Sunday, April 14, 2013

On Buying a Horse Trailer

A very little Hola meeting a very large TB gelding, Dave.
Ever so often my obsessive tendencies pay off. I have spent the better part of the last two weeks searching horse ad sites, craigslist, kijjij-bee-jee-tee-jee (or however in the hell you say that) and local tack stores in hopes of finding a really good deal. While genetically only half Scottish, when it comes to being thrifty (read cheap) I am 100% pure blooded Scott. Horse trailers in my area are few and far between and priced about 20-30% higher than trailers found on the US side of the border. I knew that I was going to have to travel to find a good deal. Unfortunately, when you spend time and gas money traveling to see a trailer you have to put a certain amount of trust in the sellers description. The problem with that is that I have no such trust. My number one priority was to get a trailer that was safe to tow. To me this meant that the floor was completely sound and well installed. The coupling/jack/hitch what-chya-ma-call-it was in good working order, the structure of the trailer was 100% sound and the tires, bearings and brakes were recently serviced or new. When I was sixteen my friend was hauling my horse when one bad board snapped and my horses feet went through the floor of the trailer at 40km an hour. Needless to say it made an impression on my young mind. I set out to buy a safe, practical trailer in excellent condition. My max budget was $5000 but I really wanted to spend closer to $3500. I focused on trailers in WA state and I did the necessary research on the importing process wherein I discovered that I needed to buy a trailer that was 15-years or older in order to be exempt from a provincial inspection and two week import process that would have been more headache than it was worth in savings.

What I also quickly discovered in the shopping process was that the value of a horse trailer is subjective and can drive an obsessively practical and tight fisted Scott crazy. For example. I could buy a brand spanking new two-horse-angle haul for $4650. But I would have to go through that import process and when everything was said and done I would be close to $6000. However, almost all angle haul trailers in decent condition, regardless of age were priced at $3500 and up. So I could buy a new trailer for $4700 or a 12-year-old trailer for $3500. This just didn't make sense to me. The angle haul trailers over 15 years old (and therefor exempt from the import process) were also priced at about $3500. On the other hand, two horse straight haul trailers gave me considerably more bang for my buck. I could get something newer and in much better condition for $3500 than their angle haul counterparts. While I prefer angle hauls I knew that a straight haul was actually more practical as they weigh less and are therefor cheaper to haul, I have no need or desire for a big tack room, I only have smaller horses who are great to load and I only plan on hauling shorter distances. I also am likely to be hauling only one horse at a time and so I focused in on a straight haul with a swinging center divider that would allow me to haul one horse on an angle.

Now began my search for the ideal straight haul. After looking at dozens of straight hauls I found there were certain features that I really wanted, such as:

-a fully enclosed unit (because it rains here a lot and I want to keep the interior dry and in the winter it helps avoid freezing drafts on wet horses (whether wet from rain or sweat))

-removable and swinging center divider (so it can be converted to a 1 horse angle or small open stock)

- a solid divider between the hay mangers (as I don't want do deal with bitchy horses fighting over hay or unfamiliar horses snarking at each other...and yes, snarking is a word!)

-a larger/longer window at the front of the unit (to allow for more light)

-a window on the side of the hay manger (to allow horses to see out and provide more ventilation)

-no ramp or only a small ramp

-full padding on side, front and divider

-bulldog style coupler

I had other wish list items like a to-the-floor center divider, under-the-manger saddle racks and interior lights but only the above were requirements.

Narrowing my search down made it harder to find available trailers but allowed me to spend more time researching those trailers that did make the cut. Therein I found my second problem. Because I was looking at 1997 and older trailers it was likely that considerable refurbishing had taken place over the years. This meant that someone, however qualified or not, had redone the floor, the wiring, the brakes and heaven knows what else. I would have liked to have had the trailer inspected before purchasing but the schematics of actually arranging that is more problematic than one would think, such as, being 2-6 hours away and in a different country, the who, when, where, insurance, multiple trips to see the trailer, and making sure that the "good deal" trailer doesn't sell before you can arrange all of the above. This is where my horse trailer search was turned on its ear... so to speak. I called a few local trailer servicing outfits and figured out what it would cost to replace the floor, brakes and wiring on a trailer. I also added the cost of new tires and other small repairs. Ultimately, I found it far less stressful to buy a trailer with the intent to replace everything then to try to find one that I could count on being "perfect". A  luck would have it a trailer came on the market on Wednesday morning that fit the bill perfectly. It was a silver 1987 Circle J two horse straight haul. The ad said it was in excellent condition and it was just two hours from home in WA state. I made an offer around noon and had a deal subject to inspection by three. That evening we left home a little later then planned and headed South... to buy my very first horse trailer.


  1. Congrats! Can't wait to see it! Sure does sound like a nightmare shopping for a trailer though. But thankfully the shopping is done and now you can enjoy hauling your horses whenever and wherever you want!

  2. You know, I think I might be part Scottish! I went through a similar thought process when buying our trailer. It was like algebra with horse hair. So excited to hear you are getting a trailer! Even when my hors hauling has been limited, I've loved having a trailer. Can't wait to see it and hear more!

  3. While I was reading this post, I was thinking about my own trailer. A bumper pull, two horse, straight load, Circle J custom from 1992 or 1993. Sure it has seen some mileage before I got it, but it had a good floor. It needed new tires, has a few wiring issues (what trailer doesn't?) and for the most part- it's good to go. Center divider pops out, storm doors, bus windows, escape doors, windows on manger doors, roof vents, padding on the sides, front and divider, good mats, clean tack compartment and I got it for $500 less than the asking price. Bonus is that mine is tall, wide and my 16.2 mare fits inside with a bit of room to spare. It is easy to pull and I love it. I was going to reccommend you look at them and strongly consider one...

  4. Beautiful foto!
    I like horses so much!
    It's my favorite animals


  5. My daughter is really interested in getting a horse. It is good to know that if you are diligent and look around you can find a really good deal on a horse trailer. I don't want to spend a lot of money on a horse trailer when I don't know how serious my daughter is about riding her horses. I want to find an inexpensive trailer before spending a lot of money on a beginning hobby.