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.
4/13/2016 07:14:40 am
4/13/2016 08:15:46 am
Maybe it will happen sooner than you think. :0)
4/13/2016 07:15:06 am
Long ago, I bought a trailer that had this beautiful big window in front for the horse to see out. It was a 2 horse, straight load, with an open area in front of the horses (chest bar, no manger). Big window in the front that let you see into the trailer from the truck. I bought the trailer specifically for my oversized warmblood cross because it was extra tall.
4/13/2016 08:16:43 am
I have seen those front windows - crazy story. That sounds exactly like something Izzy would try to do!
4/14/2016 06:49:11 am
I had one too but my horse couldn't reach the window. I loved how I could watch my horse through my rearview mirror. Eventually the window fell out on its own, and for a while I didn't replace it and imagined my horse's mane flying back as we drove along (but that's not really safe). Eventually I put a sheet of plastic up. I loved that window.
You have such excellent points! All are spot on and very important! My biggest thing: make sure you're no where near maxing out your truck's capabilities. It's not safe for anyone- you, your horse, and other people on the road.
4/13/2016 08:21:17 am
I still like to look too because manufacturers keep thinking of new things! :0)
4/14/2016 06:56:11 am
A pass through door - or no wall at all, is my priority because I want to be able to hang out with my horse - or groom and tack up my horse without going outside, if the weather is bad. My first trailer had chest bars and then a huge tack area, and I learned how to pack it without stuff falling into the horse area (really I can't accelerate that fast anyway). It was the best. I had a chair up there for just hanging out, sharing my lunch with my horse, while the rain pounded down. I loved it so much that when I upgraded to a 3 horse, I took it in and had the tack room wall cut in half (cut the top half off) and made it removable - the lower half would swing open so I could walk to my horse. I also took out the dividers and used it as a stock trailer, even with three horses in it. After having a ramp that was heavy (and I hated having my head at kicking range) I was so happy to have a step up!
4/13/2016 07:25:57 am
You're first piece of advice is always my first advice as well. I've got a 4H GN Featherlite with dressing room. I was looking at 3H trailers but ended up with mine because it was too good of deal to pass up (and was perfect for me). I use all 4 stalls way more than I ever thought I would.
4/13/2016 08:22:21 am
I think I could probably fill up an 8 horse trailer. :0)
4/13/2016 07:31:42 am
We've thought a lot about going to a GN LQ rig, but have decided to stay with our 2H BP + truck camper primarily because of size:
4/13/2016 08:26:00 am
In the endurance world, this is a regular dilemma - LQ or camper? A lot of riders go the camper option because as soon as you add another rider in the mix, you need a lot more human space.
Totally realistic observations Karen! I have a half ton truck, so a gooseneck isn't really something I have a lot of experience with. That said, I have driven one and did find that it handled much better than a bumper pull. Especially if your horse tends to kick and travel "noisily" like mine.
4/13/2016 08:30:19 am
I am not familiar with a rumber floor. I'll have to google it. The highway that I travel frequently is 8 - 10 lanes, carries TONS of semi-trailers, and is often quite windy (through the pass). I love my trailer for how steady it is even in windy conditions. While it's fairly large, it doesn't have a high profile which means I don't get bounced around. When we came back from a lesson last month, the wind was so strong that I didn't have to use my brakes as we descended back to the valley floor. Even with such a strong headwind (sideways at times), my trailer/truck never moved.
When we were trailer shopping initially we were limited to smaller BPs due to having a smaller truck. After a few months we upgraded our truck to a 4x4 diesel F250 and I wanted a GN. At the time I only had 1 horse with no intentions of having more than 1... So we purchased a 4Star 2H straight. I personally do not like slants and didn't want something as big as a 2+1 or 4 horse head to head. Now that I have Houston back a 3 horse might have been nice to have but in the end I know that I wouldn't have been happy hauling something much larger than my current trailer.
4/13/2016 08:55:07 am
Good thing there are so many choice, huh? I think that where you live in the country probably helps guide our preferences a little bit as well. I do see a lot of two horse trailers here in CA, but with our more mild weather, I see far more stock sided 3-4 horse slant loads.
We just bought a new trailer this weekend - just one year after buying our first trailer. I love my first trailer, which is a 2H straight load Hawk with dressing room. I love having side escape doors and the ramp is spring loaded so it goes up really easily. There are a million windows for ventilation and the tack room is pretty big. The only problem with it is my mule has decided she will only travel in a slant load.
4/13/2016 12:50:10 pm
Campers are a great option, especially for two travelers. Since I travel alone, it was too much work for me to load a camper by myself which is why I went with an LQ trailer. My best friend went the camper route, and she loves it.
4/13/2016 03:02:54 pm
HAHAHA! So sorry. I am meant putting the camper on the back of the truck. That's really funny to think about it being too much work carry my stuff into the camper. I am lazy, but that's REALLY lazy. :0)
I have a steel, 2 horse, angle, step up, bumper pull trailer with stock windows and front tack room.
4/13/2016 12:46:30 pm
Thanks for the detailed comments, SarahO. Anyone reading what I wrote will definitely learn more reading your comment. :0)
4/13/2016 01:26:46 pm
I have a Aluminum Classic 3 hrs gooseneck with what must be rumber flooring. It's not wood and it's not mats. It's very easy to sweep out and keep clean, I have the option of either a carpeted front tack rm or rear tack rm. I don't have living qtrs., but I can put my bed on the gooseneck area and it's very comfortable. And roomy enough for my camping gear. Most of my camping living is outdoors anyway, cooking and relaxing. The only thing I miss is the W/C. But it's a small sacrifice for the price. I normally only haul 1 large horse, and I clip the last swinging divider open, to give her a very large stall. I have screens and bars on the horse drop down windows, which can also slid horizontally to partially open.. It did come with a ramp, and I prefer step ups. On my old steel trailer, the ramp hinges would be the first thing that would rust. But some very large trailers have a huge step up, that I feel is a little unsafe when backing your horse out. I pull all this with a very basic 1 ton dually diesel flat bed...with roll up windows instead of electric, remember those? When traveling there is room for 3-4 bales of hay in front of the flat bed.
4/14/2016 05:14:13 am
When I first started endurance riding, a friend hauled my hors and I paid for gas and brought all of the hay. At the time, she had a basic gooseneck with a mattress in the trailer's nose but no other amenities. We survived just fine although after the race, the tack would stink so bad that if the weather allowed, we'd chuck everything outside or at least move the pads to the horse compartment. :0)
4/14/2016 02:58:05 am
What was Piece of advice #2? :)
4/14/2016 05:22:11 am
Oh my gosh - that is soooo funny. I couldn't leave it even though I rarely make edits. Thank you for pointing that out!
4/15/2016 01:32:12 am
Haha no worries :)
Comments are closed.
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 the lower levels. 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%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
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3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: