While we all dream of a big, beautiful, brand new horse trailer, sometimes the reality of finances has us looking at used horse trailers instead. The end of horse show season is often a great time to search out good used trailers, but you may have to look hard and long (and often near and far, too!) as well as be able to compromise on your dream list.
Slant load vs. straight load? Bumper pull vs. gooseneck? Ramp vs. step-up? Regular vs. stock trailer? Two-horse vs. three-horse? All have advantages and disadvantages so don't be quick to dismiss an otherwise good trailer because one of your preferences isn't met.
But there are certain things in a used trailer on which you absolutely cannot compromise. Those are the things that will keep you and your horse safe on the road.
- The horse should have enough room to move its legs forward and sideways to keep its balance while moving. The horse should also be allowed to lower its head so he may remove debris (hay dust and other contaminants in the trailer) by coughing, therefore keeping his respiratory tract clear.
- Rubber torsion suspension is available on almost all newer trailers. This type of suspension greatly reduces the amount of shock the horse absorbs through the floor of the trailer, also reducing stress. There is also a safety advantage to this type of suspension. If you have a flat tire, the remaining three wheels will maintain the trailer until you can get to a safe place to change the tire.
- There should be no sharp edges or protrusions anywhere on the trailer, inside or out.
- Floor boards should run vertically (the length of the trailer), not horizontally (across the trailer) and there should be good support underneath.
- Horse trailer mats should not be slippery.
- Ramps should be non-slip and not steep.
- All tie rings, center dividers, chest bars, and butt bars should be easily worked by quick release.
- All parts should also be strong enough to hold up to the largest, strongest horse you will be hauling.
- When considering construction material, think about how well it will hold up to a panicky horse, or a traffic accident. If you have large horses, strength, not weight should be your first priority.
Does this sound like what you’d look for in a new trailer? It is, but now you also have to look at the condition of all these areas.
- Make sure the floor and undercarriage are in good condition. This goes for both wood and aluminum floors, and structural beams under the floor.
- Check the suspension and tires. Uneven tire wear can signify some problem in the axle alignment or balance of the trailer. Dry rot is a common problem.
- Sometimes the coupler can be worn inside, causing the coupler to be too large for the ball.
- Check for rust or cracks in places where there is stress. Surface rust is typically not a problem, but anything that compromised the integrity of the trailer is. Stress fractures are a special consideration for all aluminum trailers. Make sure the frame and welds are structurally sound.
- Don’t forget to check the roof for stress or cracks that could let rain in.
- Know if the brakes and lights work (and find out how much it will cost to fix them if they don't!).
- If repairs need to be made, ask yourself if you will be putting more money into it than the trailer is worth. Spending too much money for restoration may make the trailer suitable for your own use, but do not expect to add that much value to the trailer when you sell it.
- Know that your tow vehicle will be able to safely haul (and stop!) the weight of this trailer.
- Finally, be sure the trailer has a valid title and b sure the vehicle identification number matches the title.
Start your used trailer search with an open mind. There may be features that you like or dislike, but you at least need to know which imperfections are tolerable and fixable on used horse trailers - and which ones are deadly and to be avoided at any cost.