Written by Rachael Kraft, Last Updated January 2023
Maybe it’s cheating to take horse trailers with living quarters to horse gatherings, but who wouldn’t rather sleep in a nice warm, dry bed instead of a tent, especially when a sudden spring storm decides to drop thousands of gallons of water in the middle of the night? Or maybe you’ve had a long day on the trail and your derriere needs a nice soft couch to give it back its original shape.
No matter what the other horse fanciers say, if you travel with your horse – either very long distances, or just a few nights - even minimal living quarters are a necessity. Hotels and motels, though extremely comfortable and convenient, are not an option when traveling with horses.
A horse trailer with living quarters is an extension of the RV, or recreational vehicle. In fact, it is a purpose-built vehicle incorporating safe conditions to transport your horse, and a variety of levels of comfort for you and your family or friends.
There are many amenities that can be incorporated into a horse trailer with living quarters. Here are our eight essentials, with four “nice-to-haves” as a bonus.
But first, just where and when did we discover we needed to travel with our horses, and require living quarters?
It seems humans have been transporting horses in some form or another for thousands of years! The Bayeux Tapestry shows horses being unloaded by soldiers during William the Conqueror's invasion of England in 1066. William’s troops transported more than 3000 horses across the English Channel…by rowboat!
The first incidence of transporting horses by carriage, called vanning, dates to 1771. An adapted horse-drawn van was created to spare the famed British racehorse Eclipse from the long journey to the stud farm. Thus, ended one historic career and began the official history of the “horse trailer”.
Trailer models have evolved over the past seventy-odd years from open boxes on wheels to the comparative comfort of the horse trailers we know today.
But when did we start combining the horse transportation, and the comforts of home for the humans doing the driving?
Did you know that Westfalia - the German company known all over the world for their small RV camper vans - began building horse trailers in 1927? They then expanded to box trailers and camper vans, but their beginnings were in horse trailers.
In the 1960s, as trail riding became more popular, the demand to conveniently haul horses increased as well. Then came the evolution of the living quarters trailer. Living quarters allowed you to camp and sleep inside the same trailer you used to transport the horses.
Today, these trailers are often equipped with refrigerators, microwaves, televisions, and many more features. Almost any layout is available, including full bathrooms and room slide-outs.
By the mid-1990s, the horse and horse trailer industry had grown to a multi-billion-dollar market. Manufacturing companies across the country continued to improve on materials, and quality went up, and pricing became more affordable. The living quarters found in these horse trailers rival some of the most luxurious RVs on the road today.
The Recreational Vehicle Industrial Association, or RIVA, oversees the manufacture and conformity of many kinds of recreational vehicles, including horse trailers. Horse trailers with living quarters manufactured in the US should be certified for safety according to standards and regulations. A sticker on the trailer means it has been built to these standards and means everything is built to code, including the plumbing, propane, and electrical wiring.
Today, horse trailer prices make it possible for almost anyone to provide safe and reliable transportation for their special equine friends, and comfortable living arrangements for the humans!
Just like any custom-built vehicle, there is a lot of choice when it comes to the absolute essentials. Essential can means something completely different for each of us.
But we’ve come up with a short-list of amenities and features that we think are hard to beat, and from our client’s experiences, these are the things you should consider too.
Here is our list of the eight essentials a horse trailer with living quarters requires:
When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go. Although toilets are a little extra work (finding dumping stations and emptying tanks can be problematic), it’s more than worth it to avoid questionable porta-potties and limited campground bathrooms.
Anyone who has ever travelled in any recreational vehicle knows how happy they are to have their own washroom - or at least a toilet - within a few feet of them. In fact, the absence of a toilet – or the difficulty in finding one when it’s needed – is very often the main reason why certain people don’t travel. Some people have serious medical problems, and this often prevents them from leaving the house, let alone traveling long distances.
And let’s face it, who doesn’t like the convenience of a toilet on a cold and windy morning when you just “gotta go” and then you just “gotta go” …. right back to bed!
Our opinion? Don’t even think twice about any living quarters horse trailers that list a toilet as an option.
For most people, this is going to mean both heating and air conditioning, but that will largely depend on where your travels take you.
After a long day in the heat, there is nothing better – or more refreshing – than being able to sleep in a cool dry bed.
For those cool to cold nights, a propane furnace – or heat from the AC unit - is also recommended. That cozy feeling is a luxury when you’re on the road, and it is surprisingly fast how your living quarters heat up.
There is no danger to using a propane furnace either…but make sure you have the proper detectors installed, or verify if they come standard with the trailer, which is usually the case.
There’s nothing like air conditioning to suck the humid air right out of your living quarters, and heating with anything besides a central furnace can be dangerous in tight spaces.
The more, the merrier when it comes to places to stash your necessary supplies. You probably will be traveling with the minimum for, but it certainly helps to have room for your things, plus room for food and beverages.
Look for living quarters that utilize all the available wall space possible for cabinetry -- if the seating has hidden storage under the cushions, so much the better. You can really compromise on floor space in horse trailers with living quarters if there are plenty of spots to tuck everything.
If you plan on camping at a campground facility or another type of organized grouping of trailers, you may be able to find a place to plug in your trailer using the power cord and an adapter, if required.
But if you travel a lot, the chances are good that you’re going to find yourself without power one of these days. If you have the funds, a built-in invertor/generator can provide all the power you’ll need for any length of visit. It is possible to have a separate generator as well, but generally they are very noisy. Neither you nor your horse will probably get much sleep, but it is reassuring to have some source of electricity.
Solar panels are also a great option but need to be properly installed and maintained. Plus, you’ll need sunshine or at least bright daylight to charge them.
You’ve already sprung for the living quarters! Don’t skimp on the basics when it comes to your appliances. A mini refrigerator, smooth gas-fired cooking surface, and a microwave will make it easier to eat healthy meals while you’re away from home. A gas-fired cooking stove (using propane) is convenient, but you may want to have the option of being able to hook it up outside as well to avoid cooking smells that linger. Did anyone say fried onions?
You really, really want a shower if you’re going to be gone for more than a weekend. A “full bathroom” - even a small one - complete with shower is a level of luxury that you will appreciate on the road.
It doesn’t have to be fancy - and it doesn’t even have to be indoors – a cowboy shower will work in a pinch -- but by the third or fourth day without a shower, you’ll be begging for heavy rain and a bar of soap.
A shower in a horse trailer with living quarters is a great feature, made only better by it being a corner mounting which gives you extra room.
If you opted for gas-operated appliances and possibly a gas furnace, it’s a good idea to add an extra-large propane tank. Adding this little luxury will spare you the hassle of trying to refill your tank while on the road.
Most refill places are for RVs and are sometimes difficult to access because they are often near RV parks. This may make it difficult to get in and out of – there are often lineups – so it’s better to have the largest tank that you can safely carry. Plan for your fill-ups or look up online-apps to find the nearest one when you’re in need of propane.
Also, don’t forget that if you ever have to take a ferry with your horse trailer with living quarters, make sure you close all valves to your propane tank.
Yes, outlets can be optional equipment in horse trailers with living quarters -- so make sure you ask, especially if you’re building a custom horse trailer. You might not need very many, depending on the size of your living quarters, but better too many than too few. With all our devices – tablets, cell phones and Bluetooth speakers – a dedicated jack with your chargers can be a time-saver.
There are a few items that didn’t make the essentials list, but we thought we’d mention them all the same. Everyone has their thing – that “one” thing that they know will just make their lives easier while out on the road. Here are four of our favorites.
It’s important to have good lighting for tasks such as preparing food and working on or fixing a piece of tack or gear in the evening. But it’s also nice to have some reading lights to provide a nice ambiance, and to relax after a long day in the hot sun.
Easy-clean vinyl flooring in living area is a time-saver, and comfy on the feet. But we like a cozy carpet for the bedroom area – it’s always nice to get out of bed and touch a comfortable floor, even if it’s hot outside.
What’s better than listening to your horse? Listening to your favorite (dare I say?) cowboy songs! Just kidding…Go ahead, you can play ANY kind of music. While you’re at it, ask your horse what kind of music they prefer?
Nothing is more satisfying than a great warranty or guarantee on an already-great product. It just brings you peace of mind knowing that the manufacturer is dependable and responsible for their product, no matter how well-built it is.
What are your essential items you’d like to have in your horse trailer with living quarters? Do you agree with our suggestions? Do you have any of your own? Over the years, we’ve been asked to provide some challenging features in some of our customer’s horse trailers. Suffice to say, we’ve never backed down from a good challenge!
In fact, the bottom line is that no matter what essentials you choose, it goes without saying that the most important are durability and safety. Keep your family and your horses in mind when choosing your trailer, no matter what other features or bells and whistles you’re thinking of adding. You may have to make some compromises, but hey, that’s what makes life interesting, right?
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