From Endurance to Dressage
Kristin and Jennifer, two riders that I met at Horse Expo Pomona in February, recently asked me about my experiences hauling a trailer. They were interested in what I liked or disliked about my own trailer. I was flattered that they thought I had anything useful to share which got me thinking that others might be shopping or looking for their own new trailer.
While I am not an expert, I do have almost 16 years of trailer ownership under my belt. I’ve owned two trailers, both of which were gooseneck trailers with living quarters. The first was a two-horse, and my current trailer is a three-horse.
If I were to buy another trailer, the most important thing I would consider is my next horse, not the horses I have today. I have had Arabs for so long that I never considered I'd ever own anything else. Arabs are smaller horses; they fit anywhere. Now that I've owned two non-Arabs, I've realized that I may end up with a mini or a Clydesdale next. Who knows? Not being able to buy a horse because he won't fit in your trailer would be kind of a bummer.
I also discovered that with my two-horse trailer, I could never bring both of my own horses and a friend. Having more stalls than you need allows you to develop new friendships.
With that, piece of advice #1 - Buy bigger than you think you need.
The second thing I would consider is whether I wanted a gooseneck or a bumper pull. I really wouldn't have to consider it as I REALLY like a gooseneck. I am not switching to a bumper pull any time soon. A gooseneck is super easy to back up and much more stable on the road. I do a lot of highway driving and go over a steep pass at least monthly, so road stability is important to me. The downside is that I lose storage space in the bed of the truck while hauling. The ball does flip down into the bed, so when I disconnect, I still have full access to my trailer bed.
The size of your truck will probably dictate whether you get a gooseneck or a bumper pull. I am not sure I'd feel safe pulling a gooseneck if I only had a half ton truck. Piece of advice #2 - Only pull what you can pull safely, but keep in mind that goosenecks are easier to control.
I’ve always had a step up, so I don’t know how I feel about ramps. When I was hauling to endurance rides, we often parked in pastures and places with uneven footing so I worried about the stability of a ramp. If you’re always going to park in a level area, a ramp is probably easier for older horses and those with less experience.
I've also only had slant loads. In my first trailer, I took out the single divider, and in this trailer, I took out the rear divider, leaving the front one in place. I like to give my horses as much room to move around as possible. By leaving the front divider in place, I can can still keep two horses separated, but since I usually only haul one horse at a time, that horse can travel in the double stall created by removing the divider. As a bonus, Speedy, who is not a fan of backing out, can turn around with the extra room and walk out facing forward. Piece of advice #3 - Think about how easily your next horse will load and unload and how much room he is going to need.
Steel or aluminum construction is also something you should consider. My first trailer was steel while this one is aluminum. I thought it had some steel components, but after reviewing the specs, I discovered that it is all aluminum. Both have advantages and disadvantages. If you live somewhere much wetter than California, you probably have a preference.
The flooring in the steel trailer was wood while this one has a solid metal floor. I clean my floors throughly at least once each year, so I never had rotting boards nor have I found any corrosion. I think that if you take care of your floor, wood or metal, it should last a long time.
I actually got better fuel mileage with my slightly smaller but heavy steel trailer. The nose on the trailer was pointier and had more of a slope to the roof. This trailer, while only three feet longer, feels heavier and pushes a lot more wind with its blunter nose. I think my other trailer enjoyed a more aerodynamic construction.
Advice #4 - Choose your material based on your weather conditions and how much weight your truck can handle.
My old trailer had stock sides while this one has drop down windows with safety bars instead of screens. Screens scare me as a horse could get its head outside of the trailer.
Since I travel in all kinds of weather, I like that I can block some of the colder weather by snapping the windows closed. One thing I like about the drop down windows is that I can close one or two of them to block out some of the highway noise. I can slide the "bus window" open for ventilation, and I keep all of the trailer vents open. Speedy travels more quietly with his window up. The loud truck noise bothers him.
Piece of advice #5 - Ask yourself how much ventilation your horse needs.
Both of my trailers had/have a rear tack which makes the entry just like a straight load - narrow. The left door opens into the tack area while the right door opens into the horse compartment. Teaching a horse to load in my trailer is a bit tricky because the opening is not as inviting as it is when you can open both doors or a single large door.
Since length was more of an issue than a single door entry, I opted for a rear tack. Placing the tack room between the living quarters and the horse compartment can add several feet to the overall length of the trailer. At 27 feet long already, I wasn't interested in adding another 3 to 6 feet. If I wasn't going to add living quarters, I would definitely opt for a front tack room. And while I was doing that, I would make sure it had ample space. While my tack room isn't particularly large, the living quarters space more than makes up for it.
Whether you're simply trail riding or showing, having plenty of storage space for a cooler, chairs, and other comfort items is well worth it. A large tack room can also serve as shade on a hot day and an umbrella when it rains. Piece of advice #6 - Think long and hard about how much room you need for tack and human supplies. It's probably more than you think.
Overall? My advice when trailer shopping is to go for size. You just don't know what changes life will bring. If you're sure you only need a two horse, make it a jumbo two horse. Look for a trailer with a big tack room and roomy stalls. If you have more than one horse, get a three-horse trailer. You'll find more friends that way and have bigger adventures.
If you do get a new trailer, share pictures with me. If you already own a trailer, share what you like or dislike about it. And if you have a trailer for sale, share it! I know some riders who are looking.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read