Many horsemen are discovering the versatility and economics of using stock trailers for their horses.
Many horsemen are discovering the versatility and economics of using stock trailers. A livestock trailer is generally less expensive than a horse trailer of comparable size. Stock trailers can be used for horses off the lot, or custom ordered to make them even more convenient for hauling horses.
Cimarron Trailers, manufactured in Chickasha, Okla., makes horse trailers and stock trailers, but a lot of their horse customers choose stock trailers with custom features. Robbie Merritt, sales manager at Cimarron, says stock trailers don't come with rubber mats on floor or walls, but these can be added. "Most stock trailers have open spaces above the door, and open spaces instead of windows along the sides, but you can add plexiglass to enclose it. If you want it open for summer, you can take it out," he says.
Keifer Built Trailers, manufactured in Kanawha, Iowa, makes horse trailers, stock trailers, and commercial trailers; you can order a plain stock trailer or one that specifically suits your needs. They also sell a combo trailer that comes with a tack room/dressing room. When shopping for a trailer, ask the dealer or manufacturer what options might be available in their stock trailer line.
Risa Couch of Happy Trails Trailers, Travelers Rest, S.C., says most stock trailers are perfectly adequate for horses. "Just make sure it's the right size (height, length, and width) for your horses and has adequate brakes and a floor mat,” she advises. “I sell conventional stock trailers and a stock combo--which has removable dividers instead of just a center gate. You can convert the trailer into two box stalls if it's 16 feet or longer. If you have small horses and increase the axle size, you can haul four horses, putting two in each section."
When buying a stock trailer for horses, check the interior for sharp edges and make sure the outside wall panel (below the open space) is at least 5 feet tall. "Some stock trailers have side walls that are only 4 or 4½ feet high to make it easier for people to poke the cattle from outside the trailer to get them to move or turn around for unloading," explains Couch.
Kristin Furbee, manager of the horse division for EBY Trailer's Ohio office, says many of their horse customers order stock trailers and can add most of the options they'd want in a horse trailer. "You can add anything you want, if you're working with the right company; some are more into custom designs than others," she says.
The standard stock trailer is only 6 feet, 6 inches tall, which is fine if you have small or short horses, but most horse owners prefer a taller trailer. "Our standard cattle trailers are 6 feet, 8 inches tall," says Merritt (of Cimarron). "Most horse trailers are at least 7 feet tall, but we custom build our trailers so you can order a stock trailer any height you want."
The tallest trailer EBY builds is 8 feet high. C and C trailers can be up to 8.5 feet high for draft horses or warmbloods, according to Rob King of Murphy Trailer Sales in Indiana, east coast distributer for C and C trailers. "We can also make them as short as 4.5 to 5 feet tall, for people who show pigs and sheep (or miniature horses). We can add or subtract height in 6-inch increments," explains King.
Cimarron's stock trailers come in three widths: 6 feet 10 inches, 7 feet 6 inches, and 8 feet. "You'll want a wide trailer if you have large horses," says Merritt, but the wider models have inner fenders (the tire wells are inside the box compartment for the horses). With the 6-foot 10-inch width, there is nothing protruding into the interior.
EBY trailer options range from 6 feet 11 inches (outside width) to 8½ feet wide, which is the legal maximum. Inside dimension is a few inches less; the 6-foot 11-inch trailer is 6-feet 8-inches on the inside. "They are all built on a 102-inch-wide axle, so how much wheel pocket you have in the trailer depends on the width of the box," says Furbee. The wider trailers all have some inside fender.
Kevin Dice, national sales manager for the horse and livestock division at Keifer Built, says they offer a 7- and an 8-foot width, depending on how many animals you might be hauling. "We also have numerous axle strength options for the same reason," says Dice.
C and C trailers start at 6-feet wide and go up to 8.5 feet. Slant loads have standard horse width dividers (39.5 inches), according to King, but if you want one for draft horses, they can make those spaces a lot bigger.
Some people haul other cargo on occasion, such as hay or machinery, and need heavy duty axles as well as maximum width. A stock trailer is generally used for many things. Couch says that in her part of the country, people call a 16-foot stock trailer a 4-horse trailer. "In many cases, however, the manufacturers are not increasing the axle capacity for this; they are still using 7,000 pound capacity, she says. “Make sure your axles are strong enough if you plan to haul four horses in a 16-foot trailer."
Couch says you can get a stock trailer as large or small as you want, as small as 10 feet long. She recommends at least 12 feet for horses that will be straight loaded, so you can have a divider--and an escape door that's not over the fender. If you have an emergency, you don't want to be climbing over a fender.
Standard length options on Keifer Built stock trailers are 16, 18, 20, and 24 feet. "These are the common sizes, but some people order a 28- or 32-foot trailer if they are hauling a lot of cattle or horses," says Dice. "Some people use a 16-foot gooseneck with a bullet or V nose in front of it. Then you can put a small slant wall in, with dividers, and it can be pulled easily with a half ton truck."
The V nose is an enclosed section over the top of the truck bed often used as a tack compartment. This gives the maneuverability of a gooseneck in a smaller trailer. The 16-foot bed is much like you'd see in a bumper pull, but without the turning issues, he says.
EBY stock trailers go from 10 to 36 feet in length. "We have standard 16- and 24-foot lengths, but can custom make any length you want," says Furbee. "We can add length in whatever increment you wish, from 6 inches to 2 feet."
C and C trailers make gooseneck trailers from 10 feet up to 40 feet in length. "If you want a 40-foot trailer divided into 10 stalls, we can put that many gate dividers in it," says King.
"Most stock trailers come with a full rear gate, with a slider section (a portion that slides open) for cattle to jump through," says Merritt of Cimarron. The whole gate can be swung open, but the slider section is a smaller opening than you'd want for a horse. "You have the option of double back doors instead of the full swing gate; the double gate works well for either horses or cattle. You can open one side or the other, or the whole back end. This is more versatile than a full swing gate with slider."
You can choose a drop down ramp over double back doors, or Dutch doors above the ramp. The Dutch doors can be left open when traveling, if horses are tied. Stock trailers also have an escape door as a standard feature. You can make it bigger or use a ramp with it, if you want to load or unload livestock or horses through the front.
You can add individual dividers for horses (for a slant load) or full width dividing gates to make separate compartments like box stalls, depending on the length of the trailer. Make sure the side posts are the right settings for normal size stalls. "You may want to special order a divider that fits the way you want it on a stock trailer because of side post spacing. You can space it just like a horse trailer," says Merritt.
You can have multiple gates. Trailers 24 feet long give you the option for a second gate to make three stalls. "The second gate can be toward the front, so the escape door could actually be your entry into the front tack area or front stall; then you have two more stalls behind that. Or you can open them all up if you are hauling hay or other cargo where you need the space," says Dice.
In Keifer Built stock trailers, you have the option of cut gates, which are livestock gates that go almost from floor to ceiling, or divider gates, which are more like what you'd find in a horse trailer (for slant load). The horse divider is higher at the head area and tapers back, and it is usually only shoulder height. With these, you can also have tie loops, says Dice.
Furbee says horses don't need dividers or stalls; some people just turn them loose in the trailer, and they ride better that way. "It depends on the horses' personalities or how comfortable you are about putting them all together; you can divide them if you have some that don't get along,” Furbee says. “In a long trailer you can make several compartments 10 feet by however wide the trailer is. You can set up a trailer any way you want it. In a five-horse slant load, you can take out the slant dividers, put in two full-height walls, and have three box stalls. This works well for long distance travel when you want the horses loose and more comfortable, or hauling mares and foals."
For a permanent tack room, you can add a full height solid wall and a door you can enter from the outside.
"Our stock trailers are made of the same materials as our horse trailers," says Merritt. Many companies make their stock trailers more rugged, however, because of the terrain these trailers must be able to handle. A stock trailer might be taken off road into pastures or on a jeep track in the back country. You need more inches of ground clearance so you can get through creek beds and other rough areas.
Keifer Built makes both steel and aluminum trailers. "In the steel units, the front compartment that serves as a tack room can be fully opened to use the entire trailer space for animals; it's a swinging panel," says Dice. "In our aluminum units it's a fixed wall and always a tack room. We haven't had much request to have the wall removable in the aluminum trailers," he says.
"Our Deluxe II is a combo aluminum trailer that's very durable," says Dice. "We interweave the aluminum extrusions so they lock into place; it's not dependent on just the welds holding the trailer together (most manufacturers do a butt and lap weld rather than an interlocking process). This gives our trailer a very long life. This is a big advantage, because aluminum is more brittle than steel. Steel is more forgiving and has more yield. It will flex a little and come back, whereas aluminum will crack instead of flex."
Some manufacturers use cast aluminum corner caps to hold together better in these vulnerable spots.
"In all trailers, the weakest point is the back corners,” says Dice. “This is usually where flexing and cracking appears first. We eliminated that by using 4 by 4 material (instead of smaller) and by having a cast radius in the corners; we don't have a weld in rear corners of our livestock trailers. This is usually where they fail; that area gets a side twist that tends to break the material over time."
If you invest in a trailer you want it to last a long time, especially if it must go off road in rough terrain, or use it for more than just hauling horses. Steel trailers are cheaper and stronger, but heavier (taking more fuel to pull) and prone to rust. A good aluminum trailer is easier to pull and might last longer.
Most horse trailers are aluminum, but a few have steel frame and aluminum skin, says Furbee. "For weight reasons and fuel prices, most people are going away from steel,” she says. “Resale value on an aluminum trailer is far superior to steel trailers. We have people with 30-year-old aluminum EBY trailers that still look like new. Most people want something that will last and hold its value. There's no rusting in aluminum, but it may corrode if you don't take care of it (you need to clean out manure and urine after you use it)." says
"We have three lines of stock trailers--two aluminum and one steel--and each is a little different," says Dice. "Our Deluxe II has a planked aluminum floor. This is a very heavy aluminum, with 3-inch ‘I’ cross beams every 4.5 inches--a very strong floor. When hauling cattle, you don't need pads or mats, but for horses you should put a rubber pad on top of the aluminum for better footing and less skidding.
"Our Advantage line (between the steel and the top line aluminum) has a pressure-treated wood floor," says Dice. This helps preserve it so the wood won't rot. Mats are recommended, since wood becomes slippery when wet. "A rumbar floor is also available for that trailer,” he adds. "This green material consists of 65% recycled plastic and 35% rubber, for longer life. It has some give, but we still recommend you put mats over it for horses, since it's so hard. It won't deteriorate; it's the longest lasting floor in the industry compared with wood or aluminum. It is impervious to urine--which tends to rot wood or corrode aluminum."
Almost all stock trailers come in either bumper pull or gooseneck, although longer ones are generally only available in gooseneck. Keifer Built's bumper pulls only come in 12- and 16-foot lengths. Most companies offer the option of a tack room or a tack compartment in the nose section of a gooseneck. Cimarron also offers a removable rear tack room.
Dice says they've had requests from horse owners for some different combinations. "Our combo unit starts as a livestock trailer, then we modify the front to make a tack room,” he says. “It can be a slant wall or straight wall, and in various increments for space. We've also expanded the side doors and added ramps for those, as options. Using a 37-inch side ramp, you can unload the front compartment without having to open the back stall. This also allows you to have a full-size escape door if for some reason you're hauling your horse with the saddle on; you have an avenue for getting in and out without having to go out the back."
The past 10 years have seen many innovations in trailers, and now there are a lot of custom features and specialty applications. "This is why the combo came into existence, to fit a growing market and cater to individuals who have several uses for a trailer but don't want the expense of several trailers," says Dice.
Options that can be added to a stock trailer include tie loops on the outside, saddle racks and bridle hooks in a tack room, and drop-down feeders at the horses’ heads.
"You can have the same type of interior you'd have in the dressing room of a horse trailer,” says Dice. “Some people put living quarters in the front, in place of a tack room. You can put in a slant and a straight wall, for a small tack room as well as living quarters." Some people put a mattress up in the nose of a gooseneck and use that as a camper/tack room.
Stock trailers don't come with lights inside, but you can order them with lights, and a spare tire. "Most stock trailers have a spare rim, but not a spare tire," says Couch. "You also need four wheel brakes and an escape door. You can order plexiglass tracks on the outside of the open spaces to keep out inclement weather," she says. It usually takes about four to six weeks to have a trailer custom made.
Aluminum trailers have become very expensive, but the stock models are still a lot cheaper than horse models. Actual cost will depend on the make of the trailer, whether it's steel or aluminum, the options you want to add, and how far the dealer is from your area. Freight costs will vary, depending on distance.
Couch says a 12-foot bumper pull stock combo 7 feet tall with a divider, mats, and escape door, spare tire, and four wheel brakes will cost about $4,000. "My least-expensive horse trailer is more than twice that much,” Couch notes. “The stock trailer and the horse trailer have different construction (steel versus aluminum), but they both do the same job." The cheaper stock trailers are made of steel.
EBY's all-aluminum trailer with aluminum sub-frame will cost about $13,000.
King says the C and C standard 7-foot wide 6.5foot tall 20 foot long aluminum stock trailer costs about $13,600. "The steel stock trailers are a little cheaper, but give you less options for custom design; they are generally just a basic trailer. A 6-foot 8-inch wide by 20-foot long by 6.5-foot-tall steel trailer will cost about $7,100," says King. "We can put gates in it, but the maximum length on that stock trailer is 24 feet because of the heavier weight."
Don't dismiss stock trailers as "cowboy" horse haulers. They have come a long way in design and construction, and might be the answer to your various hauling needs.
About the Author
Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey's Guide to Raising Horses and Storey's Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog, www.heathersmiththomas.blogspot.com, she writes a biweekly blog at http://insidestorey.blogspot.com that comes out on Tuesdays.