View Full Version : Shopping for my first trailer, advice please?

May. 22, 2012, 01:23 PM
So for several years now, I've been pining for a trailer. I love my barn and enjoy riding there, but there are many things I would love to try that require transportation....trail rides, hunting, clinics, etc.

My barn manager keeps telling me that buying a trailer is not really worth the expense, that I can just pay someone to haul me to individual events. But so far, that hasn't worked out. Too often, the folks I know are unavailable on the day I need them, and I don't want to hire someone with no references.

So I'm thinking I have to bite the bullet and buy my own, and I figured I would turn to COTH for guidance.

Here are some of my facts:
Our truck is a 2000 Doge 2500 4 x 4. Enough power, but before hauling I would have my mechanic check the brakes & transmission, make sure they're up to the task.

I've NEVER driven a trailer before, so I'm thinking that a gooseneck will be safer/more stable for me.

I've got just one horse, a pony, but I would probably be hauling another friend's horse (16 h TB) for company.

My dream trailer is a nice 2 + 1, but that's not in the budget. I'd like to keep things under $12,000 if possible.

Here's what I'm thinking:
Aluminum gooseneck stock trailer. I've been told all aluminum is best, and I like the idea that I can haul the pony in a box stall set up if I'm hauling her alone. Even though I'm in New England, I don't mind the openness of the stock; I'm not going to be hauling her around in 30 degree weather.

Is aluminum really better than steel?
Are there any particular brands I should avoid? Any I should consider?
I am correct that a gooseneck is a good choice for a newbie?
Are there any particular features I should be looking for?

I know, lots of questions, but I have time, and would love the COTH guidance on this. Thanks!

May. 22, 2012, 01:34 PM
People seem to agree that a gooseneck is more stable but I have no idea if it is easier to drive. For your first trailer, you are talking about a pretty big one...there is extra length to a 2 plus1...do you want that? The aluminum vs steele question can get complicated because of the weight required to make aluminum as strong as steele and some aluminum trailers need power washing and have had trouble in the past...read the threads on certain year Sundowners...there are some really good all aluminum trailers out there but you need to do your homework...check out all the trailer threads on here...a plethora of knowledge..seriously.

Heart's Journey
May. 22, 2012, 01:49 PM
I agree that a 2 +1 is a long trailer for your first one, however some people do fine with that. I do recomend you get something that has a DR with enough space for your tack, water buckets, water container, hay, etc

I'm on my 3rd trailer and while I had to work up to the LQ one I have now, the first trailer I bought didn't have a DR and I camp, so after one year, I sold it and got one with a DR and rear tack. kept that one for 9 years and it served me well.

I prefer all aluminum as there is alot less maintenance involved and with the market today, you should be able to find a good used trailer. I don't know why so many people always ask what are the best brands. That is very subjective and there are many to choose from. Unless you are hauling cross country, most of the aluminum trailers will serve you just fine. check out www.horsetrailerworld.com as they have trailers for sale all over the US and is a great source. good luck and happy shopping

May. 22, 2012, 01:56 PM
Thanks for the quick responses. I should have stated that I have done searches, and read dozens of threads here. I must take the opportunity, though, to state that the search function on COTH is lousy. I have not been able to find a way to successfully search for phrases, so I get 100 threads...or one. And I'm actually known as the "search queen" in my office.

But back on topic, the thing that got me started looking at the 2 + 1 was the idea that we might be able to put hubby's motorcycle in the front and the pony in the back for vacations, so we could each enjoy our own rides. That may be too much to take on as beginners.

I found a couple of possibilities on horsetrailerworld, opposite ends of the spectrum though. One is a 1991 Kingston 2 horse GN, aluminum over steel, 2 nice escape doors and a small tack room. The other is a brand new Featherlite aluninum stock trailer, but it looks awfully big! And it's twice the price of the Kingston.

May. 22, 2012, 03:35 PM
Thanks for the quick responses. I should have stated that I have done searches, and read dozens of threads here. I must take the opportunity, though, to state that the search function on COTH is lousy. I have not been able to find a way to successfully search for phrases, so I get 100 threads...or one. And I'm actually known as the "search queen" in my office.

Simple solution to this: use google.

Go to google.com
Search: "your search term here" site:http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum
Ta-da! Results! :)

Some random thoughts with regard to your questions...goosenecks are easier to hook up, and give you more space. I, personally, find bumper pulls easier to haul since they follow the truck. Goosenecks cut in on corners and you will need to be quite aware of that, at least at first.

A two horse straight load like that Kingston might be tough if you're hauling horses for others, as some horses have not been trained to load in a straight load.

A stock, stock combo or slant load usually gives you more options for hauling STUFF. That Featherlite, though, (if I'm looking at the same one) fits four horses. It also doesn't have a tack room.

Christa P
May. 22, 2012, 03:58 PM
Many good points already made.

One other is that if you get a stock trailer, get the plexiglass
inserts for the openings. This way you can enclose it if you want to.


May. 22, 2012, 04:01 PM
A three horse slant load would probably work for your husbands motorcycle if you have a stud divider. Many people use the first stall to put stuff in and the stud divider keeps it from shifting into the other stalls. You could carry hubbys motorcycle, general horse stuff (buckets, hay, generator, etc.) or an extra horse if necessary.

I have a three horse Sooner with a dressing room which we fixed into a suitable living quarters for me and my daughter. Just the perfect size for us. I feel so much safer hauling a gooseneck than our previous bumper pull.

Someone already mentioned to be careful about some of the Sundowners with the aluminum body and steel frame. I will say however that I do regret not getting another Sundowner when I got this last trailer. They had some features that I really miss.

May. 22, 2012, 09:49 PM
For your first trailer I would highly recommend a simple, lightweight, no frills, no dressing room, bumper pull 2 horse Kingston. I don't think gooseneck trailers are easier to pull (and I have both). The bigger the trailer, the harder to park, turn, negotiate etc. And personally I do not find the gooseneck easier to hitch than the bumper pull. The 2 horse Kingston without dressing room (Dartmouth) is nice for the horses too, open and airy, they get air in through the front windows, whereas any dressing room trailer or slant-load gooseneck has much worse air flow and is in general less comfortable for the horses. Just my opinion. I have a 2H Kingston that I use regularly (going on trail rides, to lessons, etc), and a 3 horse Four Star (another great brand) slant-load with living quarters that I take to shows or when I need to transport more than 2 horses, it is great for its purpose but I much prefer using the Kingston when I can.

May. 22, 2012, 10:06 PM
Aluminum gooseneck stock trailer. I've been told all aluminum is best, and I like the idea that I can haul the pony in a box stall set up if I'm hauling her alone. Even though I'm in New England, I don't mind the openness of the stock; I'm not going to be hauling her around in 30 degree weather.

Exactly what I'd suggest. All the frills like drop down windows turn out to be a pain in the rear. Just get a stock trailer with an escape door (or two) and a small dressing room so you can lock stuff up.

If you get a 3 horse slant load with a stud divider in the front, you'll have plenty of configuration options. Usually, you'll leave the stud divider at home and use that big front stall for the one horse you're hauling. If you're hauling two plus a pile of stuff, put it back in, load the dressing room and the first stall, then add the horses and go.

A *collapsible* rear tack is also a nice option. (Don't get a fixed rear tack, then you lose the option of opening the whole thing up.)

in limine
May. 22, 2012, 11:19 PM
Get a bumper pull for your first trailer - driving a gooseneck as a newbie will be challenging (especially backing up). (Unless you absolutely have to have the extra space and live in an area with plenty of circular drives or wide open spaces. :)

And I also think hooking up a bumper-pull is faster (if not easier) than connecting a gooseneck - I currently pull a 2+1 goose, after towing all over the country with a 2-horse/dressing room for a few decades. Quite a change (I wouldn't trade the 2+1, but parking, turning and backing are still challenges that I never had to consider when towing a bumper pull - I could put that puppy anywhere)

Brand names are like appliances - they all have their pros/cons. Best to find one with the features you are looking for and do your homework on researching that specific brand for reliabiltiy, etc. (there is a lot to learn about floor composition, frame composition, safety records, maintenance, etc). It isn't really just a steel vs. aluminum question anymore - there are so many features and construction materials available. After you have narrowed it down to a brand - ask around and talk to people who actually own one to get a real picture of what you will be getting - and don't take the information you get from the dealers at face value; remember they are trying to sell you their model.

- Note regarding the Sundowner comment: the issue with their galvanized frames and aluminum skin trailers had been pretty well publicized and documented - so more information about this is out there if you look for it. (there might even be some threads on COTH about it). But not all steel frame/aluminum skin trailers are bad...just saying.

Have you made a list of the features you need - based on how you will use the trailer and the size of horses you need to move?

Ramp or step-up?
tack room? if so, should it be located in front, mid or rear?
How tall do you need?
What is the maximum amount of weight your truck can tow? If your trailer is fully loaded (trailer weight+horse+tack) is it under the tow capacity of the truck?
Windows/doors? (how many - where located, etc).


May. 22, 2012, 11:37 PM
I find a bumper pull easier to deal with but a gooseneck is inevitable... all my BP talents are wasted b/c DH will have nothing but a gooseneck... I thought the BP pulled tighter, it was MUCH more easy to back up but if you didn't have the room you were in a pickle b/c the GS is better in close quarters, every move of the steering wheel gets you big results with the trailer.

If you can go ahead and pull them both, horse trailer or flatbed or whatever, just compare the hitches-they both bring different things to the table. And back them both as much as possible, they're different critters.

I like a steel trailer-there's a recent thread here on the issue. They just feel better to me, they're solid and slightly heavier and if you trailer tips over while you're learning to pull a trailer it will be more of a box for your horses... You'll feel it more back there and meh I just think they're stronger. Lots of personal preference involved in that aluminum/steel decision.

I can personally recommend Titan or Jackson trailers-we had a Double D which is a smaller brand and that was great too. The Titan and Jackson were very balanced strong easy-pulling trailers.

May. 23, 2012, 06:16 AM
Lots of good advice here already, so I'll just add my $.02:

I find hooking my GN easier than the BP that needed anti=sway bars.
Except for having to crawl into/out of the truck bed, it's 1-2-3 Done with the GN.
I do not find it any easier backing the GN, but that might just be me.

DR is almost not optional for me.
Even with a rear tack, I love having the space in the DR & GN for a mini-LQ setup.

And I hated having a ramp, much prefer a stepup.
Less torque on my shoulders, less chance of horses bumping their heads getting on.

I also prefer straightload to slant but that's just my preference as my 17h+ finds the last slot a tight fit & when I'm hauling 2 he needs to go there - first stall is too tight altogether :no:
2# horsy sausage in 1# casing :(
When it's just him he's ok having the whole compartment with the slant divider tied back.

May. 23, 2012, 06:50 AM
If you have a friend, ask them if you can borrow their trailer ( or even pay them!) to test drive. You hook up their empty trailer, you drive to the mall? Or some parking lot that is closed on Sundays and practice backing turning, accelerating parking. later practice merging onto a small highway. See if you really like doing all that. Plus unhitching, dragging out mats washing etc.
You might find its cheaper to pay someone else or that you just can't deal with the lifting, loading, cleaning, knowledge needed. Don't forget to add the trailer insurance, licensing, mechanic fund costs.

I positively lust for a trailer. But I am in love with the idea, not the reality. I find driving a car a burden, I never trail ride anymore, one of my horses is not rideable, and I'd have to store my trailer at the barn, have no truck. None of it makes sense. Doesn't stop the I WANT though :lol:

May. 23, 2012, 07:41 AM
I love the freedom of having my own trailer, but I also trailer out for lessons.

Buy the best quality trailer you can afford and keep your options open. Look at everything and see what deal comes your way. Dressing room, if you are the organized type because if you don't it will drive you nuts. As for hitch, I find gooseneck so much easier to deal with, but I have a friend that can back up a bumper pull with her eyes closed. In lue of a truck and trailer drive someones riding lawnmower and a cart..that will give you a good idea if you like a bumper pull.

Make sure you go over your transmission with a fine tooth comb. Just got ride of my truck exactly like yours. 120,000 was the mileage, found out they are notorious.

Personal preference, aluminum steel frame wood floor.

May. 23, 2012, 11:52 AM
Thanks again. Chall, that's a good idea about test-driving. I'll ask the fellow who trailers the kids from the barn to shows if he'll take me out for a quick test lesson. I hope that buying a trailer isn't getting in over my head, perhaps that will help me decide.
And JRG, you're right, the transmission can be a little touchy at 120K. But I'm thinking that even a new tranny is considerably less than a new truck, and it's otherwise sound.
I'll check our tow capacity before doing serious shopping.
For my own horse, I'm lucky. She's a large pony, so I don't need to worry about height or width. She loads easily on either a straight load or a slant, in any position. She'll step up easily, and I like a step-up better...one less thing to go wrong.
I also have to find a place to park the darn thing, my house lot is too small, so I'll end up paying rent at a neighbor's.
If I do all this shopping myself, I may decide that the purchase price, insurance, parking rental, etc. cause me to put it on the back burner again.
If my husband gets involved, and interested, we'll have brand-new and shiny, and I'll have to keep it clean ;)

May. 23, 2012, 01:30 PM
I have hauled with both.

I don't find a huge difference in hooking up a gooseneck vs. a bumper pull, EXCEPT when hooking up an OLD gooseneck requiring a hammer to basically get the lock down over the ball. Then an OLD bumper pull seems to be easier. :-) Neither of which you are looking at, but since I am always pulling other people's trailers, things I have observed. You do loose much of the bed to the gooseneck and that does require more stuff in the tack room, so I probably would not consider a gooseneck without a tack room. I like to keep messy bales of hay and bags of bedding out of the trailer, personally. So that's a plus for a bumper pull and a truck with a bed cover...

I probably like driving a gooseneck better on long hauls, because I don't have to worry about sway or sway bars. Although with a 3/4 ton it really wasn't much of an issue, except in extreme wind and if you are on the interstate in a windstorm, maybe you should slow down at that point anyway...

If you get a stock trailer and have a big rear door, do yourself a favor and make sure there is a latching mechanism to hold the door in place in wind so you don't have to rig up a bungee or worry about it smacking you and the horse silly.

I like ramps on straight loads. I don't care so much on slants, becuase I turn around. Which also means I like extra-wide slants. I do not like rear tacks, but that's me. I also don't like mangers.

I've never heard anyone say "I wish I didn't have this tack room" but I have heard them wish for one--particularly with a 3/4 ton (aka enough truck). My friend doesn't have a tack room on her 3 horse gooseneck, but her sister does on her 2 horse straight-load bumper and for that reason the bumper gets used a lot more.

Whitfield Farm Hanoverians
May. 24, 2012, 12:08 AM
I haven't taken the time to read what everyone else has written so if I'm repeating them, so sorry.
I personally prefer to pull a gooseneck over a bumper pull any day. It is more stable & while it might be longer I can actually turn it around in a much smaller space. A normal 2+1 isn't that long. I just got a 2+1 with living quarters that is 37' long & I can tell the difference between the two. If you go with the normal dressing room you'll have no problems with hauling it.
My biggest concern is whether or not it will work with your truck being as it is a 4x4. You might have to really go with a newer trailer as the older ones are normally on small tires & aren't made to fit the taller trucks. Or you could put a flat bed on your truck.
While there are many brands out there with 4-star, cimarron, elite & especially eby being tops, I bought a Shadow & love it. Friends have Shadow 2+1 & have gone all over with it showing for 3 years & it's a nice today as the day they purchased it. No problems whatsoever. That's why I felt okay with buying one. Plus it comes with several standard features that are ooptions on most trailers such as fully insulated walls & ceilings, bigger axels & tires. Just another brand for you to consider. Of course my very favorite is the Eby. Just love them but they are normally BIG money.

May. 24, 2012, 10:36 AM
I personally would not select a bumper pull trailer designed to haul three horses. That is a lot of length and weight on the bumper and it can be dicey to control even with sway bars. Otherwise, there are lots of good 2 horse bumper pull trailers with options that make them very nice.

I prefer a GN for my horses because the ride is smoother for them. If you get a GN I would recommend getting a walk through door from the DR to the horse area. I've used that feature so much!

Good luck making your choice!

May. 24, 2012, 11:41 AM
Just weighing in that you will be happy you did it because it is liberating.

And we love our 4-Star aluminum trailer. It's actually our second one. We traded the first one in because the layout didn't work for us. It retained its value and then some.

May. 24, 2012, 06:52 PM
IMO, the first response to any thread where someone is thinking of buying a trailer should be, "Get and read the book The Complete Guide to Buying, Maintaining and Servicing a Horse Trailer by Neva and Thomas Scheve." Really. Covers all the pros and cons of various types; aluminum vs. steel vs. aluminum and steel; the compatibility of truck and trailer combination; GN vs BP etc. Sure it costs some bucks and takes some time to read but you'll be much more educated at the end and better able to find a trailer that suits your needs.

May. 26, 2012, 10:45 PM
I was recently on a trailer search and ended up finding mine from here http://www.horsetrailertrader.com/trailer-search.aspx

There are 2H alum skin brand new goosenecks in your price range, the Adam trailer and Trailers USA http://www.custom-horse-trailers.com/Home_Page.html

I ended up with a used Trailers USA and got it from FL (a 1000 drive) because what I was was wanting was nowhere in the midwest so had to buy long distance...but it was well worth it.
I felt better buying long distance from a dealer than an individual because none of the individuals were willing to provide any maintenance records. It is important on a used trailer the bearings and seals be in good shape.

Jun. 4, 2012, 04:19 PM
2 horse bumper pull with a dressing room for a first trailer! OR a nice 2H stock trailer. And an aluminum is much lighter and will rust less and last longer and look better longer. You can have a lighter truck to pull them and easier on gas mileage too. Initial cost may be higher for alum. though.

Buy used - always! Sooooo many nice ones out there hardly used.

Do not buy a trailer just for 1 horse either. Yeah you own a pony now but trailers last longer than horses very often. Buy a regular sized one in case your next one is bigger. If it's a side by side with removable divide then you can take it out to use trailer for other things.

Goosenecks are much harder to hook up and take up more room to turn imho. . Might be better only if you have a bigger trailer. Remember some barns don't like to store longer trailers because they take up too much room. They might not have a problem with a shorter/2 H one.

I noticed a big difference in the turning radius when I added a dressing room too but I won't every live with out it especially hunting /trail riding. I've even slept in there when I went horsecamping a coupla times! Means you don't have to keep loading/unloading your truck too. When you hunt 1-2 times/week THAT'S huge! Leave tack in trailer! Coat/hat/gloves in dressing room etc.

My first was a Shoop. Made in Dillsburg, Penn. Go to the factory or any trailers manufacturing plant and get one much cheaper! :winkgrin: Sundowners are nice, light, aluminum/fiberglass too.

Decide about whether you want a ramp....I have one and no longer want one. Some brands ramps are heavy for women imho.

I could go on & on.....but either way....it gives you a whole 'nother world of riding to enjoy! Go for it! Tell hubby to put his bike in back of truck.!! ;):D
I remember reading some GREAT articles in horse magazines about this subject too.

Jul. 9, 2012, 03:43 PM
So I went trailer shopping last week, while on vacation. Walked into the nearest trailer dealer thinking "GN, aluminum step-up stock" . Walked out thinking that the best trailer there for me was a BP, aluminum regular trailer with a ramp ;)
DH went with me, so of course we started looking at bigger, better, etc. This dealer sells Eclipse trailers, so we did look at the new ones they had. The ramps were extremely light & easy to handle, and the trailers themselves were light and airy. But I'm concerned, as there were some rather mixed reviews here on CotH.
Looked at the Featherlite aluminum stock trailers. Seemed OK, but I kept spotting a piece here and there inside that looked as though it was just inviting a horse injury. And the levers/latches for the doors were a bit sticky, but they probably get better with more use.
DH wants to be able to transport the motorcycle along with the pony. I've been told it's OK, although I still have some misgivings about it. Slant load configuration doesn't seem to work for that, because the bike won't "slant in" very well.
What we found that seemed to fit our needs best was a used Featherlite BP, 2H straight load with a side door/ramp. I like the idea that I can walk the pony straight through, or load her in the side to ride facing back. It's airy & light. And it has a dressing room, which I wasn't looking for, but would be a nice bonus.
Of course by the time I make up my mind, and find a place to park it, someome else will buy it :(

Jul. 9, 2012, 09:50 PM
I bought my trailer a few years ago for the same reason -- I got tired of relying on other people for transport. I don't trailer alot but I've had a couple unfortunate vet emergencies when I was SO GLAD I had my own trailer to get my horse to the clinic.
I went with a GN on the strong advice of my barn owner (and very experienced hauler) and am glad I did. I find it very easy to hook up by myself and very stable on the road. I got an all aluminum with the Rumber floor and have found it to be very low maintenance. Having the a tackroom has also been very convenient. I got a Featherlite and have been pleased with it. Backing up is not my favorite activity -- but its doable.
We spent the winter in Florida and hauled it down and back (sans horses -- I sent them with a commercial hauler). DH was bitching and moaning about having to tow the trailer down but he was very pleased with how stable the rig was (his only prior experience was towing a BP). No sway at all -- and that was on I95 with big trucks passing regularly.

Jul. 10, 2012, 11:03 AM
DH wants to be able to transport the motorcycle along with the pony. I've been told it's OK, although I still have some misgivings about it.

Our rescue mare rode home from New Jersey (6 hours) with a vintage gas pump in the next stall. :cool: