Trailer Straight Talk
Purchasing a horse trailer is not just a big financial decision. Hauling horses can be stressful for both horse and owner, which makes the decision even more important.
You want to choose a trailer that is safe for your horse, suits your individual needs, and will allow you to do the things you enjoy.
Trailer shopping may feel like an overwhelming process. There are a seemingly infinite number of brands, options, and features. We’re here to break down the process into manageable pieces so that you can choose the best trailer brand for you and your horse.
Horse Trailers 101
If you did a quick Google search for horse trailers, you probably realized you have hundreds of options. How do you know what you need? Let’s begin with the basics.
One of the first differentiating features you might notice between trailer styles is the overall shape, which is an easy indicator of the attachment type.
A bumper pull trailer attaches to a hitch near, you guessed it, the towing vehicle’s bumper. A gooseneck trailer extends over the back of the truck and attaches to a hitch installed in the truck bed.
To simplify these two trailer designs, here are a few quick facts about each.
Bumper Pull Trailers:
(+) Typically lighter and smaller (although there’s always an exception to the rule!)
(-) Generally does not include living quarters
(+) Likely less expensive than a gooseneck trailer
(+) Can be pulled with a smaller truck
(-) More difficult to pull
(+) Usually larger and heavier
(+) May include living quarters
(+) More storage space than a bumper pull trailer
(-) Generally more expensive than a bumper pull trailer
(-) Requires a larger truck to pull with, as you must factor in load weight as well as towing capacity
(+) Easier to pull as the load is more balanced
Another key point of differentiation between trailer designs is how the horses are loaded into the trailer. There are three designs to consider:
- A straight-load trailer means just that–the horse is hauled “straight” from front to back. Typically, straight-load trailers are found with 2-horse, bumper pull designs.
- Larger horse trailers will typically be slant-loads in order to allow more horses to fit into the space. With a slant load trailer, the horse can still walk straight in but will then need to turn at a “slant” before they are hooked inside. The horse’s head always faces to the left, or towards the centerline of the road.
- Last, you have stock trailers. Think of these as a box stall on wheels. Horses may be hauled loose in the stock trailer, or you could tie them facing at a slant or straight.
Horse trailers usually have a designation in the name indicating how many horses they are designed to haul. 1-horse (1H) trailers are generally the smallest trailer available, but are pretty uncommon. Horse trailer design usually starts with 2H and goes up to 8H.
Last but not least, you should consider trailer add-ons and features. A list of common options includes:
- A tack room. This could be located in the front of the trailer, or the rear (or both!) and generally provides saddle rack(s), bridle racks, and more options for storage.
- A dressing room, generally located at the front of the trailer.
- Drop-down windows
- Air conditioning
- Roof storage (usually used for hay, or a driving cart)
- A ramp (vs. a step-up trailer)
- A stud wall (a more solid partition to separate horses in the trailer)
- Padding in the horse area of the trailer for comfort and protection
If you want to use this trailer as a travel trailer in addition to a horse trailer then you might consider a trailer with living quarters.
While size and layouts differ dramatically, a living quarters trailer will usually include a bed, kitchen, and bathroom.
Horse Trailer Safety Features
Horse trailer design continues to improve, with new safety features added each year. Some key safety designs to consider include:
- Escape doors: These can be handler-size or horse-sized. Escape doors are great to ensure human safety when loading horses, and also in the event of an accident.
- Windows: Some trailers have drop-down windows with screens and bars. This design can allow for increased airflow while still keeping your horse’s head safely inside the horse trailer. Screens are a great way to keep debris from flying into your horses’ eyeballs.
- Tie points: These are where you’ll tie your horse to the trailer. They need to be strong, secure, and located in the right place. The higher, the better! I personally prefer tie points up by where the wall meets the ceiling. If a tie point is too low, a horse may be able to get a leg over the lead rope, which could be catastrophic.
Red Flags When Shopping
When shopping for a horse trailer, keep an eye out for ‘red flags,’ especially if you are buying a used trailer. Ensure that you inspect the entire trailer, from every possible angle.
Check for any rust, warping, broken welds, sharp points, or bending of the trailer walls on the interior as well as the exterior.
Carefully examine the flooring, lifting up mats to inspect underneath. Ensure wiring is not exposed and is functioning correctly. All lights (brake, turn signal, license plate, and interior) should be functioning.
You want to be sure that there is nothing out of the ordinary that could create a safety problem for your horse. When in doubt, enlist the help of a professional. There’s nothing wrong with finding a local expert to assist with a safety inspection.
Trailer Brand Breakdown
|Brand||Key Features||Price Point|
|Sundowner Horizon 8010 RS|| ||$$$$|
|Exiss Express BP – XT Edition|| ||$$$|
|Featherlite Model 9409|| ||$$|
|4 Star Center Load 6H Gooseneck Trailer|| ||$$$$$|
|Cimarron Winstar Bumper Pull Trailer|| ||$$|
|Shadow Pro Series Bumper Pull Trailer|| ||$|
|Trails West Classic Trailer|| ||$$|
|Titan Challenger|| ||$|
|Lakota Colt|| ||$$$$|
Sundowner Horizon 8010 RS
Sundowner is a brand that has been in business for over 45 years and gained a reputation as one of the leading horse trailer brands.
They offer a wide selection of all-aluminum horse trailers and have consistently continued to make improvements in technology and safety for both horse and handler.
The Horizon trailer series is a step up from the more affordable Santa Fe option. The Special Edition series includes slide-outs for maximum living quarter space—and a maximum price tag! Horizon trailers offer full living quarters, including a kitchen, refrigerator, bathroom with shower, toilet and sink, and heater/air conditioner.
- 68” couch for extra living quarter space
- Awning to extend out your trailer’s footprint for more usable space
- Excellent safety features
- Have occasionally had rust problems
Where to buy: https://www.sundownertrailer.com/tlr-Horizon_8010.html
Exiss Express BP – XT Edition
Exiss is a trailer brand that specializes in horse, stock, and low-profile livestock trailers. They offer a wide range of aluminum trailers including bumper pull, gooseneck, and living quarters options.
They are known to provide trailers at a decent price, which is great for someone that may be on more of a budget.
We’ve chosen to feature the Express BP – XT Edition, as it is designed for the trail rider. Durable and easy to maneuver, this trailer is rugged enough to handle the rough roads you may need to traverse in order to reach that remote trailhead.
- Extruded aluminum panels on the bottom of the trailer
- 2H or 3H slant load design
- Treadplate gravel guard on trailer nose
- Some owners have reported occasional roof leak issues
Featherlite Model 9409 2H Slant-Load Trailer
Featherlite has been established as a top-of-the-line trailer brand that produces some of the highest-quality horse trailers on the market.
Their trailers are all-aluminum and provide a secure ride for your equine friends..
I purchased a new Model 9409 in 2013. This aluminum trailer is lightweight and can be pulled safely with a half-ton truck. I opted for the 52” short wall, which created a huge dressing room, big enough to camp in for weekend horse shows. I loved the rear-tack option, which provided plenty of additional storage space.
An added bonus? The dividers and rear tack are all removable, so you can use the trailer to haul more than just horses.
The only issue I had in three years of ownership was a small leak in the dressing room window, which I was able to fix myself. This was a great trailer—I’d buy another in a heartbeat!
- 10-year limited structural warranty
- Large number of options including color, height, and add-ons
- Depending on features, this trailer has a mid-to-high price point
- Trailer design is limited to step-up design only; no escape door
Photo credit: www.blueandmoonburros.com
4 Star Gooseneck Center Load Trailer
4 Star is a brand that has been around since 1984 and has many years of experience in the horse trailer industry. They pride themselves on providing some of the most sophisticated and technologically advanced trailers in the world.
This trailer has the ability to load horses from both the rear and the center of the trailer, as well as a people-door, also located in the center. This unique design has safety and efficiency benefits when hauling.
- Durable and high-quality materials
- Easy lift ramp option
- Retains resale value well
- Can be pricier than other similar models
Where to buy: https://www.4startrailers.com/blank-1
Cimarron Winstar Bumper Pull Trailer
Cimarron is a brand that began in 2000 and has worked hard to create some of the most durable trailers on the market. They have put a lot of effort into creating excellent options for both horse and livestock trailers, with some of the best features available on the market.
These trailers are fully customizable. The Winstar resembles more of a livestock trailer, with two air openings on each side.
Rubber floor and wall mats come standard. They even engineered an aerodynamic nose to help you get the most miles per gallon of gas.
- Most durable doors and floors in the industry
- Designed with safety in mind
- Great price point for all of the available features
- Not as many trailer options as some other brands
Shadow Pro Series Bumper Pull Trailer
Shadow trailers is one of the fastest-growing aluminum trailer brands in the industry. They are crafted by horse people for horse people and allow you to purchase a quality trailer at a great price.
The Pro Series comes in either a straight-load or slant load design.
The slant load design features a removable rear tack area. Choose between a step-up or ramp option for loading. All trailers are fully lined and insulated. These trailers are available in 2, 3, 4, or even 6 horse options.
- Space-saving options for maximum efficiency
- Wide selection of options and floor plans
- Most trailer components are made in their Florida factory
- Some customers have reported issues with tire durability, so be sure to fully understand what is covered under the warranty
*Rookie Tip: Always inspect your trailer (and tires!) before every trip!*
Trails West Classic Trailer
The Trails West trailers are intended for heavy use and are great for someone who plans to do more than just go to an occasional horse show. They are suited for taking to cattle drives, rodeos, and overnight trail adventures.
The Classic trailer comes in about every configuration you can imagine. Bumper pull options include 2-4 horse stalls, while gooseneck floor plans can haul up to 6 horses.
Douglas fir flooring is covered with floor mats that come standard. Horse dividers are padded and designed for maximum airflow. Add options like mangers with additional storage, or even a broom closet!
- Heavy duty and durable
- Tack room is fully sealed off from the horse compartment
- Ample ventilation with windows on both sides (for each horse) and roof vents
- Aluminum and steel construction means more durable, but also heavier—the 2H bumper pull design weighs in 25% heavier than the Featherlite or Titan models (also mentioned in this article)
Where to buy: https://trailswesttrailers.com/trailers/horse/classic/
Titan Challenger 16’ Stock Trailer
Titan is a brand known to provide good value for an excellent price point. For someone that is on a budget, a Titan trailer is worth a look! They are not going to be the most luxurious trailers on the market, but provide a solid and safe option.
I bought a Titan Challenger 16’ stock trailer in 2022 for hauling my two donkeys (and a future horse). So far, I’ve been impressed with the features and value.
The rear door both swings open and slides, which is great for hauling two half-wild burros. A big selling point for me was the weight—the 16’ model weighs 2,640 lbs empty, which means it will be safe to tow with a half-ton truck. My only complaint so far is the escape door closure. It’s really stiff and is difficult for me to close on my own.
- Several color options
- Plenty of add-ons and available features
- Great value
- The base model is very simple; I have had to budget for add-ons like rubber floor mats and plexiglass sliders for hauling in colder temperatures
- The interior height is only 6’—probably not the best trailer for a larger horse
Photo Credit: www.blueandmoonburros.com
Lakota Colt Edition Gooseneck Trailer
Lakota trailers are one of the leaders in crafting living quarters horse trailers. If you are purchasing a trailer and considering a living quarter trailer then this may be the brand for you.
With extensive industry experience, you can rest assured that you are purchasing a quality trailer with top-notch post purchase service.
The Colt Edition of trailers features a variety of floor plans at an affordable price.* Floorplans range from 6’9” wide to 8’ wide and include a huge range of options. This style trailer comes with an awning, step-up rear load, and extras for horse comfort.
*Affordable based on this level of amenities and quality
- Trailers are designed and built in-house
- Wide variety of trailer sizes and options
- 1 year “hitch to bumper” warranty, 2 year warranty for living quarters, and 5 year aluminum structure warranty
- Only makes trailers with living quarters!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the best aluminum horse trailer brands?
Many horse trailer brands are switching over to producing all-aluminum trailers, but currently the leaders in the industry are Sundowner, Featherlite, 4 Star, and Exiss trailers.
Q: What are the best livestock trailer brands?
Many brands that manufacture horse trailers also manufacture livestock trailers. Some of the best livestock trailer brands include Trails West, Titan, and Cimmaron.
Q: What is the safest horse trailer?
Almost all horse trailers on the market are equipped with different safety features. The safest trailer is going to be the one that is safest for your horse.
Each horse has different preferences when hauling and your horse may be safer in a slant load versus straight load due to their preferences or they may prefer loading up a ramp versus a step up. Do your research on safety features when shopping to determine which trailer is going to be safest for you and your horse.
Q: Which is better, steel or aluminum?
This really depends on your budget, intended use, and towing vehicle! Aluminum is known for being lightweight, which means if you have a half-ton pickup and you want to tow a horse trailer, aluminum is probably your best bet to keep your rig within safe limits.
If you’re hauling rodeo broncs with a F350, a steel trailer may be your best bet!
Q: How much is a good horse trailer?
Horse trailers vary greatly in price based on design and features. You may be able to find a basic, stock 2H trailer level starting at around $10,000, while a gooseneck LQ (living quarter) trailer could sell for over $100,000.
The price also depends on whether you buy a new or used trailer. If you purchase used, you may find a great brand of trailer for a lower price.
Q: Is Sundowner a good horse trailer?
Sundowner remains one of the top horse trailer brands and produces quality trailers at a reasonable price. They are definitely a good horse trailer!
Although trailer shopping can feel like an extensive process, you should now know the basics! Don’t be afraid to ask questions as you narrow down your search.
Knowing what you are looking for and “need to haves” vs. “want to haves” will help make the process a bit easier!
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
- 10 Best Bumper Pull Trailers of All Time
- You CAN Do This – Trailering a Horse for the First Time
- The Ultimate Packing & Horse Trailering Checklist
- How to Safely Tie a Horse in a Trailer
- Horses & Hitching Posts: How to Tie Right Every Time
- Horse Trailer Weights by the Numbers
- Best Saddle Pads for Trail Riding