Horse trailer from Ken Feagin Truck & Trailer

Ultimate Guide to Horse Trailer Weights, Types, and Sizes

You may have realized by now that choosing the right horse trailer is much more complicated than picking out a make and model. Selecting an unsuitable trailer can present challenges and safety concerns. A trailer that’s too heavy can compromise safe hauling, while one that’s too small can jeopardize the comfort and well-being of multiple horses. To help you make an informed choice when selecting a horse trailer, we’ve partnered with our friends at Ken Feagin Truck & Trailer to create a comprehensive guide on horse trailers.

Ken Feagin and his team have served the Southeast equestrian industry for over forty-five years and have extensive knowledge about horse trailers. In this post, the Ken Feagin Truck & Trailer team discusses the importance of knowing the ideal trailer weight and size for your horses and how to identify the right towing vehicle for your trailer. With their insights, you’ll be ready to hit the road with a better understanding of horse trailers.

How much does a horse trailer weigh?

On average, a single or two-horse trailer weighs between 2,000 and 4,000 pounds when empty or unladen. Larger horse trailers, like gooseneck trailers designed to haul three or more horses, can weigh up to 6,000 pounds unladen. Once horses, tack, and other equipment are loaded in, horse trailers can reach 5,000 to 9,000 pounds. 

Single and two-horse trailers carry fewer horses with little or no equipment. These trailers are also designed to be hauled by smaller vehicles, like SUVs or pickup trucks. Larger horse trailers are intended to carry more horses and equipment than single-horse trailers and are, therefore, significantly larger and heavier. These trailers need to be hauled by heavy-duty vehicles with increased towing capacity.

Knowing the weight of your horse trailer is crucial for your safety and that of your horse and other drivers on the road. Additionally, you’ll need to know your horse trailer weight to choose the right towing vehicle. Here are the most important aspects of understanding horse trailer weights.

Horse trailer GWVR 

The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is a critical specification used to determine the maximum weight a trailer is legally rated to safely carry, including its weight and the weight of any cargo. The vehicle’s manufacturer establishes this weight limit based on various factors, such as chassis, suspension, tires, brakes, and other components.

You can check the owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website for a trailer’s GVWR. It’s important to stay within the GVWR of a trailer, as doing so can compromise safety and potentially lead to accidents or vehicle damage.

Vehicle towing capacity

Before buying a horse trailer, you also need to know the GWVR of your towing vehicle to determine how much weight you can safely pull. The owner’s manual is the first and most reliable source of information about your vehicle’s towing capacity. This document provides detailed specifications based on the vehicle’s make, model, and engine type, including towing capacity. Subtract the curb weight from the GVWR to determine the maximum towing capacity.

The vehicle’s weight doesn’t solely determine towing capacity. Other factors, such as engine power, transmission, rear axle ratio, and the presence of a tow package, can also affect towing capacity. Check for optional towing packages or upgrades available for your vehicle that might increase its towing capacity.

Remember that exceeding your vehicle’s towing capacity can compromise safety, cause mechanical damage, and lead to accidents. Always prioritize safety when towing, and ensure your vehicle and trailer are well-matched to handle the intended load.

Curb weight 

A horse trailer’s curb weight, also known as the unladen or empty weight, refers to its weight when empty–without any horses, tack, equipment, or cargo inside. The curb weight includes structural components, chassis, axles, wheels, and built-in features or accessories.

To find the unladen weight of a horse trailer, you can usually check the trailer’s manufacturer specifications, the owner’s manual, or a label/sticker on the trailer itself. It’s essential to consider the unladen weight when planning your horse transportation to ensure that you don’t exceed the trailer’s weight limits, thereby ensuring the safety and well-being of your horses and safe towing.

Payload capacity

The payload capacity of a horse trailer is the maximum weight it can safely carry, including the weight of the horses, tack, equipment, and any additional cargo. It’s an essential specification to understand when using a horse trailer because exceeding the payload capacity can compromise the safety and handling of the trailer, potentially leading to accidents or damage.

To calculate the payload capacity of a horse trailer, you typically subtract the unladen weight (empty weight) of the trailer from its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). The formula for payload capacity is as follows:

Payload Capacity = GVWR – Unladen Weight

Finding these measurements ensures the vehicle can safely handle the load without risking structural damage, reduced braking capacity, or compromised handling. Additionally, adhering to the GVWR helps extend the vehicle’s lifespan and reduces the risk of mechanical issues related to overloading. Exceeding the GVWR can lead to legal issues, including fines and penalties, as it violates road safety regulations.

When shopping for a horse trailer, understanding the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), vehicle towing capacity, curb weight, and payload capacity is crucial for your vehicle’s safety, performance, and longevity. Overloading these capacities can lead to decreased vehicle performance, increased strain on the vehicle’s engine and brakes, and potential safety hazards like trailer sway or brake failure. Knowing these values ensures you select a compatible trailer, keeping your horses and you safe on the road.

Types of horse trailers

Horse trailers are available in a wide variety of styles and configurations. Here are the most common types of horse trailers you’ll find in the United States.

white bumper-pull horse trailer hitched to pick-up truck

Bumper-pull trailers

A bumper-pull trailer, also known as a bumper hitch or ball hitch trailer, is a type of trailer that hitches to the towing vehicle using a standard ball hitch attached to the rear bumper or frame. 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 and lighter loads than gooseneck trailers.

Bumper-pull trailers are easy to hitch and unhitch, making them popular for individuals needing a simple and convenient towing solution. They can be towed by vehicles, including SUVs, pickup trucks, and some sedans, provided they have the appropriate towing capacity and a compatible hitch. 

However, these trailers are generally less maneuverable than gooseneck trailers, as they have a pivot point near the towing vehicle’s rear. This can limit the sharpness of turns and may require more space for maneuvering.

Straight-load trailers

A straight-load trailer is a type of horse trailer designed to carry horses in a straight, front-facing orientation. In a straight-load trailer, horses are loaded and stand side by side with their heads facing the front of the trailer, which can provide them with a sense of space and may help reduce stress during transport.

These trailers usually have dividers between the horse stalls to keep each horse in its own space and prevent them from moving around during travel. These dividers are typically padded for horse comfort and safety. Straight-load trailers can have either a ramp or a step-up entry. 

Slant-load trailers

A slant-load trailer is a type of horse trailer designed to carry horses at an angle or on a slant. In a slant-load trailer, horses are loaded and stand diagonally in the direction of travel, typically with their heads facing the side of the trailer. This loading angle may make the horses’ balance easier during travel.

Like straight-load trailers, slant-load trailers also have dividers or partitions between the horse stalls to keep each horse in its designated space and prevent them from moving around. These dividers are often padded for horse comfort and safety.

Slant load trailers are a popular choice among horse owners for several reasons, including the ease of loading and unloading, better utilization of space, and reduced stress on horses. The choice between a slant load and a straight load trailer depends on personal preferences, the size and behavior of your horses, and the loading and unloading procedures that work best for your needs.

Stock trailers

A stock trailer, also known as a livestock trailer, is a type of trailer designed for the transportation of horses and various livestock, making this a more versatile trailer for those who own more than just horses. Stock trailers have plenty of slats in the side to encourage airflow and no enclosed stalls or compartments so animals can roam freely in the trailer. The open design and versatility make stock trailers well-suited for various applications within the agricultural and livestock industries. However, their relatively low ceiling can rule them out as an option for particularly tall horses.

Gooseneck trailers

The defining feature of a gooseneck trailer is the gooseneck coupler, which extends forward from the front of the trailer and connects to a ball hitch mounted in the bed of a pickup truck. This configuration creates a secure and stable connection between the trailer and the towing vehicle. However, gooseneck trailers require a specific gooseneck hitch installed in the bed of a pickup truck, so not all towing vehicles are equipped to pull these trailers. 

Gooseneck trailers are known for their high towing capacity. The gooseneck hitch allows for a weight distribution that places a significant portion of the trailer’s weight over the rear axle of the towing vehicle, enhancing stability and towing capacity. The pivot point closer to the truck’s rear axle also allows for tighter turns and better control when towing. Some gooseneck trailers have dressing rooms or living quarters for added convenience.

Horse trailer sizes

Choosing the right size horse trailer for your horse is essential, especially if you’re hauling multiple horses.

Single-horse trailers

A single-horse trailer is a type of horse trailer that can comfortably haul one horse at a time. These trailers are typically compact and designed for the transportation of a single horse safely and comfortably. Straight-load and slant-load trailers, as well as bumper-pull trailers, are ideal to use as single-horse trailers. 

However, you should also consider your horse’s weight before choosing the trailer. A single horse trailer’s unladen weight can be 1,500 to 2,500 pounds. For larger horses, such as draft breeds, you may need a trailer (and towing vehicle) with greater towing capacity. 

Two-horse trailers

A two-horse trailer is a type of horse trailer designed to provide a safe and comfortable means of transportation for two horses. Again, straight-load and slant-load trailers and bumper-pull trailers are ideal to use as two-horse trailers, depending on the trailer size. 

Two-horse trailers typically require a larger towing vehicle, such as a larger pickup truck or SUV, due to the trailer size and weight and the added load weight. Typically, two-horse trailers can weigh anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds for the empty or unladen weight.

Three or more horse trailers

Horse owners often opt for a gooseneck trailer when hauling three or more horses due to the increased size and capacity required. These trailers are specifically designed to transport multiple horses safely and comfortably, providing ample space and headroom and allowing them to move comfortably during transit. 

Three-horse trailers can weigh between 3,000 and 6,000 pounds (unladen weight), so be sure you have a towing vehicle capable of towing at least double that weight.

How to choose the right towing vehicle for a horse trailer

Choosing the right towing vehicle for a horse trailer is crucial for the safety and comfort of your horses during transport. Here are the key steps to help you make the right choice.

1. Check towing capacity

Determine the towing capacity of the vehicle you plan to use. This information can usually be found in the owner’s manual or by contacting the vehicle manufacturer. Towing capacity is the maximum weight the vehicle is rated to tow safely.

2. Consider trailer weight

Calculate the weight of your horse trailer, taking into account the weight of the empty trailer (unladen weight), the weight of your horse(s), and any additional cargo or equipment you plan to transport.

3. Calculate payload

Determine the trailer’s payload capacity by subtracting the unladen weight from the GVWR. The payload capacity should not exceed the towing vehicle’s towing capacity.

4. Choose a suitable hitch

Make sure your towing vehicle is equipped with a suitable hitch that matches the type of hitch on your horse trailer (e.g., ball hitch, gooseneck). Ensure the hitch is installed correctly and rated for the trailer’s weight.

5. Consider horse trailer type

The type and size of your horse trailer also affect your choice of towing vehicle. Smaller trailers may be towed by SUVs or smaller trucks, while larger trailers or trailers with living quarters typically require heavy-duty trucks.

6. Understand tow vehicle specifications

Ensure your towing vehicle has the necessary power and torque for safe towing. Consider features like engine size, transmission, and rear axle ratio. Consult your vehicle’s specifications to understand its towing capabilities.

7. Safety features

Look for vehicles with features such as integrated trailer brake controllers, sway control systems, and towing packages. These features enhance towing safety and stability.

8. Suspension and brakes

Verify that the towing vehicle’s suspension and brakes can handle the additional weight and stopping power required when towing a loaded horse trailer. A tow command or an add-on brake control box is beneficial.

9. Consider the terrain

Consider the terrain you’ll be towing in. Hilly or mountainous areas require more power, while flat terrain allows for a wider range of towing vehicle options.

10. Professional advice

If you are uncertain about which trailer to choose, consult a professional, such as an experienced trailer dealer or a mechanic. They can help you select the right towing vehicle based on your needs.

11. Test drive and evaluate

Before making a final decision, test drive the towing vehicle with a trailer attached to ensure it handles the load well. Pay attention to factors like acceleration, braking, stability, and maneuverability.

Choosing the right trailer ensures you and your horse can travel safely and comfortably to your destination. 

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

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1 comment

Excellent write-up on Ultimate Guide to Selecting A Horse Trailer. Very helpful.


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