Aluminum horse trailers have plenty of appeal when they’re sitting on a sales lot hot off the assembly line, but fail miserably when it comes to roadway safety. Not all trailers are created equal when it comes to actual safety on the roadways. Brad Heath, owner and head designer of Double D Trailers explained, “Aluminum framed trailers are not going to be near as safe as steel framed trailers in the case of an accident.”
Is your trailer designed to protect your horse in the case of a traffic accident? Let’s look at the top features every buyer should look for to ensure that their new horse trailer is durable … and above all SAFE … when traveling on the road.
Traffic accidents with horse trailers are horrific to consider, but they do happen. Your choice of trailer materials will mean the difference between a trailer that crumbles like a soda can and one that maintains its shape and forms a protective cage around your animals.
“Most people reach out to us looking for a trailer that is strong, safe, light-weight, and non-rusting,” Brad explained. “Aluminum does fulfill light weight and non-rusting, but it can be unsafe in accidents. Steel frame trailer are very durable, safe.
“The best option overall is Z-frame. From a strength perspective, it beats aluminum hands down in tensile rating. Plus, it’s still lightweight and there isn’t the issue of ‘cracking’ in the welds which aluminum is prone to do over the years.”
Learn more about the pros and cons of aluminum, steel, and z-frame trailer frames here.
After you’ve chosen the strongest and most protective material for your trailer, you should find a trailer that will help prevent accidents all together. Not all horse trailers are designed with the same attention to towing safety and handling.
For example, we found several instances of very unsafe bumper pull horse trailers with living quarters that had excessively high tongue weights. A tow vehicle that is pulling a trailer with too high of a tongue weight risks steering problems and even complete hitch failure. These trailers are aggressively sold by dealers without any consideration of actual towing safety.
That is why we strongly stress the importance of properly matching your tow vehicle and hitch to your trailer. In addition, our trailers are specifically designed so that the weight balance from hitch to bumper is properly balanced for the wheel axles and hitch to handle.
We also purposely place rear tail lights high up on the rear of the trailer so that brake and turn signals can be clearly seen by following cars. This reduces the chances of a rear end collision.
Sometimes, horses become excited inside of your trailer and put themselves into very awkward and even dangerous positions. We heard a story of one horse who was so determined to get out of his parked trailer that he tried to leap forwards through the opened manger door getting stuck half way through!
If your horse manages to put himself in a compromised position, it’s important that your trailer be designed to let him safely escape. First of all, the butt and chest bars need to have quick release pins that allow the bar to be lowered even with the full weight of the horse on top.
Next, the interior dividers in the trailer should never be made of aluminum since it can twist and bend into jagged metal scraps when force is applied. Instead, look for dividers that are strong and durable such as our Z-frame dividers!.
Some trailer walls are made of a single layer of weak aluminum that horses can actually punch a leg through with a strong kick. Instead, look for walls made of double layer insulated material like 16-guage Galvalite.
The ceiling of your horse trailer should also be made of a double layer of insulated material. Single layer mill-finished aluminum roofs are a terrible material to use because they concentrate the heat of the sun and raise the interior temperature of your trailer to dangerously high levels. Plus, mill-finished aluminum ceilings are weak and a rearing horse could punch his head through the ceiling.
Instead, check out the benefits of our SafeBump roof made of a single piece of leak-proof fiber composite material. It is painted white to reflect away heat and flexes when impacted to protect your horse’s head in the case of a rear.
Finally, choose a flooring material that will minimize fatigue, heat transfer, and road vibration. We highly recommend treated lumber or synthetic Rumber as the best two options. Once again, aluminum is a very bad choice of flooring material because it corrodes over time causing the potential for disastrous floor failures.
The last piece of the trailer puzzle has to do with your horses’ stress levels while towing. There are a few things to look for so that you can find a horse trailer that your horses will actually like.
One of the top things to ease your horse’s mind is to find a trailer that is light and open so he feels less stress when loading and unloading. Our SafeTack design easily solves this problem with a tack storage area that swings out like a second door. Horses are left with a very wide open and non-threatening space to load and unload. There is even room to fully turn your horse around during unloading.
Read about more benefits of the SafeTack slant load horse trailer design here.
For safety while on the road, first, look for a trailer that does not have bolts, screws, or other types of mechanical fasteners to hold the skin onto the trailer frame. These fasteners create a noisy metal-on-metal sound while the trailer is in motion and can elevate a horse’s stress levels. Instead, look for trailers that use a 3M chemical bonding system for a quieter ride.
Next, find a trailer that has tubular head dividers for increased air flow and visibility. The slats between the tubes let your horse see his travel companions and feel less claustrophobic. Many solid head dividers make the trailer interior dark and feel more confining for your horse.
The right kind of windows can also help promote better light and airflow. Make sure that the windows are easy to open and close. We like the type with a mid-latch system that can be reached easily from the outside. Plus, find a variety that does not need caulking for waterproofing.
Finally, the interior surfaces of the trailer should be thickly padded and lined to protect your horse from scrapes and bruises while he is traveling. Horses will lean up against the walls and dividers to help with balance while the trailer is in motion. Some trailers have zero padding and thin 3/16” wall linings that can easily expose sharp metal fasteners.
Instead, we recommend looking for thick 1” to 2” padding covering a ½” wall lining that goes up 30” from the floor.
If you look for these features on your new trailer, you will be ensuring a much safer trailer experience for your horse each time he steps on board!