main reason a person might consider buying a new trailer is out of fear of an unseen problem with a used unit. Avoid this by educating yourself as much as possible about horse trailers before you begin to shop.
Types of Horse Trailers
Horse trailers come in three main types:
Stock horse trailers
are open as opposed to enclosed, and usually have slatted sides. Some horses prefer stock trailers because they don't feel closed up and they have a little more freedom of movement and position. A major benefit of a stock trailer is the fact that it can be used to haul other things aside from horses. It is a basic all-purpose trailer- although during rain or snow the lack of cover can be a problem.
Slant-load horse trailers
allow the horses inside to ride at an angle, which can often make them more comfortable, particularly during sharp stops or accelerations. Slant load trailers, however, can be uncomfortable for larger horses; the typical slant-load stall only has about eight feet of useable space. Also, because the horses will be using opposite sides of their bodies to brace themselves depending on whether the trailer is speeding up or slowing down, a slant-load trailer can be very tiring for them and could possibly even result in unevenness of gait.
Straight-load horse trailers
are the most commonly used. Straight-load trailers allow the horses to hold their weight evenly on all four legs and the spine; they can, however, cause problems when it comes to loading and unloading. Some horses are reluctant to walk into straight-load trailers, and getting them to back out can be a problem as well.
The debate over what type of horse trailer is better is a hot issue among trailer owners. In order to decide which one works best for you, you'll have to carefully consider your personal preferences and the needs of your horses. There is no one "right answer" in the debate between stock, slant or straight load trailers.
Horse Trailer Construction
The construction of a horse trailer is extremely important when it comes to how well it will perform and how long it will last. Consider the factors below before making a purchase.
Steel horse trailers have been around for the longest time, and are extremely common. They can, however, can be somewhat heavy, and they do require some maintenance in the form of washing and waxing to prevent corrosion, especially if you live in a salty climate. Because of the tendency of the steel to break down if not maintained properly, steel horse trailers are not always the best option. With proper care, of course, they can last for years.
Steel-framed horse trailers are a good choice if corrosion is a problem in your climate, or if you're not happy about the idea of maintaining the exterior of the trailer. Steel-framed trailers are usually made with an aluminum skin, which resists corrosion. Only the skeleton of the unit is made from steel. Make sure the trailer you're considering is properly designed with some type of barrier between the steel and aluminum, as these two metals can cause electric shocks if they are touching.
horse trailers are usually the most expensive, as they are lightweight yet extremely durable. Aluminum is resistant to corrosion, although the exterior may eventually oxidize over time if exposed to the elements. Aluminum trailers are typically about 15% lighter than comparable steel ones; they also cost about 15% more. Aluminum is generally considered the best choice.
Good suspension is essential in a horse trailer. It provides a smooth ride for the horses and prevents unnecessary wear and tear on the trailer caused by excessive jolting and bouncing. There are two main types of suspension systems:
Rubber torsion suspensions work independently, so that if one wheel hits a bump the motion is not transferred to the others. This system is the most expensive of the two but results in a much smoother and quieter ride.
Leaf spring suspension uses several layers of metal springs bracketed together into a single unit. While usually cheaper, leaf spring suspensions don't last as long as rubber, and the inner-connectedness can cause wear and tear as well as noise from the metal-on-metal connections.
The frame of a horse trailer is generally made from tubular steel or aluminum. Check to see that the supports are placed the correct distance apart (generally 16 or 24 inches) and that the entire frame is strong enough to support what you're hauling. The heavier your load is, the thicker the beams used in the frame should be in order to hold together properly.
4. Walls and floor
Try to choose a trailer with a plywood floor, because wood breathes more easily than aluminum and will provide a more comfortable ride. The trailer's interior walls should have insulation that is at least one inch thick. Check for wall studs and make sure they're also at least one inch thick. The thicker the studs, the better flexibility the trailer will have. Make sure all floor and wall pieces are fastened properly, ideally with non-corroding aluminum fasteners and bolts.
Your Horse's Comfort
Don't forget to consider the size of your horse or horses when looking for a trailer. Make sure that the horse has enough room to spread all four legs in all directions to help brace himself if he needs to. He should also be able to raise his head and extend his neck fully without hitting the ceiling of the trailer. Have measurements of your horse available when shopping for a trailer.
The horse trailer you purchase should also have adequate ventilation for any length of trip. Most enclosed trailers have slats or windows on the sides as well as vents in the roof. This is extremely important, as the inside of a horse trailer is extremely susceptible to mold and dust.
Make sure your trailer provides enough light for the horse to feel comfortable inside. A dark trailer will cause the horse to balk at entering, and may cause him to act out of fear during a long trip.
Finally, check for any other details that might cause your horse injury. Windows should be recessed into the trailer's walls to prevent sharp or protruding corners, and the walls and stalls should ideally be covered with rubber to keep the horse comfortable if he bumps or leans against it.
Horse Trailer Manufacturers
When purchasing a horse trailer, it's wise to look for a brand name that has been around for several years and proved its worth on the market. Spending a little extra for a horse trailer from a known manufacturer can be worth the extra performance you'll get out of the unit over the years. The following are a few well-known horse trailer manufacturers.
Horton has been producing general-purpose haulers and vans for the last 30 years. They specialize in steel-framed, aluminum skin horse trailers with rubber torsion suspension systems.
Exiss is the third-largest manufacturer of horse trailers in the world, and produces quality trailers with extra details such as theft-deterring latches and hinges, extra-wide loading doors, and super-thick insulation and wall studs. Their trailers are made from all aluminum.
Sooner Trailers are known for producing standard as well as custom-built horse trailers. They specialize in all-aluminum trailers with patented folding troughs and tapered noses for efficient towing.
Kiefer Trailers make aluminum horse trailers in straight load, slant load or box stall varieties. They build extra-large standard and custom trailers with patented leak-proof roofs.
Hart Horse Trailers have been in business since 1968 and specialize in customized details such as insulated roofs, interlocking floors and double-framed doors. Their trailers operate with TORFLEX rubber ride torsion suspension systems.
The Bottom Line Choosing a horse trailer doesn't have to be intimidating. The key is to do plenty of research and to know exactly what you need when you start shopping. The more you can educate yourself on the various factors of horse trailers, the better equipped you'll be to deal with a decision when it comes time to buy.
For a great place to start looking for a horse trailer, try the classifieds at www.trailerme.com. This website offers high quality used trailers at bargain prices, and it's a great place to find the perfect horse trailer for your specific needs.
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