If you’ve decided that you want to buy a horse trailer, you probably have a lot of questions. If that is the case, then we have put together a guide to the most common questions, and answers – to help you choose the right trailer for you.

Is this your first trailer? Before you make your first horse trailer purchase, it’s important to know the benefits and disadvantages of certain horse trailer features.

FREE Webinar: How To Build Confidence In Both Yourself And Your Horse. Click here to see available dates & times.

If it’s not your first purchase, maybe you’re thinking of buying a larger (or smaller) trailer. Or changing from a simple bumper pull trailer to a full-on living quarters trailer.

There’s so much to think about whether it’s a first-time purchase, or you already have a trailer and would like to change models. In either case, you’ve come to the right place to start your purchase journey.

Number of horses being transported and your vehicle

The first question you need to answer is, “How many horses will I be transporting?” It may seem like a straight-forward question, but it is sometimes wrought with doubt. “What if I buy another horse in the future?”  Or “My friend doesn’t have a trailer. Can I get a two-horse trailer and transport her horse too?”. 

Here’s the thing – buy the trailer for your current – not future – needs. If you buy a too-large trailer now, it might mean you need to change vehicles. This adds costs both in the purchase and the operation. Also, we do not recommend buying a trailer as a function of friends’ (or family) needs. There are liabilities to consider when transporting horses, and it gets more complicated when those horses aren’t yours. 

Choose your trailer based on the number of horses you’ll be transporting and then, consider your vehicle. You may need to change it too.

Also, it goes without saying that if this is your first trailer, and you’ve never towed a vehicle before, you might need some training and practice before getting out on the road. Make sure you know exactly what you’re doing. It’s not only your safety on the line – your horse, and other drivers are also counting on you. 

Type and size of horse trailer

You may have many questions about the type and size of your new horse trailer.

“Should I buy a bumper pull trailer or a gooseneck horse trailer?” “Is the forward-facing or the reverse-facing design best?” “Do I want a straight-load trailer or a slant-load trailer?” “I spend a lot of time on the road. Should I invest in a living quarters trailer?”

These are common questions that many horse-trailer buyers struggle to find the answers to. Let’s go over them one by one.

The first thing you should consider when shopping for your first horse trailer is the size. 

If you have large breed horses like warmbloods or draft horses, you’re probably going to need a trailer that’s taller and bigger than the average trailer.

If your horses are average size, but you have four of them, you’ll also need a bigger trailer if you want to be able to transport all of them at once.

You should also think about the overall free space inside the stalls too. If it’s too big, it’ll give your horse too much space to shift around during travel. And if it’s too small, your horse will be cramped and uncomfortable. Before you search for a horse trailer, measure your horses to determine what size stalls your trailer will need to have.

You’ll also have to decide between the different types of horse trailers. There are three main types of horse trailers: bumper pull trailers, gooseneck horse trailers, and horse trailers with living quarters.

Learn more about living quarters horse trailers here: Double D Trailers 

Here is a brief description of each:

Bumper-pull horse trailer

If you want to be able to tow your trailer with your current truck or SUV, a bumper pull horse trailer is a great option for you. With this type of trailer, you can hitch up quickly and easily. Most trailer owners find them very easy to tow. It’s uncommon, but you can find a bumper pull trailer with simple living quarters. This gives you the advantage of being able to sleep in your trailer, avoiding hotel expenses.

A picture containing transport, white, camper, trailer

Description automatically generated

Gooseneck horse trailer

If you have larger horses or more than three, you’ll probably want to check out a gooseneck horse trailer. These trailers are larger and heavier than bumper pull horse trailers but have more space for a dressing room with sleep area, tack storage, and more horse stalls.

Keep in mind that if you decide to get a gooseneck horse trailer, you might need to upgrade your truck or towing vehicle as well. These horse trailers are heavier and require a vehicle with a higher towing capacity.

Horse Trailers with Living Quarters

When most people dream about buying their first horse trailer, they imagine this type of horse trailer – a living quarters horse trailer. These trailers have a beautiful living space with a kitchen, bed, and bathroom area and are perfect for horse owners who plan to stay in their trailer on overnight trips at equine events or competitions.

Some manufacturers allow you to design it and make it your own – add all the horse trailer upgrades you want to make your space truly comfortable and special. These trailers require a heavy-duty vehicle and hitches with metal jaws or a locking bar. A pivoting head plate on the hitch provides the necessary movement to tow the trailer smoothly. 

A picture containing kitchen appliance

Description automatically generated

What’s the average length of each type of trailer?

Trailer length varies depending on the type of horse trailer and its make and model. Slant load trailers are usually shorter than traditional straight-load trailers. Bumper pull trailers are the shortest type of trailer, they usually are between 15 to 20 feet long. Gooseneck trailers, trailers with living quarters, and 4 horse trailers are bigger and longer, usually between 20 to 40 feet long. But we’ve seen a custom-built living quarters horse trailer 57 feet long!

Horse trailer configurations

Horse trailers come in various configurations. Here are a few things to consider.

Rear-facing or forward?

Part of choosing a horse trailer that’s a good fit for your horse is knowing how your horse likes to travel. There are some general things that all horses need when they travel. Good ventilation, a bright, well-lit interior, and enough space – but other aspects are specific to your horse.

For example, the position your horse likes to travel in. You’ll have to decide between a straight-load trailer and a slant-load horse trailer. You should know where your horse prefers to face during travel.

Research shows that horses facing opposite the direction of travel arrive at their destination more refreshed and relaxed. But it’s also true that straight load trailers can be beneficial over long trips, because they let the horse use both its front legs and back legs to balance. Really, it depends on your horse’s trailer experience and preferences.

For help with trailer loading, go here: How To Load A Horse In A Trailer

Straight or slant loading?

Straight load horse trailers make better use of trailer space, allowing you and your horses more room in the trailer. They also have a shorter wheelbase, making them easier to tow and less expensive.

Not all slant load horse trailers are made the same, however. Make sure to choose a slant load trailer that has tubular head dividers rather than solid coffin-like dividers. The stalls should be a comfortable size for your horse and the horse trailer should have a dual side ramp so you can access any horse at any time.

How much room should I be looking for?

The best horse trailers are spacious enough for you to completely turn your horse around in the trailer and have a wide-open entryway that welcomes your horse into the trailer. And in terms of must have horse trailer accessories, our biggest suggestion is a trailer with walk-on, walk-off loading.

If you’ve ever tried to load a horse into a trailer with a small, dark entryway, you know how stressful and dangerous it can be for both you and your horse. If something goes wrong, you could be pinned against the trailer wall or worse. That’s why when buying a horse trailer, you should pay special attention to the loading and unloading options they have.

Asking questions like, “are there escape doors on this trailer?” and “does the trailer have a side loading ramp?” will help you find the safest and the best horse trailer for you. A trailer that makes the loading and unloading process easier is a trailer that you and your horses will love.

Tack area

Make sure to look at where the rear tack area is located on the trailer. Different types of horse trailers sometimes have a tack area in the corner of the trailer, which makes for a narrow entryway that could create a dangerous loading situation. Look for a tack area that swings out like a door, which gives you and your horse a wide open, safe, and welcoming space when loading and unloading horses.

What about safety? 

Like any good horse owner, you want to make sure that your horses are comfortable and calm during travel, so they can enjoy the trip as much as you do. That’s why safety should be your top priority when buying a horse trailer.

Are all horse trailers built to some common standard?

Unfortunately, except for a few universal regulatory features like axles and lights, there are few enforceable standards when it comes to horse trailers. It basically comes down to the manufacturers’ reputation and attention to safety that makes all the difference.

If horse trailer manufacturers conform to a few requirements, they can pretty much build them as they wish. Of course, the corollary to that is that “bad is just bad”. The consumer has the last word when it comes to buying a trailer made of flimsy materials or demonstrating shoddy workmanship.

Many horse trailers on the market today don’t have all the necessary safety features that your horse needs to stay protected on the road. Don’t put your horse in danger by buying a cheap, unsafe trailer.

Should I purchase a new or a used horse trailer?

Ahh, the elephant in the room. Should you pay full price for a new trailer, or buy a used trailer? Well, it all depends on your budget. But there are a few facts to consider when buying used.

A used horse trailer can be a good option for you if you are looking for a more affordable option, and many online trailer marketplaces are out there. However, if you do decide to buy a used horse trailer, be aware that trailer construction has evolved over the last few years. A trailer that’s even just 5 years old won’t have all the modern technology and safety features that a new trailer has. Don’t compromise on important safety features.

Also, make sure you have your trailer fully inspected before purchasing it. Beyond the obvious – checking the tires, hitch connection, inside of the horse trailer, tack room, and living quarters area – make sure you check the floors. Floors are a special hazard in used horse trailers because they can wear out and become thinner and more fragile, which could lead to your horse’s hoof breaking through the floor during travel.

Wrap-up questionnaire

So, as you can see, there are quite a few things to consider when buying a horse trailer.

Take your time and question everything, but make sure you can answer the following:

  1. How many of my own horses will I be transporting? Am I choosing a trailer for my current horse needs?
  2. What is the size of my horse(s)?
  3. Will I keep my existing vehicle, or will I purchase a new one? 
  4. Can I drive a vehicle with this type and size of trailer? If not, am I prepared to get some training and practice?
  5. What type of trailer – bumper pull, gooseneck, and living quarters’ horse trailers – am I interested in?
  6. Am I aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of trailer before I buy it?
  7. Is having on-board accommodations and comfort important to me?
  8. What configuration – slant- or straight-load, or reverse- or forward-facing – am I interested in?
  9. Are the most current safety features important to me? 
  10. Will I buy used, or a new trailer? Do I know the advantages and disadvantages of buying a used trailer? Am I prepared to have a full inspection (including the flooring) on a used trailer, especially if I buy something online? 

This process may take some time but we’re sure it’s time well-spent. It will all be worth it when you find the trailer of your dreams.

Article provided by Double D Trailers.

Carson James
Carson James

Carson James' background is in Vaquero Horsemanship, and for the majority of his career, he worked on cattle ranches where he rode horses all day, every day. His knowledge comes from real life experience using traditional Buckaroo horsemanship to train horses and fix problems. He is now taking all of this knowledge and experience and sharing it with horse owners through his blog, his Insider list, and his Buckaroo Crew. He has a unique way of breaking things down where they're easy to understand, both for the horse and the human.