Traveling to live events is one of the highlights of our yearly schedule. It gives us the chance to meet customers face-to-face and answer questions. It also gives us a little bit of time to check out some of the other manufacturers’ trailer models on display. We often notice that builders take short-cuts in their process.
To put it bluntly… we see a lot of “fast and cheap” horse trailers.
Often, cutting corners on trailer designs, using cheaper building materials, and skipping steps is all done in an effort to build a lot of trailers in a short amount of time. This allows for a lower price point which is often attractive to buyers.
Fast and cheap is the exact opposite of our philosophy here at Double D Trailers. So, in the spirit helping our readers learn to spot the difference, here are some of the “fast and cheap” features we noticed on other competitors’ trailers at this year’s World Horse Expo in Harrisburg, PA.
A pre-bought, prefabricated door is often not a good choice for either your horse or a human. These doors – often side escape doors – can be flimsy and easily bent from the inside. Builders will just buy a door and bolt it on without any special safety consideration.
For instance, we saw one escape door on a 2 horse bumper pull model. The door was located near the horse’s head so it could easily be kicked out with a front hoof. Besides damaging the trailer, this also poses a safety risk to your horse because the bent kicked corner would likely contain sharp edges. With a simple door latch, it might even pop open during travel!
Instead: Look for a sturdy reinforced door with a double latch system on the outside. This will prevent your horse from bending the door and also keep the door securing closed during travel.
When you put our trailers next to other brands, you will immediately notice the high number of metal rivets across the other trailers. Why do other brands use these? Well, think of an assembly line. Builders will stamp out the metal skin with rivet holes and then a second person will zoom down the line and secure rivet after rivet with an electric rivet gun.
There are several problems with rivets. The skin tends to buckle and warp with temperature changes which enlarges holes around the metal rivets over time. This allows moisture into your trailer. Plus, this skin type creates more metal-on-metal noise during travel
Instead: We use a 3M chemical bonding system. Our workers have to actually clean each structural post by hand and individually make sure the oils are off. Then we have to wipe the backside of the skin sheet to make sure it’s clean. Tape is applied to every seam and then pressure is held for about 30 minutes to secure the bond. Sure, it takes much longer, but this system prevents moisture, allows for temperature fluctuation and is extremely strong. Check out this great video to see the power of 3M bonding in action!
While touring, we noticed there were several horse trailer ceilings that could easily be reached by a 5’7” person standing flat-footed (that’s us, btw.) That’s just too low for your horse and they are likely to hit and injure their heads.
Instead: Our trailers start with a 7’4” height which comes standard. Then, we offer 7'6" heights for horses up to 16.2 hands and 7'8" for 17+ hand Warmbloods or large breeds. Walk in our trailer, and the same person had to take a mighty leap to sweep their fingers across the ceiling.
This was one of the most common offenders we saw at the show and also one of the most dangerous. A mill-finished ceiling is built with a long roll of aluminum that is unfurled like a sheet of tin-foil. The entire perimeter is lined with screws or fasteners every 3" apart. That's a lot of screws and each one is caulked individually. On a small 2 horse bumper pull traier, that's around 180 potential leak points. In addition, this ceiling type is not overly strong. More importantly, it acts as a conductor of heat to increase the temperature for your horse to dangerous levels.
Instead: We use a single piece fiber composite roofing system called SafeBump. It has no seams, no caulking or fasteners -- which means there is no potential for leaking. Plus, it flexes upon impact but is also reinforced with our Z-frame supports. Best of all, it is insulated and painted white to keep the temperature of your trailer nice and cool.
Some of the models around our booth were black on black on black. They used black plastic polylining as a main building material for the interior walls of the trailer. Not only is this not a very strong material, the black color creates a dark and uninviting atmosphere for your horse.
Instead: Use white materials. Plus, don’t build trailer walls out of plastic. It’s that simple.
We saw many trailers with dressing room doors that would easily trip up their owners. It’s a simple thing to raise the floor of the dressing room up a few inches. But that’s too much work for some of our “fast and cheap” competitors. Instead, they leave the floor at original height which leaves a 2-3 inches doorframe on the dressing room entry that people must step over.
Instead: We raise the floor of the dressing room so it is flush with the door frame.
Now, in all honesty, we don’t know why other ramps on trailers were so steep. It’s not necessarily an issue of speed or laziness. But it does create a very steep hazard for horse and handler.
Instead: We hinge our ramps on the lowest point to create a gentler incline for loading and unloading.
Some of our competitors do not take the time to block out wheel wells where a horse could easily stick a foot and injure themselves.
Instead: Close that gap!
Many of the other trailers had aluminum flooring with heavy rubber mats on top. We’ve talked before about the safety problems with metal flooring. We saw very few other trailers with safer alternatives. However, we did see at least one trailer with WERM flooring – which again, is not the best option. Metal floors need support beams set close together down the length of the floor to provide enough support. This tends to be a very stiff floor that can be tough on your horse’s legs and joints.
We even saw one trailer with a set of “interlocking metal boards” for a floor. They claimed it was like a support beam every 6-inches. What they weren’t telling you is that they actually removed the real support beams that are usually under this type of metal floor. This allows the builders to keep production time down because they actually decrease the number of chassis support beams running across the bottom of the trailers. Plus, this metal flooring type requires an extrusion on the bottom corner of the floor which is sticking out into the horse area.
Instead: First of all, our trailers use a Z-Frame chassis which is much stronger than an aluminum chassis. Second, we use support beams every 16-inches and then bolt Rumber or treated pine lumber on top. (Rumber and lumber don’t need support beams so close together because the materials are much stronger!) This creates a well-supported and strong floor.
It also doesn’t “over-support” the floor. In other words, you want a floor that will cushion your horse’s legs as they travel over bumpy roads. Think of it like running on concrete all day verses running in a soft field.
One trailer brand is known as the “best of the best” but we were immediately disappointed to see they didn’t have safety releases on their butt bars. If a horse were to get a leg over the bar, they would have a hard time getting free.
Instead: Our butt and chest bars all have safety releases. But, even better, our SafeTack slant load models are designed without butt and chest bars altogether.
Venturing into one of our competitor’s living quarters we were disappointed with the quality of the interior. Much of the interior was vinyl wrapped and plastic.
Instead: Our SafeTack Reverse Living Quarters trailer is built with wood cabinets and crown molding. This feature comes standard.
Now, we don’t tell you all of this information to trash-talk our competitors. We got to see some really beautiful trailers. The problem is this. To the uneducated eye, a beautiful trailer with an attractive low price might feel like the perfect fit. But, we want you to see past a trailer’s shiny exterior and look at the safety features that really matter. That way, you are spending your well-earned money on a trailer that will last for years and keep your horses well protected.
If you have any questions about the “fast and cheap” features in this article or the Double D Trailers alternatives we have available, please get in touch with Brad Heath today.
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