Written by Rachael Kraft, Last Updated August 2022
When horses are forced into unsafe trailers with design flaws, accidents are bound to happen. Horses have fallen through the flimsy floors while the trailer is moving, kicked their legs through metal dividers and walls, and gotten trapped inside trailers during road accidents.
Hearing about frightening accidents like these shows horse owners just how important it is to choose a trailer that has all the necessary safety features. Any trailer that you are transporting your horse in needs to be safe and to be able to protect your horse from dangers on the road.
When it comes to the design and build of your horse trailer, there are lots of horse trailer features that are innovative and help keep your horse comfortable and safe in the trailer. But, there’s also dangerous features that can increase your horse’s risk of injury on the road. When choosing a horse trailer, avoid these dangerous features and make sure your trailer has the essential safety features.
In this article…
After hearing about so many different road accidents, Brad Heath, owner of Double D Trailers, realized that most of these accidents were preventable. With the right safety features on a trailer, you can keep your horses safe and protected during travel. He explained, “the trailers we’ve designed at Double D Trailers are backed by research and testing. Our goal is to build you to safest trailer possible, regardless of the cost.”
Since horse trailering can be one of the most dangerous activities your horse will encounter, having a safe and reliable trailer is absolutely essential. Unfortunately, there are lots of trailer on the market that lack the necessary safety features. To keep your horses safe, make sure your horse trailer has these essential safety features…
Before you let your horse load into your trailer and set out on the road, make sure your trailer meets all these important safety requirements:
A safe trailer has a wide-open loading area that gives both the handler and the horse enough room to load and unload safely. Don’t buy a trailer with a narrow opening that you have to squeeze yourself and your horse through to load and unload. This is a recipe for disaster and could lead to serious injury.
One of the best options for safe loading practices is adding a second loading ramp on the side of the trailer (also known as a horse trailer escape door). This will make loading even easier and will provide you with multiple exits in case your horse gets startled while loading or unloading.
Double D Trailers have a SafeTack loading system that is specially designed to make the loading and unloading process as safe as possible. All trailers have a wide entryway that welcomes your horse into the trailer and eliminates the stress your horse faces during loading.
And since everyone needs a tack storage area, we repositioned the rear tack storage area. On Double D Trailers, the storage area is part of the horse trailer back door. Instead of having it built-in to the back of the trailer, the SafeTack storage area swings out like a second door, leaving you and your horse with plenty of space to enter and exit the trailer. That way, you get the best of both worlds – extra rear tack storage and a wide ramp entry that your horse will love.
And, to make the unloading process even safer, Double D Trailers have an extra final divider on the inside of the horse trailer that prevents your horses from bolting out of the trailer as soon as you open the horse trailer rear doors. With the rear divider secured, you can walk up to your horse confidently and wait till he’s settled and ready to unload.
Horse trailer dividers made of aluminum just aren’t strong enough to protect your horse in an accident. Aluminum is a weak material – in a road accident, aluminum dividers break at their welding points and can become sharp objects that your horse bumps into or gets stuck between.
Instead, choose a horse trailer that has dividers that are made of either steel or, better yet, a Z-frame material. In the case of an accident, horse trailer dividers made of strong materials like these will not bend or snap, but rather, maintain their shape and protect your horse.
When it comes to the best material for vehicles, aluminum is never a good option. In road accidents, aluminum offers little to no protection for the people in the vehicle. For trailers, it’s just as bad. Don’t put your horses at risk by buying an aluminum trailer. Keep them safe by finding a trailer that has a steel frame, or a Z-frame that will be stronger and more protective in the case of an accident.
Brad Heath recommends looking for a trailer with a steel frame. He says, “most trailers that are made with any type of steel frame are going to be much safer in the case of an accident. Aluminum framed trailers crumple like a soda can in road accidents, so avoid those at all costs.”
When your horse is able to see around him, he will be calmer and more relaxed during travel. Avoid trailers with solid head dividers, and choose instead a trailer with tubular dividers that allow your horse to see his surroundings.
At Double D Trailers, we got rid of the solid dividers around your horse’s head. In a Double D Trailer, your horse will always be able to see through the upper part of the stall divider, assuring that the horse trailer interior is well lit and well ventilated. The tubular head dividers are much better for your horse, they let him see his travel mates and allow for better airflow.
The trailer ramp is an important feature that you’ll use every time you use your trailer. That’s why it’s important to choose one that is made of quality non-slip materials. Find a ramp that has a “spring-assist” raising mechanism – this will make it much easier to raise and lower and can protect your back while you are putting the ramp into place.
Also, take a look at the space between the ramp and the trailer floor. Make sure the ramp is a good fit and there’s little to no gap between the surfaces. Having a ramp that has a wide gap can cause your horse’s foot to get stuck or you or your horse to trip while loading.
Some trailers only have a thin rubber lining that your horse will easily destroy in just a couple trips. Inadequate wall lining leaves sharp metal pieces exposed that can scrape your horse’s legs. Look for a trailer that has a petroleum product lining, and make sure it’s at least 30 inches from the floor. The best option is the SafeKick wall system from Double D Trailers that protects your horse’s legs with horse trailer padding made of a strong but flexible composite material.
Just like the wall lining mentioned above, your trailer should have horse trailer padding that covers sharp metal pieces that could cut, bruise, or scape your horse. The horse trailer divider pin should be covered with interior padding to protect your horse from unnecessary injury. If you find a trailer that doesn’t have padding on that’s at least two inches thick, don’t even consider it.
At Double D Trailers, we use thick handmade padding to cover all the dividers and also on the walls. The two-inch-thick horse trailer partition padding protects your horse from unnecessary injuries during transportation.
Trailers that have walls with just a single layer of sheet metal, especially if they are made of aluminum materials, can be dented and destroyed very quickly. With one swift kick, a horse can bust a leg through the wall, damaging himself and the trailer.
Find a trailer with walls that are made of 16-gauge Galvanite. This material is much stronger and will not be easily damaged. Your trailer walls should also have a double layer of material and insulation to keep inside trailer temperature safe and to provide extra protection.
Metal flooring is super heat conductive and can rust and become weak very quickly. Aluminum floors on the inside of a horse trailer can corrode and weaken so much that your horse’s leg could break through the floor and onto the road.
Wood flooring covered by a mat is a much better option for trailer floor material. Better yet, find a trailer with flooring made of recycled tire rubber and plastic. This Rumber flooring material is strong and durable and has minimal heat, noise, and vibration transfer from the road.
Look for a trailer with large windows and pop-up roof vents above each horse’s head. This allows for proper ventilation and will keep your horse trailer interior at a safe temperature, even on hot summer days. Also, make sure the inside of your trailer is painted white to help minimize extreme temperatures.
On the inside of a horse trailer, windows have two very important responsibilities – first, to make ventilation possible, and second, to bring light into the trailer and give your horse adequate visibility. Let’s talk first about ventilation.
Many trailers have design failures that can lead to extreme inside temperatures. Some trailers interiors can even get up to 140 degrees on hot summer days. This is obviously unsafe for your horse and can lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion.
This problem can be easily fixed if your trailer has enough windows and roof vents. There should be roof vents above each horse’s head, and a few good-sized windows. If your trailer doesn’t have enough windows, your horse will not get enough air circulation and will end up breathing in dust and other particles that blow around in the trailer. This can irritate your horse’s throat and nose and lungs.
Windows also allow for light and visibility. Being able to see is super important for your horse to feel comfortable and safe. If your horse can’t see what’s in front of him and around him inside of the horse trailer, he will start to become anxious and scared, and quickly switch to fight or flight mode.
If your trailer has large windows that bring enough light into the trailer, your horse will feel much safer and calmer. There should be windows in front of where your horse’s head is, so he can look out the window and so that there’s airflow to his nose area.
Sadly, some horse trailer manufacturers are more concerned with making a profit than with making a horse trailer that will keep you and your horse safe on the road. For that reason, many horse trailers come with dangerous flaws that can lead to serious accidents.
From horse trailer butt bars and chest bars that can trap your horse to noisy interiors that make for a stressful journey, even the little parts of your trailer can cause serious problems for your horse on the road. When searching for a trailer that will keep your horse safe, make sure to watch out for theses dangerous features:
Although butt and chest bars are intended to keep your horse where he’s supposed to be in the trailer, sometimes they do more harm than good. Many are poorly designed and become impossible to release if a horse puts all of his weight on it.
Your horse could get trapped underneath a poorly designed butt bar or get his leg stuck over the top of a horse trailer chest bar. This could cause your horse to get hurt trying to free himself from the butt bar or chest bar. Make sure you find a trailer with butt bars and chest bars that are able to release even with your horse’s full weight on top of the bar. Without a feature like this, it can be very tricky to help free your flustered horse without injuring him more.
The butt bars and chest bars inside Double D Trailers use a removable pin design. That way, even if your horse manages to put his full weight on top of the bar, you can still release the fastener.
Many trailers have solid dividers right at the horse’s head. That means that when your horse is loaded in the trailer, they can’t see anything besides the metal walls of the trailer. Not only does this type of head divider restrict airflow and light, it also makes your horse feel very claustrophobic.
Since horses are naturally claustrophobic animals, these poorly designed solid head dividers can make your horse feel trapped and stuck in the trailer. This can cause him to panic and rear up, hitting his head on the dividers or otherwise injuring himself.
Stationary rear tack areas that are built into the back of the trailer are very common, but also perhaps the most dangerous feature for loading your horse safely into the trailer. Although at first glance, you might think that putting a tack storage area there is a good use of wasted space, it creates a super narrow entryway for your horse when loading into the trailer.
It also makes the trailer look darker because of the lack of windows on the rear tack area portion of the trailer. This cramped, dark entryway can be frightening for your horse, transforming your trailer from a lovely new trailer to a scary dark hole.
The rear tack storage space can also create a safety hazard for both you and your horse. In trailers with these designs, when the trainer or handler finishes loading the horses into the trailer, they are left with very little space to move around and exit the trailer. This is dangerous because they can become trapped between the horse and the wall of the trailer or the tack storage area. If the horses get spooked or make a wrong move, they could be injured or injure the handler.
Overall, while the rear tack area might look great on paper, it’s a horrible situation in real life. It creates a narrow entryway that is stressful for your horses to enter and downright dangerous for you to enter because there’s just not enough space. Even if you train your horses to successfully load into these types of trailers, it’s very likely that your horses will be more stressed during travel, which could lead to health problems and dangerous unloading mishaps.
Many trailers that have the thin, flimsy aluminum walls mentioned above will also have roofs made out of single-sheet aluminum. This type of material is a horrible material choice for the roof because it heats up your horse trailer inside like a sauna on hot summer days.
In fact, Brad says, “aluminum is the absolute worst possible choice of material to cover a horse trailer!” That’s because it’s a great heat conductor – great for cooking hot dogs but not great for transporting your horses in the summer.
Trailers with aluminum roofs can heat up very quickly on hot travel days – making the inside temperature of your trailer very uncomfortable and unsafe for your horses. To maintain a safe inside temperature for your trailer, you need a roof with two layers of roofing metal with a layer of insulation inside.
Double D Trailers have a SafeBump roofing system that keeps your horses cool, safe, and protected. It’s made of just one piece of fiber-composite material, eliminating all possibilities of leakage. It’s painted white which means it reflects heat and it’s insulated to keep your horse at a healthy temperature. And, it’s flexible, so if your horse rears up and bumps his head, there will be less impact and your trailer will remain undamaged.
If you find a trailer that has little or no padding on the inside of the trailer, turn and run! Without horse trailer padding, it’s almost certain that your horse will be scraped, cut, or bruised during travel.
Sadly, many trailers just don’t offer enough padding for the inside of the horse trailer. Brad says, “the number of well-known trailer manufacturers that make trailers without any padding in the horse area is astounding. If you find a trailer that doesn’t have padding, don’t even consider buying it.” Brad recommends that interior padding should be at least two inches thick.
Did you know that the type of flooring in your trailer affects how stressed your horse is during travel? Some trailers have aluminum floors that are not only dangerous, but also are uncomfortable for your horse. These types of floors can rust and over time, they get weaker and weaker.
Eventually, they can become so weak and rusted that your horse’s leg could punch through the aluminum flooring and onto the road while your trailer is in motion. In addition to being a huge safety hazard, aluminum floors also transfer a ton of heat from the hot asphalt up to the trailer floor and into your horse’s legs. They also transfer the vibration from the road onto the trailer floor. This can cause your horse’s legs to tense up and also lead to excessive fatigue.
Aluminum is not a good choice of material for trailer flooring. A much better option is wood flooring, or better yet, synthetic Rumber flooring. Double D Trailers are made with this type of flooring, a recycled tire product that reduces heat transfer rate by 75%, has better insulation, and is easy to clean.
Horses are animals that are naturally startled quite easily – anything from claustrophobic spaces to strange objects to weird noises can scare them and put them on edge. Loud or unfamiliar noises can make them very anxious and jumpy.
Road travel is full of strange new noises that can make your horse stressed and startled. Cars honking, music blaring, gravel and rocks hitting the side of the trailer, all these noises can make your horse uncomfortable and scared.
If your trailer has good insulation, that can serve as a partial sound barrier to minimize the strength of the sounds your horse hears. But sometimes, it’s the horse trailer interior itself that’s making sounds that contribute to your horse’s stress.
Trailers that use bolts, screws, or mechanical fasteners to keep the inner and outer sheet metal together are extremely noisy. The metal-on-metal construction creates an almost constant scraping noise while your trailer is on the road. The rattling and creaking and screeching of the metal parts can cause your horse’s cortisol levels to rise. This extra noise can cause your horse extra stress.
But, with a simple fix, you can eliminate this noise and make your horse happier and calmer on the road. All you have to do is find a trailer that uses 3M chemical bonding. This is a type of construction that instead of using bolts, nails or screws to connect things, instead just bonds them together. It’s like a special “tape” that seals the metal together and completely eliminates the horrible screeching metal sounds your horse hates.
All Double D Trailers use this type of sealing mechanism. It’s extremely effective in creating a quieter and more enjoyable ride for your horse, and it’s a secure and long-lasting bond that helps your trailer last longer.
Regarding windows, when looking for a trailer it’s also important to take note of where the windows are located. They should be near where your horse’s head will be, but also, they shouldn’t be too high up. Many trailers have windows that are so far off the ground that without help, you can’t reach them to open them up. Having to find a bucket to stand on every time you want to open or close a trailer window is super annoying, so make sure you find a trailer with windows that are easily accessible.
Double D Trailers have windows with a special latching system that makes them super easy to open. The latching system is positioned in the middle of the window, so it’s easy to reach to open or close.
Brad Heath has spent years designing and perfecting the safest horse trailer possible. When asked what his number one piece of advice is for horse owners looking for a safe trailer, he said, “the biggest things I tell people to look for are insulated roofs and sidewalls, see-through tubular dividers, and big windows on all sides of the trailer.”
Most trailer manufacturers and designers put a lot of time and effort into building a trailer that’s beautiful and appealing, but not enough time making sure that trailer will keep your horse safe in an accident. When looking for a trailer, make sure you take the time to find one with all the safety features you need.
Double D Trailers are designed specifically to keep you and your horse safe. Everything from the SafeTack loading system to the Z-frame technology is specially designed to make for safe and calm travels. Take a look at the Safetack 2 Horse Gooseneck Trailer and check out all the safety features that make traveling even easier. If you have any questions about trailer safety, send Brad a message, he’d be happy to answer any questions you have and help you find the safest trailer option for your horses.
This article was written by Rachael Kraft and published on Wednesday, 6 April 2022.
What are the most important safety features for the inside of a horse trailer?
The most important features for your horse trailer inside are insulated roofs and sidewalls, horse trailer padding that’s at least two inches thick, see-through tubular dividers, and large windows on all sides of the trailer. These important features are essential for temperature regulation for the horse trailer interior and also minimize your horse’s stress during travel. Don’t even consider buying a horse trailer that’s missing one of theses important features!
What does a horse trailer butt bar do?
A horse trailer butt bar is a padded metal bar (or sometimes a padded metal chain) at the front or back of the stalls inside a horse trailer. Horse trailer butt bars are designed to keep your horse in the correct stall area, but if your horse becomes stressed and decided to rear up and kick out, he could get trapped on top of or underneath the butt bar. For that reason, you should only use trailers with removable safety pins, a horse trailer divider pin, or quick release features on the butt bars. The best option is a trailer that uses only horse trailer dividers without butt bars.
How much horse trailer padding should my trailer have?
Safe horse trailers have at least 30 inches (starting from the floor and measuring vertically) of interior wall padding to protect your horse from cuts and scrapes. The trailer should also have padding covering any and all sharp metal pieces that could injure your horse. The horse trailer dividers should also have padding covering the metal areas, and all horse trailer padding should be at least 2 inches thick.
What is a horse trailer escape door?
A horse trailer escape door is an extra exit located on one of the side walls of your horse trailer. This important feature is especially useful in slant load horse trailers, because it gives you another unloading option. The safest trailers brands have multiple escape doors on the sides and the front of the trailer, facilitating the unloading process, especially in emergency situations.
What type of horse trailer dividers are best?
When it comes to horse trailer dividers, you can choose between head, full, solid or open dividers. Head dividers, or standard dividers, have an open space at the bottom and mainly separate the upper bodies and heads of your horses. These are great for well-behaved horses that travel well. Full dividers are tough, full-length dividers that completely separate your horses during travel. This type of dividers is good for rowdy horses that don’t travel well. Solid dividers don’t allow your horse to see through the barrier, while open dividers have tubing that allows for better airflow and for your horse to see his surroundings. Double D Trailers uses open horse trailer dividers that give your horse a more comfortable travel experience.
Does Double D Trailers offer replacement horse trailer dividers?
In your custom horse trailer, you can use a combination of different horse trailer dividers, depending on the size and needs of your different horses. You can customize your horse trailer interior just the way you want. If you buy a new horse and want to change the interior dividers in your trailer, just let us know – Double D Trailers offers replacement horse trailer dividers for your custom horse trailer.
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