Hitting the Road

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Time to haul horses—and maybe this year it’s also time for a new trailer? “Since professional horse owners are traveling often, they really want a trailer that is reliable, easy to use, and will withstand many miles of hauling,” says Randy Lewis of Featherlite. If you’re “making do” with your rig, take a look at trailer innovations that simplify the job of hauling. Whether it’s a short-haul two-horse setup or a six-horse rig designed for long distance, today’s models offer user-friendly features for both horse and human.

New on the Road

What’s popular in the latest trailers? Surveying the market, we’ve identified these trends—and rationales for why you might want to upgrade.

Smaller living quarters for short trips. The “weekend” design offers a compact galley, sleeping area, and bathroom, squeezed into minimum space in a slant-load trailer. The size of the room is limited by the length of the “short wall,” or the wall opposite the camper door of the living quarters. That door is usually positioned on the trailer’s curb side.

This “LQ” configuration may be aimed at show people or campers, but it’s also handy for overnight hauling. Even the most petite size—5 or even 4 feet on the short wall—gives you space to take a break, find a snack, or clean up when you’re on the road.

“It’s affordable, and works for one or two people for an overnight,” says Del McGuire of McGuire Trailers, Grants Pass, Ore. One example is the company’s Exiss Sport: “You have air conditioning, a refrigerator, toilet and shower—and still have a three-horse trailer with an escape door and rear tack,” he says.

Passthrough door. In a living quarters trailer, a door in the bulkhead wall lets you stroll from your “family room” into the first horse stall. “People tend to use the first stall for storage, or put a ‘cowboy’ shower in that stall,” says dealer Ed Sutton, of Sutton Trailer Sales, Akron, N.Y. “You can walk in the escape door in the first stall and use it as a porch to take your boots off. That keeps the weekender area cleaner.”

That door in a straight-load trailer also expands your space. A passthrough in the dressing room wall gives you stall access.

Straight load for large horses. The slant-load trailer, with stalls on the diagonal, shortens the vehicle’s overall length. However, you may have discovered that a tall, wide, or long horse can’t always fit into the shorter stall of a slant-load trailer.

“The horses aren’t the most comfortable when you try to squeeze an 11-foot-long horse into a 9-foot stall,” says Sutton. He notes that a slant stall measuring 9 1/2 or even 10 feet is still too short: “The horse can’t stand in those little triangles at the front and the back of the stall. His head is pressed against the window, and his rear is against the wall.”

All manufacturers offer more spacious headroom for tall horses, such as that in the 7-foot 6-inch models. The standard height is starting to grow, with some trailers hitting the 7-foot 8-inch size.

Walk-through side doors. Escape doors have become walk-through doors instead of those Munchkin-sized doors on older trailers. Now you don’t have to stoop to walk out the front stall. Some straight-load models add doors on both sides, so you can lead the horse inside, and walk right out. And on a slant load, look for a drop-down feed door on the walk-through door at the first stall.

Rear and side ramps. Save loading and unloading time with handy ramps that can also reduce hazards. Horses can walk on a smooth surface, without having to jump into the stall and possibly hit their leg on the step-up. When you’re ready to unload, a side ramp eliminates the need to turn horses around or (even worse) back up to exit. Today’s spring-loaded ramps operate smoothly, raising and lowering with only one hand.

Head to head design. Also called “center load,” this straight load is becoming more popular in the four- to six-horse sizes. Horses load and unload on a side ramp, on the curb side. Some models add a second ramp, streetside.

The open space, typically 5 feet wide at the door, lets you take one horse out and leave the others in their stalls. Also, with a side door open, horses in their stalls can see outside.

Fiberglass roof. This material’s benefits include strength and heat resistance. Plus, fiberglass reduces trailer weight.

Randy Stamper of Hart says, “The trailer roof is an R3 insulating factor to reduce interior heat by 20 percent. It’s rated 105 pounds per square foot. Hail will eat up an aluminum roof. It just bounces off the fiberglass.”

Self-centering coupler on gooseneck. With this improvement on your gooseneck trailer, you’ll save time with easier hookup. McGuire explains, “The gooseneck hitch is tapered. You can get up close, and then bounce it to set down.”

LED tail lights. “These lights are more visible and thus safer both at night and during the day,” says Lewis. “Many also feel the lights are more stylish. They also use less voltage than conventional lights and are less straining on a 12-volt system.”

Folding rear tack divider. With the divider, you can increase space in a slant-load trailer when you collapse the divider wall flat against the sidewall. To boot, with all the dividers flat against the walls, your trailer becomes a multipurpose vehicle to haul other livestock, hay, shavings, or even four-wheelers.

Here’s a look at a few specific models.

Brenderup

This bumper-pull fiberglass trailer is unique in the U.S., as it’s currently the only European-style model available here. Brenderup emphasizes light weight and a low center of gravity. The brand plans to introduce new features later this year.

Exiss

The Event is a two-horse straight-load bumper pull, with a removable divider so you can haul a mare and foal. It features a spring-loaded ramp and upper storm doors. The trailer is double-lined for insulation.

In an aluminum stock trailer, the STC20 adds an up-front tack room. The trailer’s gooseneck and tack room section are faced with solid, painted panels. A walk-through door lets you check horses loaded into the front stall.

Featherlite

New models include the 9405 and 8946, with compact (5 feet) living quarters. The 8946 is available for two, three, or four horses. This gooseneck slant-load features Light Flo drop-down feed doors and LED lights. “It’s a great trailer for price-conscious horse owners who are doing limited traveling,” says Lewis.

The 9405 is a two-horse straight load bumper pull. You can remove the divider and center post to use it as a multipurpose trailer. It has a walk-through door at the front; the 9415 model adds a side ramp. This trailer may be pulled with a heavy-duty SUV, which expands your choices of hauling vehicles.

Hart

This established brand stresses structural components. The trailer’s posts are solid uprights instead of tubing. Floors are interlocked planks for strength, and made of a thicker aluminum for a more rigid platform.

Polished aluminum extrusions are a popular option. The shiny aluminum maintains its appearance, without becoming dull or discolored.

In living-quarters trailers, slideouts add more space. In 2006, Hart will build about 20 percent of its trailers with slideouts.

Jamco Trailers

In their all-aluminum trailers, Jamco continues to feature full-plank walls of interlocked aluminum tubes. The 2 by 6 planks are hollow, for a double-wall construction. Because the planks interlock in a tongue-and-groove system, the walls don’t use posts or rivets, which creates a smooth interior and exterior.

The patented walls contribute strength. The joints where planks interlock are sealed, and planks are welded to the aluminum floor.

Kiefer Built

An extensive warranty supports this manufacturer’s focus on quality: three years hitch to bumper, three years on a “no leak” roof, and eight years on the structure. Kiefer Built continues to improve its product, both steel and aluminum models and the all-aluminum Genesis line. Steel frames are primed and painted. The Genesis offers the added safety of upper and lower turn signals. The brand now builds trailers in three states: Iowa, Tennessee, and Idaho, for distribution across the U.S. and Canada.

Sooner

New at Sooner are the 2005 SE and the Sooner Ranch. The 2005 gooseneck has drop-down feed doors, with patented bars that slide down into the wall when not in use. The rear tack divider collapses flat with one hand. All hardware is stainless steel for durability.

The Sooner Ranch stock trailer includes an optional dressing room. Double-wall construction increases strength and adds insulation and a smooth interior. You can easily add acrylic panels in the built-in track of the upper air space.

Sundowner

Sundowner has introduced new windows, adding more air flow and making the trailer interior brighter and more spacious-looking. Trailers have new divider latches, and the rear tack features a collapsible rear tack wall that’s a telescoping divider. Instead of folding back against the wall, it telescopes back into itself and reduces rattling.

This company has its own custom paint shop to reduce costs of a barn’s special paint job. Sundowner also designs and builds its own doors and windows.

Trail-et

Look for a new smooth rear ramp on the Trail-et. The all-aluminum ramp has a cleaner finish, without exterior ribs. Trail-et uses longer-lasting stainless steel piano hinges on its ramps and doors.

In a dressing-room model, the floor is raised. That prevents water from running onto the floor when you rinse out the trailer.

Turnbow

One of the oldest brands, Turnbow started in 1960. Carl Turnbow describes the reverse slant he started in 1994, with horses’ heads facing curbside: “The horse walks on and off, with no backing out. Facing back, the horse is more comfortable. He hardly knows when you’re stopping.” This design continues to be a top seller for Turnbow.

Gooseneck trailers feature a new aero nose design, with a steeper angle to reduce wind resistance. Turnbow has just patented a new living-quarters trailer, which he says will be “unique on the market. We start production in April. It will be very large, with very unique standard equipment and a new roof material that is very strong.”

Now it is up to you to decide which trailer is right for your farm.