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Horse vans instead of truck & trailer -- good idea?

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  • Horse vans instead of truck & trailer -- good idea?

    So, after the thread about how people really should have their own truck & trailer (I don't, and it's mostly not a big problem), I was wondering -- what do folks know about horse vans? Not a truck and trailer, but the one piece kind? It seems like many of the miseries associated w/ hauling horses are associated with hitching the truck, brake lights, electrical connections, braking, etc. I am not one of those people who has regular need for a pickup truck except for the somewhat regular need to haul my horse, so not having a separate truck wouldn't be a big deal to me. And I did find used horse vans on the web -- without prices, of course. (grrr) But they were intriguing: http://www.frankdibella.com/used_vans.html.

    What is your experience w/ them? Good idea? Bad idea? Can be had reasonably used? Maintenance nightmares, or tolerable? Speak to me, horse van people. Thanks in advance for any info.
    I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
    I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09


  • #2
    The first barn I rode at had an old Ford van, similar to the "1988 Ford F700 With 3/4 Imperatore Body" listed on the page. I'm not sure if the newer ones sit lower (hers was really old), but the horse part of the truck sat so high that the horses had to walk up a pretty steep ramp and then turn around in a very small area to back into the stalls. Lots of horses were afraid of that van and several refused to load on it. The ramp had sides (since it was so high and steep) that had to be put on/taken off each time you un/loaded. One time the BO was in a rush and didn't put the sides on because the horse was such a good loader. He caught one leg over the side and, in the struggle to get back on the ramp, sawed his leg down to the bone

    Of course, I'm not saying that happens with ALL vans...that's just my experience. I know the BO hated that thing and couldn't wait to get rid of it and get a regular truck/trailer set-up. Perhaps the newer ones are better. I'd be interested in the differences between these vans and the horse lorries used over in the UK. Everyone I know who has every used a lorry absolutely *loves* them.
    "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Wow, duly noted. I did notice they all look generally tall-ish, and was thinking the ramp could require some wrangling. My horse is an exemplary loader, so I don't think that would be a big deal.

      I still have to think that the nuisance of putting on a ramp with sides is still less than hitching a trailer. (I learned to swear by watching my dad hitch a camper to our car when I was a kid. Always looked like a PITA, even on a good day.)
      I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
      I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09

      Comment


      • #4
        Personally, not a fan - I had a trainer when I was a teen with a van, and I thought it was so much more hassle than a truck/trailer (we had that at home).

        One thing - if you do a lot of overnight showing, will you have living quarters in the van or will you be commuting to showgrounds from wherever you might be staying?

        Because I think that commuting in a van would be a bit cumbersome myself.

        Also - I haul all over w/ truck and trailer and I love it. I also have a good mechanic and every February & August (inspection dates on truck & trailer respectively), I have the truck/trailer gone over with fine-tooth comb - thus catching any pending issues usually before they have a chance to arise. I take the trailer in when truck is due for inspection - and my mechanic takes care of me.

        I think a van will require just as much maintenance - and I love having my big-a$$ truck.
        Originally posted by SmartAlex

        Give it up. Many of us CoTHers are trapped at a computer all day with no way out, and we hunt in packs. So far it as all been in good fun. You should be thankful for that.

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        • #5
          I looked into them pretty seriously when I was considering my rig options. Like you, I simply can't afford to have a dedicated tow vehicle.

          Reasons I decided against:

          1. It's very hard to find something smaller than a 3-4 horse van. Even if you split that into a 2-horse generous boxstall configuration, it was still overkill for my one and only horse.

          2. Many of them are maintenance nightmares by virtue of their age (old diesel Imperatore engines from the 1970s and 1980s). Even if you have a good diesel truck mechanic to work on it ($$$$), good luck getting replacement parts (also $$$$$ and a hassle.) The newer ones with current hardware are OMG expensive to buy upfront.

          3. As a boarder, I need to park my trailer (or horse van) at the barn. Finding space for a 2H bumper pull is easier than finding space for a horse van.

          4. Depending on your state of residence, you may need a commercial driver's license to drive it.

          5. Many of them have heavy ramps. I am a woman and I often tow alone or with minimal assistance. I suppose I could get hydraulics installed on the ramp, but where would I get the money?

          I have, of course, met people for whom none of these issues apply. And if I had found a 2-3 horse van with a fairly new truck body and a lightweight ramp, I might have seriously considered it. But there was no such beast in my search.
          Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/

          Comment


          • #6
            Worked for someone who had an Isuzu NPR (box truck) - http://www.isuzucv.com/nseries/index.html - that we used to haul to polo matches with - he had two boxes on it - one little one for tack, and the big horse box - it was totally open inside (just tie rings) and we regularly put 4 ponies in it. It was pretty great, actually. It did sit a little bit high, but driving it was no big deal (though crossing the Ches. Bay Bridge in a massive thunderstorm was a little scary the first time).
            The worst part was the ramp - the whole back wall was matted and dropped down to make the ramp - Ponies were cool with it, but it was HEAVY when you had to close it. Definitely not something you wanted to do if your arms were tired...
            I think he had an insert that he could use if he wanted to treat it more like a regular two horse straight load, but I never saw that in action.

            I loved that thing - just wish the ramp was a little easier.
            Last edited by bdj; Jan. 18, 2011, 12:34 PM. Reason: added link

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            • #7
              I was going to say, for me the biggest issue would be do I need a CDL to drive one?
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              • #8
                I mentioned them to a horsey friend and she suggested another problem with them:

                Let's say your rig breaks down at you're on the side of a road.

                If you have a truck and trailer configuration, you can unhitch the truck, push it out of the way, and get a friend to show up with another truck to hitch to the trailer.

                If your van breaks down...you have to get a whole other truck AND trailer out there (plus the issue of getting the van towed).

                And I kind of figure, if I had a truck and trailer, I could find uses for the truck and get more of my money's worth out of it than I would with a horse van.

                (I only have a small car, myself, and thus am one of those who has to trailer with other people but I at least pay my share of gas and help clean out the trailer afterward)
                The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
                Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.

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                • #9
                  Horse vans are single-purpose vehicles. While they can be used for other things they are truly optomized for moving horses and not much else.

                  There is one maker of "consumer" horse vans for sure (Frank DiBella) and maybe one other (Imperatore). DiBella has been working on a two horse van based upon the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van. I've got some reserations on the design, but the biggest problem is going to be price. A new van plus the conversion will probably run $60,000 plus. You can buy more capability in a half ton truck and small gooseneck trailer, new, for about 2/3 of that. And you'll have a multipurpose vehicle that can be used for hauling, commuting, etc.

                  Most vans around are older and range from gently used to very well used. They tend to be larger. If you stay with the smaller units you'll likely not need a CDL. Indeed, you many not need one even for some of the larger units if you're just moving your own horses.

                  Insurance might be a problem for consumer policies. It won't be for a commercial insurer.

                  There are several manufacturers that will build out a large van on a custom basis. You can even find some that that will build out a "horse box" in the back of a very nicely equipped motorhome (Wildside in Franklin, TN is one of them). If you're looking to do this make sure you have deep pockets.

                  Horse vans are very popular in Europe but maybe that's because the pickup in Europe is almost unknown. Cars tend to be small. A single purpose vehicle might make more sense, there.

                  G.
                  Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    You know, you would think there would be a market for a 2 horse sized horse van. ????

                    My hauling needs are inside of a 100 mile radius, 6-15 rides a year. Local showing, have never done an overnight, and if I did, it would be a hotel. Not in the market for living quarters.

                    I'm not sure I see how a moderate sized horse van takes up substantially more room than a trailer.

                    Thanks for the info re: maintenance, appropriate licensing, etc. Still cogitating, and I'm not really anywhere close to a purchase. I am however going to have to replace my Accord that has 224K miles on it in the next couple years, and at that point, if I really thought there was a strong reason to haul myself, it would be the time to buy a truck, if I wanted to go that route. But I have a typical big metro area commute of 50+ miles a day that can't be done w/ public transport, so a sensible high mpg car seems like the only way to go.

                    Wish I could buy a 1/3 share of a truck and trailer.
                    I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                    I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Lori B View Post
                      And I did find used horse vans on the web -- without prices, of course. (grrr) But they were intriguing: http://www.frankdibella.com/used_vans.html.
                      Man, most of those are ancient, plus they look huge cumbersome gas guzzlers behemoths, even the 2 horse ones.

                      Try something like these...
                      http://www.equi-trek.com/horseboxes_...l_gallery.html
                      http://www.equi-trek.com/horseboxes_...tonnes/victory
                      http://www.equi-trek.com/horseboxes_...__Gallery.html

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        They had an Equitrek vendor at Culpeper last year - if it wasn't equitrek it was something similar... in the UK and Ireland they have similar vehicles, many are advertised as "lady's boxes". Many have amazing extras like kitchen (well think of like a small boat) sleeping and horse "shower", toilet and TV... I think if I had the money and wanted a trailer I might opt for something like that too...but you'd have to see if your horse would fit in them... for some reason they don't look that big but you never know..

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I would love a van.

                          Can not afford one and can not afford to buy something that only has one purpose in life, and that would be me going to a lesson or trail ride or such.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Yeah, but I don't care if the horse van is a gas guzzler, cuz I'm not driving it every day!

                            I'm probably driving it 500 miles a year, tops! What I do mind is if my main commuting vehicle is a gas guzzler. That's pretty much the entire point of this thread. And if they are old, but in good repair, I don't care. Don't want sexy, want functional. Am not going to live in it, or drive to California in it, or drive it to work every day. Am thinking of something that will get me to vet, local shows, trail riding, clinics, with a minimum of fuss and expense, while I drive something high mpg for every day commuting.

                            And the equitreks are very cute, but too much $$$$!!! The used 2 horse van price converts to $28k from pounds. I can get a trailer and truck for that much.
                            I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                            I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Lori B View Post
                              You know, you would think there would be a market for a 2 horse sized horse van. ????
                              I wonder??? If they were cheap enough, I sure as heck would have considered one. But I doubt they could make them cheaply enough to compete with the cost of a 2H BP with cheap truck. Compare that to, say, the cost of a 4-horse trailer and suitable truck; suddenly a horse van isn't looking so financially ridiculous.

                              I'm not sure I see how a moderate sized horse van takes up substantially more room than a trailer.
                              It doesn't take up SUBSTANTIALLY more room but it definitely takes up more room. Most 2H bumper pulls are only as wide as the average truck. Most horse vans are 1 to 2 feet wider than the average truck, plus they're longer than the average 2-horse bumper pull trailer (but probably not longer than, say, a 2H gooseneck with living quarters). The point is that if you have one of these PITA BO's who already has minimal space to park your van, they may pitch a fit or have an argument to charge you more than they'd charge you for the average 2H bumper pull. It's a minor problem in the grand scheme of things but there it is. I know at my current boarding farm, it would be an issue; they're tight on space as it is. They park my current trailer in my trainer's driveway.

                              Wish I could buy a 1/3 share of a truck and trailer.
                              I hear ya sister. I went with the most practical and price-friendly route I could, which was a Brenderup Solo that I can pull with my existing daily driver (a Subaru), and even that was a big chunk of change--and we could argue that I'm "paying extra" for driving a 25 mpg vehicle instead of a sub-compact 30+ mpg that's not big enough to pull a Brenderup. But the B'up got me and my horse on the road safely without me having to buy/insure/maintain a truck, and for that I am deeply grateful. Alas, like horse vans, B'ups aren't for everybody.
                              Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Would you be interested in keeping your horse on the trailer at all for shows? That's another thing I just remembered about those trucks--they get REALLY frickin hot! I love my Hawk because I can pop my pony back on it if I need to for a short period of time, and it stays a decent temperature in there. Those box vans are like ovens.
                                "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Lori B View Post
                                  Wish I could buy a 1/3 share of a truck and trailer.
                                  Can I get an "Amen" in the congregation?

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    mg, that's somewhat of a concern, although I haven't shown in 2 years (lameness), so it hasn't been an issue in a while.

                                    I tend to tie my horse to the side of the trailer and not leave her alone for the most part. I'm one of those owners you laugh at who likes to walk around the show grounds letting her graze and feeding her cookies after my class is over. ;-)

                                    And I really seriously would buy a share of a truck and trailer if I could find like minded sensible responsible co-owners. Many folks who are into sailboats do this, I have heard. Why not truck & trailer?
                                    I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                                    I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I love them because they look so cool!

                                      Other than that they suck. I can tell you all about having one breakdown on the side of the 401 on a hot, humid summer day and the mess that ensued. It was a blown tire (scary in something like that), driver could not unhook, horses were not impressed and it was super hot so we were worried about them. Driver had to wait for help, it took a long time. The side of the 401 is a very dangerous place to be. It was a nightmare.

                                      You also are stuck if you go to shows all in that vehicle.

                                      I do have fond memories of napping in that front part though....
                                      "look deep into his pedigree. Look for the name of a one-of-a-kind horse who lends to his kin a fierce tenacity, a will of iron, a look of eagles. Look & know that Slew is still very much with us."

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I had one (in Europe)

                                        where they are common.

                                        Cons; High up and that means a high center of gravity, hard to corner. steep ramp, not all horses are willing to go up them.
                                        If you stay at the shows no means to get to and from the hotel unless you drive the whole rig.
                                        Limited speed esp on interstates. Mine was a diesel, and was awful loud and smelly esp on cold mornings.
                                        I didn't need a CDL there, then and I think for the smaller ones you don't here.

                                        Pro's, In Europe where we only had 2 horse bumper pull trailers, if you wanted to haul 3-4 horses you had to have a van so that's why we had one. Otherwise no pro's over a truck/trailer.

                                        Basically I much prefer my 1 ton pickup with 3 horse goose neck trailer. Easier to work in and out of. Easier to load, easier to drive.

                                        And if we do an overnight show we can separate the two and drive to the hotel in the truck.

                                        Maintenance is about the same, fuel prices ditto.

                                        MW
                                        Melyni (PhD) PAS, Dipl. ACAN.
                                        Sign up for the Equine nutrition enewsletter on www.foxdenequine.com
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