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Best Truck to Pull a 4 Horse Center Load

Hello! It is my first time posting here, but for a long time I have checked in for advice and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get everyone’s opinions!

I am finally biting the proverbial bullet and buying a truck and trailer set up as I have 4 horses that show at least 3 weekends a month. I have pretty much decided on a four horse center load head to head trailer, but obviously need to buy a truck that would comfortably (and more importantly safely) pull the trailer fully occupied with horses and tack/trunks.

When it comes to my horses safety I would obviously rather be over cautious and get something that is overly qualified for the job. To make a long story short, any suggestions on trucks? Any advice, experiences, or warnings would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

Folks around here typically tow 4h-HtH with 3/4 ton trucks, including the barn I board at. Since they tow rarely, their truck is a gas engine Chevy, but for frequent use, a Diesel might be the better choice.

I’ve towed the 4h head to head with a single wheel one ton and a dually. I really disliked pulling a fully loaded one with my friends 2013 Chevy 2500 gas. That’s what she hauls with, but I prefer my 1 ton diesel.

I have an older Ford, but I would hands down buy a new Dodge or Chevy. I have driven both and am heart set on a new Dodge when the Ford kicks the bucket. I will never buy another Ford, especially not a newer one.

I’ve got a 2+1 hawk which my one ton diesel dually doesn’t even know is there, and just completed a trip from Texas to Vermont hauling a 13000 fifth wheel camper with it.
It’s a 2001 and my understanding is the newer trucks are even beefier.
I’m a Ford girl and will never go back to a gas engine for towing.

We have a converted 4 horse head to head (now is pretty much a 2 + 1 and 16ft of living quarters - heavy trailer and is 15,000lb) and we use a 1 ton diesel dually (2012 dodge) and it tows it like its not even there. We do a lot of traveling in the states and it has no problems with mountains etc.

My husband had a 2500 before and of course the place where we bought the trailer from said the truck would be totally fine pulling the trailer. It was all over the road…not enough truck for that size of trailer. My husband switched to the 1 ton dually and it was like night and day. The dually really holds the trailer to the road.

If you do some searching of the archives you’ll find lots of “best truck for towing” threads.

If you boil them down you’ll find some common thoughts:

For most folks, bigger is better. There is a minority view that “less is more.”

Dually and 4wd tend to be preferred over rear 2wd. Again, there is minority view that these are “nice to haves” but not “need to haves.”

Diesel is widely preferred to gas for 3/4 and one ton trucks. There is a small minority view that disagrees.

Long bed vs. short bed is a lively topic. The long bed is more utilitarian for hauling and towing gooseneck trailers (shortbed trucks can have problems with cab being struck by the nose of the trailer in tight maneuvering). Shortbeds are lighter, get slightly better mileage as a result, and are easier to park.

DRW vs. SRW also can get lively. The DRW gives a bit more stability but negatively impacts mileage and parking ease. It’s also more expensive in terms of tire costs.

Regarding cab size a very large majority seems to prefer the extended cab or crew cab.

As you read you’ll find more but this will get you started. :slight_smile:

Remember, as you make your selection, the First Rule of Towing Anything:

Starting Is Optional, Stopping Is Not.

Ignore the “towing capacity” claims of all manufacturers. Find (in the owner’s manual or on the driver’s door frame) the GCVWR (gross combined vehicle weight rating) for the truck. This is the maximum legal weight for the total of truck and trailer. Then get the curb weight of the truck and empty weight of the trailer. Calculate as follows:

GCVWR - (Truck Curb Weight + Trailer Empty Weight) = Legal Payload of Trailer

Remember to include in curb weight the numbers for passengers, fuel, stuff, etc.

I’m generally of the “bigger is better” camp as I view what I have to pay for excess towing capacity to be cheap insurance for the health, safety, and welfare of me and my horses. I’m ready, willing, and able to buy the extra fuel, maintenance, insurance, etc. that my view requires. As with all things, YMMV (your mileage may vary). :wink:

Good luck in your search.


Subtract the sum of those from the GCVWR. That will give you how much load you can legally, and safely, put into your trailer.

One more thought.

In many discussions you’ll eventually see that the choice of brand, engine, transmission, etc. comes down to a “Coke vs. Pepsi vs. Dr. Pepper logic.” At that point it’s which one you like better!!! :lol:


The low end torque of the diesel is going to serve you well with a fully loaded rig. I currently pull my 2+1 with DR with a 3/4 ton GMC diesel, and that sucker is rock solid and can haul a$$ even loaded to the gunwales. I will be looking into a 1 ton single rear wheel diesel when it is time to upgrade for extra peace of mind.

If I were shopping to pull a 4 horse, I would personally go no smaller than a 1 ton single rear wheel, and ideally would prefer a diesel dually. IMHO with hauling more truck is better. I learned this the hard way back in the stone ages when the brakes on my little trailer went out with my old 1/2 ton in a very hilly area. Everybody was fine, but man, that was scary! The truck I have now, I probably wouldn’t have even realized my trailer brakes were out.

BTW, Guilherme’s post is the best summary of COTH trailer wisdom I have ever seen. :slight_smile: :yes:

I’ve had two trailers, a 3 horse stock gooseneck, then my current 4 horse gooseneck fully enclosed.

My original truck was a F250 short bed, didn’t have an issue, absolutely towed fine, had some issues in the mountains with the 4 horse. The stock had a rounded nose and we really didn’t have any maneuverability issues as far as it being a short bed. However, when I purchased the 4 horse which had a square nose, I really did have a harder time and almost punched that glass out a few times. The 250 was an old 6.0, which made the husband nervous for long trips, but really it was a good truck. Towed with it for years, sold it to my parents and my 16 year old brother totaled it 2 months later…at that point it had 250k hard miles and never had any issues.

I purchased a F350 Duelly last year before selling the 250, an older 7.3 that had crazy low miles on it (115k!!!). Its nice because it really does handle the 4 horse better, and I don’t have to watch that back glass, and when I get the last minute pull in front and slam on brakes with the local tourist morons I can really stop and not push into their back seat. Flip side, its a slug pulling wise, the 6.0 was definitely a little more fun and peppy to drive as an every day thing, and you’d better have 3 parking spots to park in because it turns like a bus. The stability and power though really make it worth it.

We have 2 trucks that can do the job. A 3/4 ton shortbed duramax and a 1 ton daullie 7.3 older ford (96) that runs like a top. I am much more comfortable in the daullie but as said above parking take some getting used to.
I have had the crew cab duallie 8’ bed since new so no big deal to me, but I still remember the first time pulling into a parking lot and thinking “oh my God” how do you park this thing.
How far are the shows, flat or hilly terrain, is it also going to be a daily driver or just for towing? These are factors to think about.

Can I jump in on this thread? I have a four horse stock trailer and usually tow three horses. I’ve had my '78 Chevy Suburban for 15 years towing it. I maybe put 1,000 miles on it a year in a huge year. I almost only use it for going to shows maybe once a month. It costs me $300 a year to insure, and $75 for registration. It’s a 3 speed with a granny low that acts like a tractor–I’ve pulled four horses up a steep, slippery driveway. It’s a 350, 3/4 ton I think.

We end up at 35/40 in the freeway going up hill, but otherwise it tows fine, and I’ve had it mechanically kept up really well. The rest of it’s a mess. The front window is cracked, the front grill felt apart and I have plastic fencing there, the passenger window wont’ roll down, the bench seats are uncomfortable and falling apart, the radio will not work, ever, someone back into my door and there’s a dent it in, the back doors never close properly, someone stole my battery once, so I have a cable through the hood and grill, it has the carberator (??) problem where if I drive for awhile and stress it, carbon builds up and it won’t start again for a half hour, and when I had to jump it the other day and closed the hood, it buckled, so I had to get on top of it and push it down.

So, it does the job and I can store all of my stuff in it, and I could live in it if I lose my house it’s so big. But, it’s not the easiest to tow. I don’t show that much, but I’m thinking maybe it’s time in my life to get something a little safer and fancier, and I can afford it. I would never bother with anything new, as I don’t need one. I just really need 500-1,000 miles a year towing horses, mostly no big hills.

Is there any other model than a Suburban that is completely covered? I really don’ want a pickup, even with a cover, because it’s so much nicer just to store all of my gear in it. For a little more power and stability would it just be like a 400 engine? Something old but in good shape should be fine, right?

Suggestions, ideas appreciated. Or, is my '78 just too cool to get rid of?

BTDT, I think you just need to drop some cash and restore Old Faithful. You know, some ground effects and spinning rims would look great! LOL

Since I have a GN these days, I am COMPLETELY uninformed about big SUVs. If I were you, I would check out newer Suburbans or their equivalent with Ford and GMC. I am pretty sure they have a 3/4 ton option, but I would think those may be hard to find used. My guess is there were not very many of them made.

If you decide to paint your suburban with an outrageous flame custom design to go with the chrome spinners, please, please, PLEASE post pictures!!!

I have a friend who pulls with a Ford E350 van. He uses it as his tack room. I have seen one of those big Sprinter vans pulling a trailer. Lots of room in both of those.

4H center load is a pretty big trailer, I would be thinking dually for sure.

Dually or not is based on the weight exerted by the GN on the tow vehicle rear axil. If that weight doesn’t exceed the capacity for a regular truck axil, the dually doesn’t really provide any benefits while at the same time increasing costs. (and decreased performance in winter)

A four horse center load will most definitely be a gooseneck (I wouldn’t want to pull a 4-horse that wasn’t).

Start by looking at weights and tongue weights on trailers like the one you want to purchase. Then I’d check out the F250 and F350 Diesel options and see which configuration you need.

Guilherme, you rule!

And remember, maximum weight ratings are limits, not targets…

4H head to head is a pretty big trailer, and they are awesome (I’d choose one of those over slant any day if I had that many horses to haul). I’d go 1 ton truck.

OK, I’ve been researching. Despite your stunning advice Crotchety ( :)) I have been told by some that restoring my cool old POS is probably a bad idea.

So, I’m looking at used SUV’s to pull. It looks like there is the Suburban, Tahoe, Yukon, Durango, Excursion. The Excursion is a v 10, so that would be much stronger for towing more horses/bigger? Right?

Argh. My head hurts.