Silver Sundowner 4-horse weekender trailer

How to Choose the Right Style and Size Horse Trailer

Choosing the ideal trailer involves navigating many options, each tailored to meet specific needs. The right horse trailer should ensure your horse’s safety, comfort, and well-being during transportation. In this comprehensive guide, Ken Feagin Truck & Trailer dives into the intricate process of selecting the perfect style and size horse trailer for your needs. From understanding the diverse trailer configurations to assessing your horse’s specific needs, KFTT will equip you with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision. 

What’s the difference between a horse trailer and other trailers?

A horse trailer is specifically designed to transport horses safely and comfortably. It must be sturdier than a cargo trailer to withstand kicks from large horses and to ensure their safety on long trips. Several other key differences exist between a horse trailer and other types of trailers.

Interior design

The interior of a horse trailer is designed with partitions or stalls to keep horses separated during transport. This helps prevent injury and ensures the horses remain calm. Some trailers also have padded walls and flooring to provide additional comfort.

Ventilation

Horse trailers typically have increased ventilation to ensure constant fresh air flow. This helps regulate temperature and keeps the horses comfortable during transportation, especially in hot and humid climates. 

Ventilation can come in drop-down windows with screens or bars and large sliding windows at the front, back, and sides of the trailer and on the trailer’s ceiling.  Your trailer must be well-ventilated so your horse does not overheat while in transport. Overheating can lead to catching a chill in cold weather, dehydration, stress, and other health complications for your horse. 

Height and size

Horse trailers are generally taller and wider than standard cargo trailers. This accommodates the height of horses and allows them to stand comfortably. The size of the trailer depends on the number of horses it is designed to transport. 7 ft.–7.6 ft., with 10–11 ft. stalls, is an excellent height range. 

Ramps and doors

Horse trailers often have ramps for easy loading and unloading of horses. Typically, horses enter from the rear or side of the trailer, where they step up or walk up a ramp into the trailer. Additionally, they have escape doors to allow quick access in an emergency.

Suspension system

The suspension system of a horse trailer is designed to provide a smoother ride for the horses. This is important to minimize stress and reduce the risk of injury during transportation. Spring load and torsion ride are common types of suspension systems. 

Flooring

The flooring of a horse trailer is usually made of materials that provide good traction and are easy to clean. Some trailers have rubber mats for added comfort and safety. Most common are treated wood, aluminum, or rumber floors. 

Some trailers use heavy-duty pressure-treated wooden flooring that needs to be replaced over time. When shopping for a trailer, it’s always a good idea to check the floor and, if it’s wood, ask when it was last replaced.

Towing vehicle requirements

Due to the weight and size of horse trailers, they may require a specific type of towing vehicle with sufficient power and towing capacity.

Types of horse trailers

Horse trailers come in a wide variety. Here are some of the most common types available:

Living quarters (LQ) horse trailer

Sundowner 3-horse living quarters trailer

A horse trailer with living quarters combines a horse trailer and your accommodations. This type of trailer is designed for equestrians who travel with their horses and want the convenience of having living space right on board.

These trailers typically include a small living area with basic amenities such as a bed, bathroom, kitchen, and sometimes a dining area. The size and layout of the living quarters can vary, and some may have slide-outs to expand the living space when parked.

Weekender horse trailer

Silver Sundowner 4-horse weekender trailer

A weekender horse trailer is also a type of horse trailer that is designed to provide basic living accommodations for short-term trips or weekend outings with horses. It combines the features of a horse trailer with some minimal living quarters, giving you a convenient and comfortable space for overnight stays during your horse-related activities. Weekender horse trailers often do not include bathrooms and kitchen areas like LQ horse trailers do. 

Head-to-head horse trailer

Sundowner head-to-head horse trailer

A head-to-head trailer is a larger trailer designed to transport many horses. It has a side entrance on the long side. Horses are led up the ramp and backed into stalls, generally three to four on one side and three to four on the other, with a large center area between them for storage. In some styles, you can configure the trailer so the horses on either side are ‘shut in,’ and the center area can be set up as a loose shipping box for a mare and foal. These trailers are commonly used by professional trainers, show teams, or large-scale equestrian operations that need to transport multiple horses simultaneously.

Livestock trailer

Grey Delta stock trailer

These “stock trailers” are versatile and transport different animals, such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and, in some cases, horses. Livestock trailers often have an open design with slatted sides or bars for greater ventilation. Livestock trailers sometimes have lower ceilings than actual horse trailers, so they’re not always suitable for larger horses.

Step-up horse trailer

Interior of a step-up horse trailer

A step-up horse trailer allows horses to load directly without needing a separate loading ramp. The trailer design allows horses to step directly into their stalls or compartments without walking up a loading ramp. 

Straight load horse trailer

Interior of a straight load horse trailer

With straight-load trailers, horses are loaded and unloaded in a straight, forward-facing orientation. The design often features individual stalls or compartments for each horse. Straight-load trailers are popular for transporting fewer horses, typically one to three. 

This design provides easy access for grooming and monitoring the horses during travel. 

Slant load horse trailer

Interior of a Homesteader slant load horse trailer

In a slant-load trailer, the stalls or compartments are arranged diagonally, allowing horses to stand on a slant rather than in a straight, forward-facing position. Like straight-load trailers, slant-load trailers often have individual stalls or compartments for each horse. These stalls are usually padded to provide comfort and safety during transport. The diagonal configuration can provide more room for each horse and may be perceived as less cramped than some straight-load designs. 

Reverse load horse trailer

A reverse-load horse trailer, also known as a rear-facing horse trailer, is a type of trailer where horses are loaded and transported facing the rear of the trailer. Horses can often balance better in reverse-load trailers and brace with their strong hindquarters during stops and speed changes. Reverse-load trailers also make unloading easier, as horses can be led off the trailer rather than backed off.

Rear ramp horse trailer

A rear ramp horse trailer is a type of horse trailer that features a ramp at the rear for loading and unloading horses. The rear ramp provides a gradual incline, allowing horses to walk on and off the trailer easily. This design is often chosen for its convenience and safety during loading and unloading.

Bumper pull horse trailer

A bumper pull trailer, also known as a “bumper hitch” or “tag-along” trailer, is a type of trailer towed by a vehicle using a hitch attached to the bumper or frame of the towing vehicle. In the context of horse trailers, a bumper pull horse trailer is designed to be towed by a standard hitch mounted on the bumper or frame of a truck or SUV.

Though they come in various sizes and configurations, the towing capacity of a bumper-pull trailer is determined by the capacity of the hitch and the towing vehicle. Bumper-pull trailers are typically used for smaller, lighter loads (one or two horses and gear).

Gooseneck horse trailer

A gooseneck trailer attaches to a towing vehicle using a gooseneck hitch that extends forward from the bed of a truck, typically over or slightly in front of the rear axle. These trailers are often larger and can accommodate more horses than bumper pull trailers. Gooseneck horse trailers are popular among owners who frequently transport multiple horses or need additional living quarters.

All-aluminum horse trailer

An all-aluminum trailer is a type of trailer constructed primarily or entirely from aluminum. Aluminum is significantly lighter than steel, making all-aluminum trailers generally lighter than trailers with steel frames, resulting in improved fuel efficiency and easier towing. Aluminum is also naturally corrosion-resistant, a significant advantage, especially for trailers often exposed to elements like frequent rain or road salt.

How much do horse trailers cost?

The cost of a horse trailer can vary widely based on several factors, including the brand, size, construction materials, features, and additional amenities. The following are general price ranges for horse trailers based on their type and features.

Bumper-pull horse trailer cost

Small, basic bumper pull trailers designed for one or two horses can start at around $5,000 to $10,000. Larger or more feature-rich bumper pull trailers can range from $10,000 to $30,000 or more.

Gooseneck horse trailer cost

Prices for gooseneck horse trailers typically start at around $10,000 to $20,000 for basic models and can go up to $30,000 or more for trailers with living quarters or additional features.

Living quarters horse trailer cost

Prices for living quarters horse trailers start around $20,000 to $30,000 and can go up to $100,000 or more for high-end models with luxury features. Trailers with living quarters, which include amenities like sleeping quarters, kitchens, and bathrooms, are generally more expensive than other trailer types. 

Custom horse trailer cost

Custom horse trailers can range from $15,000 to over $100,000, depending on the size, features, and materials used. Custom-built horse trailers, tailored to specific owner preferences and needs, can vary significantly in price. 

Which size horse trailer do you need?

Choosing the right type of horse trailer involves considering several factors to meet your and your horses’ specific needs. Here are a few major considerations to help you determine the type of horse trailer that best suits your needs.

Budget

Set a budget for your horse trailer purchase. Different types of trailers come with varying price ranges, and your budget will help determine the features and options available to you.

Number of horses

Consider the number of horses you plan to transport regularly. Different trailers are designed to accommodate varying numbers of horses (2-horse trailers, 3-horse trailers, etc.). For example, a basic bumper-pull horse trailer is great for one, two, or even three horses. A gooseneck trailer, on the other hand, can typically handle three, four, or more horses at a time.

Type of horses

The size and temperament of your horses can influence your trailer choice. Larger horses require more space, so a livestock trailer or bumper pull trailer may not be suitable. Certain designs may be more appropriate for horses that prefer more or less open space, like straight-load trailers with built-in stalls.

Type of activities

The type of equestrian activities you participate in also impacts your trailer choice. For example, if you attend horse shows or competitions frequently, you might need a weekender trailer for overnight stays to help cut down on hotel stays. If you plan on spending extended periods on the road or need extra accommodations for yourself and your horses, consider trailers with living quarters. These may include sleeping areas, kitchens, and bathrooms.

Towing vehicle

Assess the towing capacity and compatibility of your towing vehicle. Ensure that it can safely and comfortably handle the weight and size of the trailer you’re considering.

Learn more in our Ultimate Guide to Horse Trailer Weights, Types, and Sizes →

Loading preferences

Evaluate your horses’ loading preferences. Some horses prefer straight-load trailers, while others are more comfortable in slant or rear-facing trailers. Consider the ease of loading and unloading for both you and your horses.

Terrain and climate

The terrain and climate of your usual travel routes should be considered. Some trailers may be better suited for off-road conditions, and ventilation becomes especially crucial in hot or humid climates.

Safety features

Prioritize safety features such as secure dividers, proper ventilation, sturdy construction, and a reliable braking system.

How to measure your horse for a trailer

Measuring your horse is crucial to ensure they have enough space and are comfortable during transportation in a horse trailer.

Height

Measure from the ground to the highest point on your horse’s withers (the ridge between the shoulder blades). This measurement will help you determine the appropriate interior height of the trailer. Ensure the trailer’s interior height is several inches higher than your horse’s withers to allow for comfort and head movement.

Length

Measure from the point of the shoulder to the hindquarters. This measurement helps determine the stall or compartment length your horse will need. Ensure enough room for your horse to comfortably stand without feeling cramped.

Width

Measure the width of your horse at the widest point, typically around the shoulder area. This measurement helps determine your horse’s stall width in the trailer. Allow for some extra space to prevent your horse from feeling squeezed.

Weight

Weigh your horse using a horse scale or a livestock scale. Knowing your horse’s weight is essential to ensure you don’t exceed the trailer’s weight capacity. This is crucial for both the safety of your horse and the towing vehicle.

Comfort and behavior

Observe your horse’s behavior during loading and transportation. Some horses prefer more open spaces, while others feel more secure in a more enclosed environment. Consider your horse’s preferences when choosing between a straight load, slant load, or other trailer configurations.

Loading and unloading preferences

Take note of your horse’s loading and unloading preferences. Some horses may be more comfortable walking straight onto a trailer, while others prefer loading at an angle.

Refer to the trailer specifications

Most reputable horse trailer manufacturers have easily accessible specifications for all their models. You’ll want to cross-reference these specifications with the measurements taken to ensure your horse(s) can comfortably fit within the trailer of your choice.

Top horse trailer brands

Ken Feagin Truck & Trailer knows a thing or two about what makes a quality horse trailer. Based on Ken’s extensive experience, the following brands stand out as some of the best.

Sundowner Trailers

Sundowner Trailers makes innovative aluminum trailers with and without living quarters. They specialize in bumper pull and gooseneck trailers with a wide range of size specifications. 

Shop Sundowner horse trailers →

Homesteader Trailers

Homesteader Trailers has an exceptional line of horse trailers in their Stallion Series. These horse trailers are highly durable, built with solid steel frames and aluminum-lined interiors and exteriors. Choose from bumper-pull or gooseneck trailers, slant-load, or straight-load, depending on your preferences.

Shop Homesteader trailers →

Frontier Trailers

Frontier Trailers offers a wide selection of horse trailers, including livestock, bumper pull, and gooseneck trailers. Trailers come in multiple configurations, from slant load to straight load, allowing you to find the perfect trailer for your needs. All Frontier Trailers are made of aluminum, so they’re lightweight and highly durable.

Shop Frontier horse trailers →

If you have questions about which trailer is right for you and your horse, Ken Feagin and his team have the answers! Give them a call or stop by to see their horse trailer selection in Campobello, SC! 

View all horse trailers or shop for accessories like hay nets and shipping boots to keep your horse comfortable during transport. 

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