(Plus: Safer Solutions from Double D Trailers)
It was a normal day in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1999, when a Double D Trailers customer loaded her three horses onto a slant load trailer with slatted sides. After loading, she reached through the slatted side to secure the halter on her last horse when he reared back in sudden panic. The move snagged her hand and ‘snapped’ her arm. She was quickly on her way to the emergency room. After hearing about this incident, the folks at Double D Trailers went back to the drawing boards and created the SafeTack design. Since then, no similar incidents have been reported. Read on to find 13 examples of poorly designed trailer features and how Double D Trailers found innovative solutions to improve overall safety for their customers and horses!
Brad Heath, owner of Double D Trailers, was on hand to help suggest the top 13 features to avoid when shopping for a new horse trailer. Some of these features are simply inconvenient, but many of them are downright dangerous. Brad explained, “Designs at Double D Trailers are based on research and testing with the goal of building the safest trailer on the road, regardless of the cost.”
1. Poorly Configured Rear Tack Areas Create “Extreme Danger for the Horse and Horse Owner.”
The first example of a poorly designed system relates directly to the North Carolina woman above. Many slant load horse trailers have only one narrow door in the rear of the trailer through which to load your horses. The other half of the rear entry is taken up by a built-in rear tack area. First off, this narrow opening can be daunting for nervous horses. They see the trailer as a scary metal cave with a narrow mouth. What horse wants to walk into that!?
Second, while this rear tack storage can be quite handy, it can also be a huge safety hazard. After loading your final horse, the handler has very little room to maneuver inside the trailer. They are trapped between the horse and the wall of the rear tack area with no way to escape in an emergency. In the story above, the woman tried to secure her horse’s halter by reaching through the slatted sides, but this had disastrous results.
Solution: As mentioned above, the SafeTack system was designed in response to this woman’s story. The tack area in a SafeTack trailer swings out like a second door. This allows your horse to load through a wider and much-less-scary opening.
Even more importantly, Double D Trailers include an extra divider after the final horse. Once this is secure, the handler can safely walk up beside their horse to secure their halter with virtually no danger of being crushed. Once your horse is settled, you can swing the entire SafeTack compartment closed and close the second door for travel.
The SafeTack rear storage area swings out like a second door to eliminate the narrow loading area and dangerous squeeze common in other slant load trailers.
2. Some Butt and Chest Bars Can Trap Your Horse
Butt and chest bars are supposed to keep your horse in the correct area of the trailer, but they can sometimes cause more harm than good. A panicked horse can easily trap a leg over a bar with no way to escape. Once their weight is on the bar, it becomes nearly impossible to release without causing further injury to the horse.
Solution: Double D Trailers uses a design for butt and chest bars that has a removable pin. You can release the fastener even with the full weight of the horse on the bar.
3. Horses Can Kick Right Through Some Trailer Walls!
This one makes my skin crawl. Trailers that have only one thin layer of aluminum on the exterior walls can be punctured by a horse’s strong kick. “Single walled trailers with aluminum skin can be dangerous if a horse rears up and punches a leg through,” Brad explained.
Solution: For a stronger option, look for double layered walls that are insulated and use a much stronger material like 16 gauge Galvanite. This wall system is superior to aluminum and will hold up much better in an accident or if a horse kicks out.
4. Noisy Ride: Bolts in Your Trailer Cause a Scraping Sound During Travel
Anytime a trailer uses bolts, screws or other types of mechanical fasteners on the skin of the trailer, it creates “metal on metal” noise and vibration within the trailer. Like nails on a chalkboard, this extra noise can cause undue stress on the horse.
Solution: Look for a trailer that uses a 3M chemical bonding system, often referred to as “tape” for a quieter ride and secure seal.
5. Solid Head Dividers Make Your Horse Feel Like They’re In a Coffin
Horses are naturally claustrophobic animals, yet many trailers have solid dividers at the horse’s head. Once the animal is loaded, they cannot see their surroundings or even their stable buddy loaded right next to them. In addition, this type of head divider restricts the light and airflow throughout the trailer. Instead of circulating fresh air, your horse will be breathing dust and stale air.
Solution: Tubular head dividers are much better at both promoting airflow and allowing for full visibility.
Solid head dividers (left) can make a horse feel claustrophobic. It’s much better to use tubular head dividers (right) that promote light and air flow while making the horse more comfortable. Photo credit:trailer7_horse in trailer via photopin (license)
6. Small Windows Are Horrible: Need We Say More?
A small window restricts the amount of light and air that is able to circulate through the trailer. On hot days, the interior of your trailer can become a dark sauna.
Solution: Find a trailer with plenty of large windows that can be opened when needed. Make sure these windows are strong and easy to operate.
7. Aluminum Strikes Again! Some Flooring Systems Transfer Excess Heat and Vibration
As you’re traveling down the road, you should consider what type of flooring your horse is standing on. Aluminum flooring transfers excess heat and vibration from the road directly into your horses’ legs. This can cause extra fatigue after a long trip, which certainly won’t help if you’re headed to an important competition
Solution: Look for a flooring type with minimal heat and vibration transfer. Wood flooring with a mat or recycled rumber material without a mat are both good options.
It is important to consider the type of flooring for your horse trailer. Aluminum flooring transfers excessive heat and vibration into your horse’s legs causing fatigue. Photo credit: Horse standing in trailer via photopin (license)
8. Mil-Finish Aluminum Roofs = Bad, Bad, Bad!
Surprisingly, a majority of horse trailer manufacturers use ‘mil-finish’ aluminum to cover their trailer’s roof. Brad said, “It’s the worse design and poorest choice of material on Planet Earth to cover a horse trailer!”
The reason for this is simple. Aluminum is a great conductor of heat, so as the trailer roof heats up on hot summer days, the heat passes into the horse trailer increasing the temperature greatly. It may feel like a comfortable and breezy day on the farm, but the interior of your trailer can have extreme temperatures that are stressing your horse. Needless to say, this is uncomfortable and unhealthy for your horses.
A mil finish aluminum roof (top) is dangerous for horses because it easily transfers heat into the interior of your trailer. The SafeBump roofing system (bottom) from Double D Trailers is a much better option. It is painted white and made of a single molded piece of fiber composite material that is designed for strength and temperature control.
Solution: It is important to find a trailer with the correct type of roofing system. A roof with an extra sheet of aluminum can help cut down on the heat transfer from the hot sun above. The two layers of metal will be separated by insulation.
Also, look for a trailer roof that is painted white to reflect away heat. The SafeBump roof system from Double D Trailers is a great option because it is made of one piece of fiber-composite material so it cannot leak, is insulated, and is flexible in case your horse were to rear up and bump his head.
9. Aluminum Dividers Are Weak At Welding Points
Aluminum is also a poor choice of material to use for the interior dividers of your horse trailer. This weak metal tends to break at the weld point during accidents.
Solution: Overall, steel is a much safer option than aluminum. The downside of steel is that it tends to rust. Instead, choose the Z-Frame Technology dividers from Double D Trailers, which combine strength with long-lasting durability.
10. Little Interior Padding Means Lots of Scrapes and Cuts
Brad shared, “It is amazing how many large, well known brands produce trailers without any padding in the horse area on some of their models.” Without this important padding, your horse is surely going to get cuts and bruises during their regular travels. Brad continued, “If it’s a trailer that doesn’t even have padding, walk away immediately and shop for something else.”
Solution: Look for padding that is at least 1” thick. At Double D Trailers, they prefer 2” thick handmade padding on all dividers and walls.
Adequate padding is often overlooked in some trailer brands. This can lead to many scrapes and bruises for your horse.
11. Some Wall Linings Don’t Measure Up
Most trailer manufactures only use a rubber wall lining that is only 3/16” thick. Horses that paw can eventually pull the thin rubber away exposing the mechanical fasteners below. This can lead to cuts for your horse.
Solution: Look for walls that have lining at least 30” from the flooring. It is best to find lining that is made of a petroleum product that is at least 1/2” thick. The break-resistant SafeKick wall system from Double D Trailers is a great option here to prevent injury, protect the trailer walls, and protect your horses’ delicate legs.
12. Did You Enjoy Your ‘Trip’ Out the Door?
Walking in and out of your dressing room can become a ‘trip’ to remember if you are constantly catching your toe on the entryway lip. Not only does this create an injury hazard, it is also difficult to sweep out the interior of your dressing room.
Solution: The floors on Double D Trailers dressing rooms have been raised up so the floor and the doorway are flush. This eliminates the toe-trip hazard and allows you to easily sweep out your trailer.
13. Window Latches That Only Michael Jordan Can Open
Often, the window latches on the outside of your horse trailer are extremely high off the ground. You may require an upside down bucket stool to reach them and this can become a pain over time.
Solution: The Double D Trailer windows have a latching system that is located mid-way down the height of the window so it is much easier to reach.
Brad demonstrates the easy open latch system on his windows.
Brad’s #1 Piece of Advice
Brad shared, “The biggest items I encourage customers to look for are insulated roofs, insulated sidewalls, see-through tubular dividers, large windows all around, and, if it’s a slant load, a rear tack design that is ‘workable.’”
He went on, “Most trailers that are constructed of any sort of steel frame are going to be safer in an accident than aluminum framed trailers. Manufacturers and designers are top notch when it comes to building trailers that are eye catching sitting on the dealer lot, but often, the product may fail long term particularly in a high stress situation.”
Hopefully, these tips will help you find the right trailer to meet your needs. Remember that Brad is always available to discuss custom horse trailers if you’re interested in designing a trailer through Double D Trailers.
- What is the worst design flaw you’ve seen in a trailer?
- Do you have a Double D Trailer with one of these solutions? Can you share your experiences?