Looking for Thoughts about Horse Vans

Hi - I am looking for thoughts and experiences with horse vans (small one - two horse or a little larger). I am looking to purchase a transport vehicle for my horse. I am wondering what experiences others have had with horse vans. I have towed campers and boats with trucks, but I don’t really care for the truck and trailer hauling experience. I thought I might be more comfortable with a van. Thoughts? Pros and cons? Thank you!

My first “horse transporter” was a custom truck/3 horse van. (At least a hundred years ago!!) I LOVED it and we had a second , custom one, made years later. Loved that and was easy to drive/park/back up, horses were happy. Then came the 4 horse head to head GN trailer!! Same comfort…harder to learn to drive/back/park…but satisfactory. We’ve had a trailer ever since. Economics…Truck/trailer = only pick-up to register and insure…other uses for pick-up. Van has limited use other than hauling horses, but must be registered and insured anyway…plus engine/vehicle maintenance regardless of the use and probably more costly fuel consumption. Finding a used horse van is probably difficult or impossible. Truck/trailer will cost less in the long run. If money/cost isn’t an issue…just go with your driving preference.

In the bad old days :slight_smile: I ran across a couple of experienced horsemen who had built horse transport into the back of smaller flat bed trucks. One dealer basically had just built a really high-walled open box on the back of his truck. I remember watching a horse come in with his nose stretched just peeking up over the edge (he had a long neck). As I recall, the horses seemed to prefer riding in these trucks to riding in trailers, which when I look at 1970s trailers for sale used, doesn’t surprise me in the least.

I always enjoyed shipping and driving a Van small,or large…Frank DiBella Pottstown Pa still makes and sell Imperator Van and usually has an inventory of used…

There is a thread on here, maybe search DiBella, and you will find it. Something about those newer ones being tippy…or feeling tippy.

The biggest con with the older ones is getting stuck if you have to park in fields. The new ones are nice but not cheap. Plus it can be very convenient to be able to use the truck separately. Have you driven a GN trailer or just a BP?

I have heard that they are terribly slow and have bad traction for parking in fields. I still love them though.

I was at a horse show back in June and had the opportunity to look at one close up and personal. Very nice set up. It was two horse plus dressing room, not nearly as high as the older bigger ones. Woman who owns it is here in Florida, said she loves it, uses it for hauling hay sometimes and other “errands” requiring big space.
So far as I can tell, they come w/ various engines - Ford, Ram, Mercedes, and the box parts seem to be fairly consistently laid out.
I do know that they are pricey - I’ve heard numbers of $75,000-$80,000. Steep if you have nothing to trade in…

Haven’t heard anything re traction, but that is something worth investigating.

Someone at our barn is buying one so I will get a chance to check it out in action.

My angle is you checking on how truck needs to be licensed, your possibly needing extra endorsements on your Driver’s License. Your State Laws will vary, so this could be “a big deal” or a nothing item in getting and using a horse van.

The new ones in a van body, appear to be just vehicles, not needing a CDL or endorsements to drive them. I believe that they have folks like Rodney Pessoa endorsing them in advertising here on COTH. Very pricy too, but appear REALLY handy to drive, easy to manage.

Older Horse Vans with the big box on high frame are going to fall into Truck category, with special Rules covering them. The CDL endorsement might only be the start on your Driver’s License. Could include yearly inspection for safety, special class of insurance (our big truck is not able to be insured like a pickup truck. It has it’s own policy). Farm Plates may not be possible, they have restrictions of their own. Our State only allows Farm Plate use within 150 miles of the address. You can be fined heavily for exceeding that distance as some friends found out over 1000 miles from Michigan. Even with animals in the trailers, trucks were not allowed to travel from point stopped. It got VERY complicated with having to call commercial haulers for the horses, paying fines, etc. They had hauled for years before “getting caught” but some sharp Trooper who knew the Law, spotted them that trip, pulled them over. It cost a LOT of money to get out of that situation.

Have you ever driven a large truck before? They do not handle like a pickup, you can’t think like a pickup truck driver when behind the wheel. Horses in back make for “an unstable load” high in the air, so you are top-heavy. You REALLY do need to be going 25mph or LESS on entrance and exit ramps to not roll the truck over. You can not argue with the laws of physics, they laugh at you as you lay in the ditch.

I drive trucks commercially, have several endorsements on my CDL Drivers License, so I have to know all these rules and regulations as part of my job. If stopped, whatever is wrong is ALWAYS THE DRIVER’S FAULT. You have to learn and protect yourself by knowing the Law.

Girls can drive big trucks, you see it every day. Big trucks need to be inspected and checked out by YOU, each time you get them out to use. Lights, brakes, slack adjusters on the brakes, oil, belts, etc. Things happen while truck sits unused, even just overnight. They are great tools, but as the Driver, you have to be aware and pro-active in keeping up the mechanical end, know the Rules Trucks operate under so you can enjoy taking your Horse Van out and about. I never liked the idea of fighting with the van ramps, so we never seriously looked at getting a horse van. We still would have needed a trailer behind for the carriages, so not a space savings in length. We pull large horse trailers with our big trucks. Easier to change the trailer, have more uses from the truck than a single use horse van. Yes, our big truck is heavy, we have to be careful where we park it or have the tractor handy to pull it at a show in the rain. We have small LQs in the big 35ft trailer, very handy. It is a beast with the truck, almost 50ft long, takes lots of parking space. We also have a 24ft gooseneck stock trailer, 18ft on the floor that we use the most often for hauling locally. But we haul a lot of stuff to compete and need the room of the bigger trailer then. Still shorter than the semi truck we used when hauling 4-5 horses and stuff! Trailer alone was 53ft.

Just a BP. I have towed horse trailers, campers and boats. I was fine with driving and maneuvering all of these, but i really dislike the prices of aligning and hitching the truck to the trailer.

Just a BP. I have towed horse trailers, campers and boats. I was fine with driving and maneuvering all of these, but i really dislike the prices of aligning and hitching the truck to the trailer.[/QUOTE]

I am guessing you meant process, not prices, of hitching trailers to truck.

That is fine, you are the one doing the driving. If you don’t like hitching up, going to a horse van sounds reasonable to me. Van will be an extra expense in your horse budget over using a pickup for multiple things. It is OK to choose to move horses in a van over a trailer.

I wanted to point out that using a van may mean additional items to ask about, learn, to be in compliance with laws of motor vehicles. Vans are not in the same class as pickup trucks, have their own rules to abide by in use. Driver’s license may need to have endorsements, change of class, to allow you to legally drive a van, so ask questions. Weight of van will be a huge factor, both empty and loaded weights in license plate and driver’s license endorsements. All States are getting much more picky about who is driving bigger trucks, how they are educated and skills they need to manage their loaded trucks. Get a Truck Driver’s book at the License Bureau Book should spell out ALL the details you need to know to pass driving testing, what size truck/van needs which endorsements to drive it. Regular yearly inspection stickers if needed in your State or for crossing State lines. Perhaps you will need a physical to go with your license, if you fall into the Commercial Driver category with your van.

Get a van if you think you will enjoy using it better than a 2H bumper pull trailer. Van may be a wonderful truck for you, be a blast to drive, use and haul with! I know van owners who love their trucks/van, horses love riding in the vans.

When I was growing up (60s-70s) I don’t remember GN, if they were in use it was a very rare to see one. Mostly BH and Vans.

Vans were very popular. The norm were 4 horse, 3 stalls and a 4th could be added “sideways” between the ramp doors.

The “yard stick” in the mid-Atlantic area were made by Imperitor just about everyone had one of these.


Imperator made the body,van and they were mounted on many different types/styles of “trucks”. Some were very under powered, some ran with the wind. Just depended on what the body was put on. I rode in and drove/shipped a lot of horses around mid-Atlantic in one of these. Spent many childhood hours riding in the back with the horses. Happy hours I may add. Beat the heck out sitting for hours in the middle of the bench seat with no AC.

On many older farms you will still see the raised homemade loading docks designed and used for loading horse on to vans. Easier to load horses instead of using the rather steep pullout ramps.

IMO and experience most vans offer a very good horse ride. Most states do not require a CDL for most of the smaller vans. But this varies state by state.

Goose necks are great and have been in fashion for many years now. Vans have fallen out of fashion and because of this so has their resale value. I have seen some really nice 4 horse in excellent shape for under $10,000. One would be hard pressed to find a nice 4 horse GN for under $10,000 which also requires an expensive truck to haul it.

A 4 horse Imperator body on a “spent” truck can be had for a few thousand. Very easy to have it remounted on a fresh truck and or one of recent vintage in really good shape.

IMO depending on the area vans represent excellent value because there is not a lot of demand. They are easy to drive, much easier to back up and or park and offer more maneuverability than a long truck and GN. They can carry a lot of stuff in addition just the horses. Can pickup and load a lot of hay and straw in them. Can put a lot of stuff in the “Grandma’s attic” alone. We put a mattress in there and slept.

This is a link to DiBella’s used inventory. As you can see some are “commercial” and some are Non-CDL. When you see 5/2 manual transmission that means it has a 5 speed stick transmission and a 2 “speed” rear-end. There is a “switch” mounted on the stick that changes the gearing in the rear axle. Annoying that they don’t list the prices.


There is a “caveat” as some others have pointed out. Unless one can be had with 4WD they can and do get easily stuck. But just about every horses show and or horse event I’ve been to there has always been big tractor available to pull them and GNs out.

There is no question GN trailers are the best all around solution to hauling a handful of horses, bar none, why they are the most common out there, for private and commercial horse hauling today.

BP and vans have their place and a few advantages over GN, but when you compare, GN just come ahead all around.

If those few advantages just fit your bill, why not?

If you ever drive a nice GN enough to appreciate them, you won’t look back, I don’t think.

I’ve known one couple who had a van. Everyone else I know drives a pickup/SUV and trailer. It’s probably 60-35 pickup w/gooseneck - pickup w/ bumper -pull; the other 5 is the SUV w/ bumper pull.

I recommend going here http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/forums/

and asking your question. It’s a British BB and I think vans are used more in England than in the US. At least I see more online. So you might hear from more van owners/drivers.

The “getting stuck in a field” issue is a major concern – a stereotypical idea of an English show/rally in a field in an English rain with vans makes me wonder how they handle it over there!

Just a BP. I have towed horse trailers, campers and boats. I was fine with driving and maneuvering all of these, but i really dislike the prices of aligning and hitching the truck to the trailer.[/QUOTE]

A backup camera is your friend…on the ball, first time, every time. :slight_smile:

Just a BP. I have towed horse trailers, campers and boats. I was fine with driving and maneuvering all of these, but i really dislike the prices of aligning and hitching the truck to the trailer.[/QUOTE]

This part gets much, much easier the more you do it. I used to allow half an hour and take 15-20 minutes. Now I rarely take more than five and on a good day I get it on the first try.

Gumtree, what’s your professional opinion on something like this, converted into a “horse box”: http://www.truckpaper.com/listings/trucks/for-sale/7192277/2005-freightliner-business-class-m2-106

Consider this a “generic” suggestion, meaning it’s not Freightliner specific nor necessarily specific for horsepower, transmission, etc. There also appear to be a number of different “sleeper” arrangements that can be had.

The prices are not all that unreasonable and it certainly gives horse and human a LOT of room and some decent amenities. I’ve seen examples from time to time of this type of vehicle equipped with selective AWD (pretty limited in use, with a max. mph of about 20 and a penalty of about 1 mpg).

Maybe put a well preserved Imperator body on this?


I drove by this Stephex van on the highway around the New York-Connecticut line a few weeks ago. Yes, I took a picture while in traffic. We were all going very slowly. And I had to. I actually sent the company an email since they are sold in America now. This van costs $85,000. :eek:



I’m just wondering why you can get an EquiTrek Sonic in the UK for around £25,000, which is around $35,000 US but the minute you put a van in the US it’s $85,000.

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I think vans are great if you’re not doing a lot of long haul freeway driving, going over passes etc.When I lived on the East Coast we had a big one and it was so nice to be able to tack up and braid and all that stuff on the van. The horses loved it. We loved it. It was great. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to drive one around LA in 100 degree heat or over the grapevine though.

I can chime in as I just bought one. Mine is an Annard Allure Sport – a 2-horse “European Style” van built (in Ireland) on a Dodge Promaster 3500 chassis. I traded in my truck and trailer – very happy to have a smaller (much shorter in total length) and MUCH more maneuverable vehicle. The ramp is a bit steep but with my cocoa mat will be fine. Horses load in the side and ride facing the back. I was concerned about loss of storage as my GN had a tack room but with shelves installed in the small tack area in the back and the area over the cab it’s worked out OK. And the van is so easy to drive and back up that I can use it for “trips to Lowes” that I used the pickup for. Yes it was expensive – but I traded in my truck and trailer and since it was about time for a new truck all in all not that bad. No need for a CDL but I did have to get a commercial insurance policy … couldn’t add it to my personal auto policy. And at my age (60+) I’m very happy not to have to crawl around in the back of a pickup to hook up a GN anymore!