Random trailer buying questions from a newbie

Starting to look into getting a truck and trailer. I’m pretty sure I’ll get a 2H BP with tack space and right now I’m looking at the Ford F-150 Powerboost (hybrid) which has 11000 - 14000 lb towing capacity, depending on configuration and towing package. I really want to keep fuel economy in mind as I am in CA where gas prices are high and I’ll be using this for more than just hauling. Trailer trips will be a handful of trips each year, typically within 60 miles, some freeway driving.

So for the trailer -

All aluminum or aluminum skin or all steel? Pros and cons?

Those shiny aluminum exteriors - do they turn the trailer into an air fryer sitting in the sun?

Slant or straight load? Ramp or step up?

Favorite brands or ones to avoid?

What is the one feature or upgrade you can’t live without?

ETA: thanks for the book recommendation - it is on its way!

My horse loads and trailers fine in a 3 horse slant gooseneck. I don’t know if he would do better in a straight load or 2H BP. Maybe I can talk to some friends to give us a quick ride as a test.

I like a straight load. Not sure what the horses like - I have heard that when loose in a trailer they put their heads to the rear…so…?

I like a ramp, providing it is not too steep.
The two changes I would make to my trailer:

  1. having drop down windows rather than “bus” windows. Much greater air flow.
  2. Full to the floor divider, so I can put stuff in the empty stall. I had my divider enlarged to full.
    ANd, if I went out an bought exactly what I wanted, I’d get a 2+1… for that extra room.
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I’ll take a brief run at this. Then I can be the one everyone says is wrong.

Aluminum for me. Supposedly lighter, but that varies from maker to maker. The frames underneath are typically steel, regardless of the upper works. IMO aluminum is easier to maintain - if it’s painted.

Shiny aluminum looks neat but will need more frequent cleaning and acid washing to held keep it nice and shiny. I prefer white paint over aluminum for a cooler interior. My opinion but I think shiny aluminum is less safe. Headlights reflect off of it and other drivers can be distracted. I don’t want distracted drivers around my horses.

Ramp for me. I’m thinking ahead to trying to load a sick or injured horse some day, or even using the horse trailer to haul a mower or small tractor in a pinch.

There are both nationally known brands like Featherlite, but there are also well made regional brands. I have owned 3 Gore trailers, which is a NC-manufactured brand. Check out some of the west coast regional brands - ask around - horse shows are are great place to walk around and ask people about their trailers. Many husbands are totally bored at shows and will talk your ears off with advice.

Top upgrades or add-ons for me are fans, a monitoring camera for the horses, and spare tire storage inside the tack room. If it’s outside mounted over the fender its in the way when horses are tied to the side of the trailer at shows. I had mine installed against the wall under the saddle racks.

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- All aluminum or aluminum skin or all steel? Pros and cons?
Aluminum is lighter, steel is better in an accident (so I’ve heard) because it maintains its structural integrity better. If you can afford the extra weight, steel is better. Steel will also rust over time, so keep that in mind. Aluminum skin over steels is probably the best of both worlds. (I have an all-aluminum because I could not afford the extra weight.) Keep in mind the utility of having a trailer others can haul in an emergency. Not sure where you are in terms of fire risk, but in an emergency evac, it helps if someone else can also grab your trailer and get some horses out. In that case, lighter is better.

- Those shiny aluminum exteriors - do they turn the trailer into an air fryer sitting in the sun?
I think most are painted. PLUS - and I recommend everyone do this - get some reflective insulating paint and spend a weekend putting it on your trailer roof. That stuff is amazing and minimizes how much your trailer will be cooking your horse when you get stuck in traffic and have no airflow (<-- this is a serious concern, especially in SoCal!).

- Slant or straight load? Ramp or step up?
This depends on the horse - which does your horse prefer? For me, I have big horses (warmbloods) who never fit comfortably in a slant load, but are clearly much happier in a straight load. I’ve never met a horse that prefers a step-up, but I’ve heard they exist. I have both straight load and a ramp and love both.

- Favorite brands or ones to avoid?
Logan and EquiSpirit are top of the line, from what I’ve seen/heard. Sundowner quality has gone downhill (again, from what I’ve heard). EquiSpirit has wonderful design with safety front of mind. Whatever you do, I would recommend one that has a one-piece roof, versus multiple pieces bolted together, which is more prone to leaks down the road. Though I guess in SoCal that doesn’t matter as much :rofl:

- What is the one feature or upgrade you can’t live without?
Tack room, for sure. Probably the Polylast flooring, next: no mats, easy to clean, insulates from road heat, noise, and vibration. It was ~ $1000 for a two-horse straight load, but very much worth it. I LOVE it. Another feature I love is my weight distribution hitch with sway control bars. It keeps the trailer right where its supposed to be, with little wandering while hauling. I can’t believe I don’t see these more often.

LOVE me some upgrades! I also have a monitoring camera, though mine is not wired in - I charge it the night before and pop it up when I trailer. Hoping to get fans and the camera wired-in next year. OP, if you’re interested in upgrades, check out the facebook group Horse Trailer Conversions II. It’s mostly about living quarter conversions, but there is a lot of horse stuff, too. Insulation is a big one that you can approach from several angles (and will be a really nice feature for you in your climate).

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Suggest buying the book by Neve Scheve about Buying, Owning, and Maintaining a Horse Trailer. She covers all your questions there and a lot more. https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Maintaining-Servicing-Trailer-Reference/dp/0876056869

I live in the "trailer capital of the world (Elkhart IN) where national brands are manufactured within 10 miles of my house: Lakota, Merhow, Bison, and about every LQ is “remanufactured” here to specifications.

I prefer Aluminum skin --but in 55 years, have yet to see an all aluminum fail or have a horse “kick through the side” as is often related.

Shiny aluminum exteriors will not affect the interior temperature. However, colored paint will —one manufacturer told me (when I asked about a black trailer to match my black truck) that every square foot of black paint on a trailer increases the temperature by 1 degree inside. So I stick with white paint --my new trailer (Merhow 2021) has aluminum up to the windows --I think it keeps horse from scratching paint with halter, rope, or whatever. I clean it by doing a 50/50 spray with vinegar and water. Acid wash or anything similar will look good for awhile, then you are back to whatever . . .enjoy the beauty of the aluminum --mine is “brushed” not shiny --I think most are that way.

Slant or straight. I prefer straight, my kids prefer slant.

Ramp or step up —Merhow charges MORE these days for a step up than a ramp --I liked my old (2004) step up because I only had to open TWO doors to get horse out --with my ramp, we’re talking two doors and a ramp to deal with.

Favorite are Hart, 4 Star, Platinum, Featherlite and MERHOW (I like them best because their plant is only 7 miles from my house --really nice people there) --avoid --well, don’t want to trash talk anyone --if you want a PM --I’ll dish. BUT the “tell” on horse trailers is the weld --look for neatly done welding on all places where metal meets metal --the “cheaper” trailers don’t weld, just bolt on. And watch for trim on fenders --again cheaper trailers don’t do it --and horse tied to a trailer with a raw (sharp) edge by his front feed is a recipe for disaster (seen it too many times) --you can put it on yourself after market, fyi –

Upgrades: Step up into the tack room (now an option on the Merhow --can’t tell you how many “little stools” I’ve smashed by driving over or fallen off taking a saddle out of the tack. AND lined (skinned) tack room --I like hanging shelving in my tack room (RubberMaid) AND I have windows that open in the front of my tack room, and a window that opens to the horse compartment from the tack room --I can open those and as I drive, air blows back on the horse and out the back windows.

Oh, and hang your spare tire on the driver’s side of the trailer --that way the horse (usually tied on the passenger side around here) won’t fool with it or the cover on it. And it won’t be in your way in the tack room.

Other upgrades --grommets (those do-dads you tie horse to) have two extra put up high so you can hang hay from them for horse while on the trailer, and of course two on each side (most come with one) so horses can be on the same side.

I like tack door on Passenger side --now offered and seem standard on the driver’s side --up to you.

As far as drop down v bus windows —I like bus —it’s a choice.

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There is another recent thread with a very similar question.

The bottom line on this topic is, like all things horse - what you think is perfect the next person thinks is horrible.
An example of this is below.

You really have to just figure out what works best for you and your horse.

Strange, every trailer I have ever owned has had the tack room door on passenger side. I would much prefer it on the other side.

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Me too.

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I’ve had BP, GN. Straightload & Slant, ramp & step-up.
All were aluminum.
That said, what I have now is my favorite: BP 16’ Stock trailer step-up with center gate.
Full-length escape door on the passenger side in front.
Had 2 GN & never liked them. “Easier to back” they said. Not for me.
And climbing in & out of the truck bed to hitch was becoming harder as I aged.
While a ramp has the nice feature of horses putting their heads down as they step on (so no head bonking) it is a PITA for me to lift - even with hydraulic.
If I’m hauling just one the center gate closed makes the front half a tackroom, feed storage & when taking my Driving mini it carries the carts.
In a pinch all 3 of mine - TWH, 13h pony & 34" mini - can go in wirh the gate either closed or pinned open.
I use a long tack tack that is meant to hang over a stall wall for tack. Removable if I need the space for horses. Saddle travels in the vehicle with me.

This will vary widely depending on who you ask. So I’ll give you my expert opinions and they’ll be worth what you paid. :wink:

We use an F-150 for my 2H BP with tack with zero issues. My truck is rated to tow 12,000 lb.

We have an all steel trailer. If/when DH does repairs/upgrades steel is much easier for him to weld on than aluminum. Easy to stay on top of rust, but is something you want to stay on top of. May be less of an issue in CA.

I think all trailers are air fryers in the sun unfortunately.

I don’t have a really strong preference straight/slant, but lean slant. Very well could be because my tricky loader on my old straight with a ramp loads like an old campaigner on my new slant/step-up. He’s only 16.1hh, so has plenty of room in the bigger slant loads. No front manger and NO BACK TACK. I very much prefer the open backs for loading if you do slant. He does seem to like the step-up better as well. But he has room to turn around and walk out. If I were backing him out I would want a ramp.

I’ve personally owned a Turnbow and a Titan. Both have been quality trailers with features I liked and features I wish I had. I’m not a trailer brand nerd, so others will be better at this. I generally just find a trailer that I like and then research the brand and ask my horse folks about their experiences with it.

Things I like about my trailer:
Drop down windows option. So much more airflow when it’s 95+. I also like the butt/passenger side being slats for the added airflow as well.
Tie rings on both sides of the trailer.
Roomy tack room with the spare tire in it.
Swing-out saddle stand.
Roomy and easy to maneuver the divider. Loading alone easily is a necessity for me.

Things I don’t like about my trailer:
No front escape door–which I think would be nice for training a horse to load.
No roof vents–they’ve traveled very comfortably in 95+ degree weather, so not a huge issue.
Electric jack–because I’m lazy.
DH updated the interior lights to be brighter, so not an issue anymore but could be.
No back butt bar. We upgraded this with a very heavy covered butt chain.
Back door is one big one and needs a better way to stay open when windy. DH says he will fix this someday.
Wish I had fans/camera–both options that can be added in the future as well.

Biggest advice–see what your horse likes and shop for that.

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If you want to avoid the “air fryer” trailer, go with a trailer that has a fully insulated horse area, and/or a composite roof.

I have personally owned 2 Hart trailers and you can feel the difference between standing outside the trailer and inside the trailer on hot days. Both Hart and Cimmaron use composite roof in their construction.

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Ramps and dividers add to the weight of the trailer. Not that you shouldn’t get those, just something to keep in mind if fuel economy is important. If you’re getting a hybrid truck that may not be so important (and I think I’m jealous!)

If you plan to use the trailer to haul something like a UTV you could buy a portable ramp instead of having a ramp attached to the trailer. That way, you could even haul a UTV in your truck bed.

One other thing to think about before you buy the truck is whether to get a bumper pull or gooseneck trailer. I think a gooseneck might be more stable and easier to maneuver, but you need to be sure the bed of the truck isn’t too high for the gooseneck.

I have just a basic no frills bumper pull stock trailer and no ramp. I already had the truck before I bought the trailer, and it was equipped with a bumper towing package, so for me that eliminated a gooseneck. I don’t haul much, mostly just trips to the vet, so I don’t need much. My horses self-load and turn around so they can ride backwards, and they come off head first. I customized the trailer with extra height so the horses don’t bump their heads, and I put interlocking mats on the floor. This set-up suits both me and my horses. They don’t care about frills; they just want to be comfortable.

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I believe that the tack room door on the passenger side, and the spare tire mounted over the passenger side fender are both safety issues. If you have a flat, breakdown, or other problem and pull off on the shoulder of the road, the spare tire mount and the access to items in the tack room are both on the off side from passing traffic.

Not an option, but wanted to share my other favorite and latest addition, which is a manger in the space in front of the horses (2 horse side-by-side) IMO much better than the hay nets I had used for years - minimizes the spillage of hay onto the floor and keeps the dust down also. I know some of you don’t feed hay while trailering, so ignore.

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I second the recommendation for the book by Neve Scheve.

Based on the analysis there, I chose aluminium with a steel frame. ( have followed an aluminium framed trailer out of the trailer parking area, and the whole trailer flexed as they drove over the uneven surface.)

A light colored reflective surface will, by definition, keep the interior of the trailer cooler.

Most of my experience is with straight load, and my minimal experience with slants has been negative. But I know other people who like slants.

I slightly prefer a ramp, but I have never had any problems with a step up.

My previous trailer was a Gore and it held up very well. My current trailer (had it for 17 years) is a Hawk (2 horse BP with tack room), and it is also holding up well. My sister also has a Hawk (2 + 1 GN) that she is very happy with.

I wish I had fans, and more interior lights.

ETA that I really like the Rumber floor.

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Step up, ramps will get you and the horse hurt if they ever don’t want to get on. A step up if I can get their head in the trailer I can get the horse in the trailer, not so with a ramp as they step off the side.

Slant, they ride better.

I have an Exiss which I really like. Of course it is a gooseneck but the quality is excellent.

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I prefer a straight load with a ramp. I have not had a horse that I could not get on or off one. I have met a couple that found coming off a slant with a step-up a pretty huge deal.

In other words, back to what I said above - what style you get will depend on your horse and you. Most people feel very strongly about what they like and why they like it. None of those things might apply to you or your horse(s).

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Exactly - it really depends on what your horse prefers (and their size, in regards to straight vs. slant). Ramps can be dangerous (from what I hear, though not in my experience) for horses who risk stepping off the side. Personally, I’ve seen horses back off a step-up and slip their hind leg under the trailer while backing down. Not fun, very scary, 0/10, do not recommend. (I have a ramp, and my horses tend to prefer them.)

Also, I think someone mentioned upstream about having a solid divider so you can use the other space as tack storage. Be aware that a lot of horses will need to spread their legs a bit at times for balance. A solid wall on both sides prevents this. This is discussed in fair detail in the book mentioned above. An open partition is safer for this reason.

OP, no matter what you end up getting, the safest trailer will be the one you take time to teach horse to load, trailer in, and unload safely. Getting a trailer well suited to your horse is an important first step (ie, keep in mind their size and preference for ramps), but any trailer can be dangerous if your horse is not safe to load, haul, or unload.

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forgot to add - My straight load has escape doors on both sides at the horses’ heads; however, they don’t have a “real” handle on the inside - its hard to open them from the inside if the wind blows it shut etc etc. I’d definitely get “real” handles on the escape doors if that is an option!!

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Since you’re on the West Coast, try to find a Logan. I’ve had one for over 15 years and it’s what I would order again in a heartbeat.

My recommendations:
– If you go with a slant, no rear tack. That way you can always turn the horse around to go out head first.
– Again, if you have a slant, stud divider between the stalls so that you can use one to safely store stuff.
– Rumbar flooring.
– Drop-down windows.
– I have doors to the tack room on both sides (custom request) giving me the best of both worlds. I also had the triangular section created by the foremost stall (slant load) closed off so it’s a separate closet for all my dirty tools which keeps my tack room somewhat tidy.
– My trailer was a step-up for over 10 years then I had a ramp added. Although I hate that I just can’t open the rear doors and have access to the trailer, I have never regretted the ramp. For me, horses load and unload easier (probably because I’m more relaxed!).

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One feature I can’t live without: dressing room!

I don’t know how I ever did without one. I definitely won’t go back to being without one.

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Yes! This is an important point. OP, in an emergency, you want TWO escape doors, not just one. This was a “must have” for me when I was trailer shopping.

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