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February 05, 2009

Buying a Trailer - Part 2

Today we'll continue our discussion from yesterday about important points to consider when picking a trailer.


Slant load, straight load, or open stock?

Horse trailers come in a variety of different configurations. You'll find straight load trailers, where the donkeys or mules load facing straight forward into separate stalls, usually two wide. Then there are slant load trailers, where the stalls are at a 45-degree angle to the trailer, with dividers between each stall space. There are also open stock trailers where the trailer is completely open inside with no dividers or maybe just a big gate about half way back dividing a longer trailer into two large areas.

Which configuration you choose will depend on what you prefer, which type your animals ride better in, and whether you also want to be able to haul a wagon in your trailer in addition to the animals to pull it. Most equines ride better in a slant load or loose in a larger area. At a slant angle, they can brace better when you speed up and slow down. When loose in a larger area, they will turn around to find the angle that suits them best, often facing backwards.

My trailer is a 3-horse slant load. The stall dividers are set up so that you can take them in and out of the trailer, so if I am hauling several mules or donkeys that I want to keep separated or keep from crowding each other, I can leave the dividers in between them. Or if the donkeys all get along together, and I want to let them adjust their position a little more, I can take all the dividers out and just hook their halters to ties along one side wall. That way they can move and turn around a little, but the bigger ones won't crowd a smaller one into a corner and they'll all maintain some semblance of order when it comes time to unload them. If you're hauling a mother and young foal you'll also want to take the dividers out so that the foal can be left loose to find a comfortable spot in the trailer or lay down for the ride.

If you want to haul a wagon with you, a stock trailer would be nice. That way you can load the wagon into the front of it, close the center gate, and then load your mules into the back half of the trailer.


Gooseneck or bumperpull?

So do you want a gooseneck trailer or a bumperpull trailer? I guess each have their advantages and disadvantages. A bumper pull can be pulled behind a large van or SUV, whereas a gooseneck would never work with those type of vehicles. A gooseneck trailer hooks to a hitch in the center of your truck bed. This helps distribute the weight of the trailer better over the back axle of your vehicle, and some people find this kind of trailer to have more stability and be easier to maneuver than a bumperpull trailer.

Aluminum or Steel?

Horse trailers come in several different materials. Most are either all steel or have a steel frame with aluminum skin. The more steel, the heavier your trailer will be. This can make a difference in how well your vehicle is able to do pulling it, and how it handles out on the road. Steel trailers tend to be less expensive, and aluminum trailers more expensive. But if you are doing a lot of long hauling, you'll probably really like the lighter, easier to handle aluminum trailers.

Condition of the floor?

One thing you always want to check when buying a trailer is the condition of the trailer floor. Some trailers have metal floors and others have wood floors. Sometimes these are covered with rubber mats, so be sure to pull the mat up and take a good look at the top of the floor, and peek underneath to get a look at the under side of the trailer floor. If the trailer you are looking at has wood floors, make sure the wood is solid, in good condition, and doesn't have any rotten spots. If it's metal, make sure the metal is in good condition, and not rusting through in any places. Make sure the floor is well braced underneath. You absolutely don't want the floor to break through one day while your driving down the road with your mule inside.


Condition of the metal? Rust?

While checking the condition of the floor is vitally important, don't forget to take a look around the rest of the trailer. Does it have wooden side boards? Are they solid and in good condition? Or weak and rotting through? Are metal parts in good condition or is it very rusted? What about the door hinges and latches are they bent, broken, sticking? Some of these are easy to fix or replace, but you'll want to take the work, time and money involved in that into consideration before purchasing a trailer with problems.

Axles, tires, lights, brakes in good condition?

Is the trailer mechanically sound? Are the axles in good condition? Not bent axels? How about the tires? Lights? Trailer braking system? Speaking of trailer breaks - you'll also want to make sure your towing vehicle has a trailer braking control. This unit will apply the trailer brakes at the same time as you apply the vehicles brakes, so even a heavy trailer will slow down with you, and no push your vehicle around out of control. This is an absolutely necessary safety measure, and I believe it is required for vehicles towing trailers over about 1000 or 1200 lbs loaded weight in most states.


Of course is almost always a consideration when choosing a trailer to buy. Trailers with more features will cost more than ones with just the basics. As we discussed earlier, steel trailers are usually cheaper than equivalent aluminum trailers. A used trailer will also be less expensive than a brand new one. Take a good look around and find the trailer that suits your needs and budget best.

Now, happy trailer hunting!

Kristie Jorgensen

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Posted by Kristie Jorgensen at February 5, 2009 05:50 AM