Horse trailers didn't require much thought when we were kids: we didn't have a trailer and figured we never would. We neighborhood ragamuffins had ponies instead of bikes-and we rode the hair off them. Good thing ponies don't get flat tires! If we wanted to go to a horse show, we rode to it-even if it was five miles through citrus groves and bee hives. Mom's hatchback car was our tack room at the show. The setup worked, but was a far cry from a real horse trailer. Once a year, our parents would spring for a rental trailer to take the gang on a trail ride about twenty miles away. Renting a trailer meant bribing our earth-bound equines into a scary box with threats, prayers, and carrots.
As time passed, I graduated from bulletproof ponies to complex horses. I was ready to venture away from backyard riding lessons. Sweet Mom found a trailer, and though it wasn't stylish, it was our own. That first trailer occupies a special place in my horse memories. Old Blue was a homemade, single axle trailer with all the style and aerodynamic qualities of a rock. Hooked to our elderly, green Chevy pickup, this homely rig carried my horse and me to our first jumping lessons.
Jumping lessons meant jumping horses and another trailer problem. Hunters tend to be big. Old Blue wasn't. Mom and I quickly upgraded. The next horse transporter was a red, double-axle model-with windows. Alas, as I traded up to a racetrack reject, a Thoroughbred mare, this trailer was sadly outgrown, as well. I soon learned about former racehorses' aversion to step-up trailers. Since they are commonly hauled in commercial vans with ramps, a 10-inch step must have seemed like Grand Canyon.
About this time, a neighbor was getting out of the horse business. He had the most beautiful Miley trailer I'd ever seen. Not only was it tall enough to accommodate my Thoroughbred mare, it was a stylish, flat-roof model-just like the real trainers had. And it had a ramp. Finagling that trailer purchase took savings from lots of odd jobs. It was a proud day when I arrived for a lesson in the new-but-used trailer attached to a matching new-but-used truck.
The trusty Miley took me to many shows and year-end championships in southern California. Soon, two factors marked its passing. The first was rust; the second, Warmbloods. Time wore through the trailer's ramp, fenders, and feeder doors. My Thoroughbred mare produced one of the first Californian babies by an imported Hannoverian stallion. Soon, I needed a safe place for two large horses-my mare and her quickly growing babe. At more than 17 hands, the young horse, Ariel, simply would not fit in the Miley.
I traded the trailer in to "Horse Trailer George" (a talented, local trailer builder) for another horsemobile: a two-horse gooseneck with (gasp!) a dressing room! Oh, it was a grand and glorious trailer. It was so large that my wee little Arabian was invisible through the windows. This invisibility proved helpful when I forgot to pick up a gate release before trailering away with my Arab-we passed through easily since the trailer looked empty. On other trips, the trailer provided a roomy ride for the giraffe-of-a-Warmblood.
Did I mention that trucks need to keep pace with their trailers? I mean, you can't wear tennis shoes with a prom dress, and you can't tow a wonderful trailer with a jalopy. Naturally, a dually truck had to drag the gooseneck around. Behold, my chosen dually was also a diesel. Noisy and dirty, that diesel dually wracked up major miles pulling us all over California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico as I showed the Warmblood and the wee Arabian.
Eventually, Noah-The-Diesel (named because he had two of everything: batteries, fuel tanks, sets of wheels) decided he was tired of pulling trailers. He retired on my brother's place in Montana. There, he carried tools throughout his twilight years. Next came Blythe, a Chevy extended cab dually. This truck was a quantum leap ahead in terms of comfort and power. We could pass everything but a gas station.
More years of horse adventure swept past. Soon, all responsible horse parents were replacing their straight load trailers with slants. There was some kind of rumor that riding across the highway would make our equine pals much happier travelers. I don't know if that's true, but they seem to like extra room. I headed back to Horse Trailer George for a new trailer. And what a beauty: two horse slant with a clever dressing room that hooked to the bumper of the truck. This time, a much smaller, sporty truck, minus dual wheels. There's a lot to be said for a truck that can fit in parking garages during the week and pull the ponies around on weekends. Buying tires six at a time for a dually sure got old, too.
The slant load has been a trooper, hauling lots of horses-and cargo. I've hauled a spa, boulders, pianos, and a forklift. Its removable back post allows me to cram all kinds of surprising stuff into a trailer designed for livestock. But the trailer's primary use in recent years has been hauling gear and samples to photo shoots-a portable green room for Hobby Horse models.
However, I soon switched from carrying a single camera to multiple formats and digital equipment-not to mention carrying racks of clothes and boxes of tack. I noticed that we had room for everything in the horse trailer except the horses. I began to plan again, thinking of a trailer with room for horses, an area for all the photo stuff, and (dare I dream?) a small living quarters to provide comfort for models and a safe play area for my year-old son. But oh, the prices! These rigs cost as much as a condominium-and of course would require quite an upgrade in pulling power from our current, sporty "La Bamba." I scanned the Internet for months, hoping to find a rig whose owner needed out of the mortgage-like payments. One did turn up, but it was 3,000 miles away.
Two months ago, I took a different road home from work. There, in the middle of a field, sat "The Perfect Rig." Yep, the trailer with all the bells and whistles I'd dreamed of, and a big diesel truck to pull it around. The Perfect Rig is now sitting in my driveway. The trailer looks as big as a space shuttle; the crew cab dually Powerstroke Ford lets me look down and wave at the Yuppies in their little Hummers. I have yet to perfect my right turns, but I sure look grand as I clip curbs.
It's been a lifetime of trailering-from the blue bullet to my ultimate rig. I've had so many horses and memories to fill the trailers in between. I look forward to all the adventures my family and I will have in our recreational horse vehicle. As a plus, I should lose a few pounds by avoiding junk food-the new truck won't fit through fast-food drive up lanes. Every rig has a silver lining!
© 2003 Suzanne Drnec
Writing or riding, Suzanne Drnec enjoys horses and their people. Drnec is president of Hobby Horse Clothing Company, a show apparel manufacturer, and also the caretaker of an assortment of lawn ornaments-currently two Paints. She hasn't found her dream mares yet, but has met a lot of nice breeders as she cyber shops. Comments? E-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.