NOTE: The following is adapted from information provided by Featherlite Trailers.
Buying a new horse trailer is much like purchasing a new home. You don't settle for good looks alone without considering all the factors: structure, features, resale value, etc. What you need is the trailer that will function best for you and that keeps your horses safe and comfortable when traveling. When in the market for an equine conveyance, the following tips and design features are important to review.
Aluminum or Steel?
Horse owners now have a choice between aluminum and steel trailers. Aluminum trailers traditionally hold their value longer and, with just minimum maintenance, are far less likely to rust and corrode. Plus, most trailer owners report that aluminum trailers pull much easier.
However, if you choose to purchase an aluminum trailer, make sure that's what you're actually getting. Many companies producing "aluminum" trailers are in fact only wrapping the frame in aluminum sheeting. Unfortunately, beneath the sheeting on these so-called "aluminum" trailers is a heavy steel frame. Steel will rust if exposed to the elements. Even if it is painted or coated, rocks, debris and the constant flex of the trailer as it travels can peel or chip the coating and allow moisture to do its dirty work. Ask your sales person for specifics on frame materials.
Light and Air Flow
Consider the size of the windows and the amount of light and air entering the trailer. A good trailer has large feed door windows to admit the maximum amount of light and air, so your horses can be calmer and healthier during their travels. A feed door should be solidly constructed and fit snugly to form a good seal; one that is two inches thick and double sealed should meet these criteria. When it comes to your windows, make sure they're easy to operate, too. They should have a centered handle, not one placed at the top. They should also be free of clumsy cables.
In addition, Featherlite recommends buying a trailer with an interior that has a white lining. This is brighter than the alternatives and helps create a calmer environment for your horses.
Floor Mats and Walls
Featherlite recommends testing the trailer's floor mats to ensure that your horses will receive the most comfortable ride. Most trailers come with rubber flooring, but differences in rubber quality and thickness can greatly affect your horse. Three-quarter-inch rubber allows horses the greatest amount of cushion without compromising their stability, also reducing the chance of injury and fatigue.
It's also important to have rubber on the walls of your trailer. After all, your horse has more than just feet. While the rubber doesn't need to be as thick as the floor mats, a layer of it on the walls can effectively reduce the impact of a horse being bumped around on rough terrain. Rubber also cuts down on noise.
Lighting, Dividers and Ties
Lighting systems are imperative safety measures for all equestrians. Today, the most popular type of trailer light is the LED. This small, light-emitting diode uses less energy, is more powerful and visible, and lasts considerably longer than conventional lighting. Plus, many say that LEDs look better, too. Look for them in the form of marker lights, brake illumination and interior atmospheric lighting.
Like the seat belts in an automobile, dividers are designed to secure your horses. Unlike seat belts, however, dividers that are
not secured properly will swing about, possibly causing injury to your horses at worst or upsetting them at best. In evaluating a
divider/latch system, you want to ask: "Will the divider stay shut?" and "Is the divider solidly constructed?" A system in which the
divider locks into a cache recessed in the wall of the trailer is suggested. This system eliminates protruding parts that might possibly injure a horse. A divider should be solidly constructed (corrugated aluminum is an excellent material), reinforced along the
perimeter and supported in some way so it won't sag and rattle.
Tying your horses takes only a few minutes and is worth the effort due to the safety and peace of mind it provides. Take a look at how the tie ring is secured. Welded tie rings offer more strength and reliability than those that are secured with a lag screw. Sound-muffling rubbercoated tie rings create a significantly quieter trailer when traveling down the road--not to mention a calmer horse. Take a look at the quantity of tie rings, too, both inside and outside the trailer, to make sure the number available meets your needs.
Tack and More
Trailers do more than transport horses; they also keep gear organized. Most models offer some type of tack option, and some even have multiple options. If you do need a tack room, check out how you access it. Can you get to it without letting the animals out? Good tack positions allow exclusive access and also have proper locking systems that don't require the use of gaudy padlocks. Speaking of
locks, confirm that the entire trailer locks--from the camper door and manger right up to the windows.
New trailer owners should also take precautions to eliminate damage caused by tack and other equipment that was not secured properly. An adjustable saddle rack will make loading your saddles and other equipment easier.
Ventilation and Wiring
Providing adequate ventilation is one of the most vital things you can do for your horses. No matter the time of year, horses require at least some ventilation during travel due to the body heat they create. During the hot summer months, ventilation becomes even more important. Featherlite recommends that vents be positioned down the center of the trailer. This allows for the air to be efficiently drawn into the trailer and properly circulated throughout. Non-rusting aluminum vents with some type of screen to prevent foreign matter from entering the horse area are the key features you should look for.
Also, look at how all the trailer's wires are bundled. You want a trailer that bundles all the wires in a protective jacket, such as
Featherlite's wiring harness, instead of individual wires. When using individual wires, the wiring is more exposed to the weather and potential damage--plus the wires are more likely to be connected incorrectly. Bundling provides a water-tight seal, protects against wire wear and tear, and makes connecting wires easier.
Building and Buying it Your Way
When shopping, don't feel you are limited to what you see. Many trailer manufacturers allow you to build your trailer your way. You
can choose all the features and options best suited for you and your horses. Don't settle. Find a manufacturer that works well
with fulfilling customers' needs, and buy the trailer that works best for you.
The dealer will generally have financing options available. As with automobiles, there are many incentive programs out there--including those with no interest and those that feature payments for a selected amount of time.
Before you sign the check, give the manufacturer's warranty and trade-in value a look. Determine what the warranty covers and whether an extended warranty can be purchased. Horse trailer owners most often prefer trailers with warranties of eight years or more. Even the best trailers can experience problems from time to time, so it's good to be prepared. Finally, search the used trailer market to get an idea of trade-in value. A good trailer will hold much of its value for at least a few years.