Bumper Pull Horse Trailers: Safe or Dangerous?


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Our neighbor is shopping for his first horse trailer, and safety is his primary concern. So he focused on gooseneck trailers because he heard they are better and safer than bumper-pull trailers. But after finding out the difference in price between these two options, he asked me if bumper pull trailers are safe to use as well?

In general, bumper-pull horse trailers are safe for transporting horses. But there are many different types of trailers, and some designs can be safer than others depending on what you’re looking to do. If you plan to haul a lot of horses over long distances, then gooseneck trailers are preferable.

The best way to get one or even two horses from point A to point B is usually in a bumper-pull trailer. There are many benefits to owning a bumper-pull trailer, but they’re not without their risks.

Picture of a two horse bumper-pull horse trailer.

Horse trailer safety: Bumper-pulls’

One might think that because a horse trailer is “just” for horses, it’s not important to make sure it’s safe. But in reality, safety should be the number one priority when transporting any animal.

As with most things concerning horses and their care, there are many variables to consider when determining if a bumper pull-horse trailer is safe or not.

The key feature that makes today’s bumper pull horse trailer safe is the hitch. The hitch secures the receiver and prevents dangerous swaying of the trailer as it travels down the road.

A bumper pull-horse trailer – also called a straight pull trailer or tagalong trailer – has a frame hitch bolted directly to the towing vehicle’s frame. You may find my article on weight-distributing hitches helpful, which provides additional safety when towing bumper-pull trailers.

Many people wonder – ‘are bumper pull horse trailers safe’ probably because they have heard about the superior stability of gooseneck trailers. In this article, I give some tips on choosing a safe horse trailer and advise you on how to increase the chance you have a safe haul.

I also compare gooseneck and bumper trailers and whether it’s practical or safe to tow a four-horse or living quarters bumper pull trailer?

8 characteristics of a safe horse trailer.

Here are some of the characteristics you should look for before purchasing a horse trailer, whether you’re on the hunt for a used or new trailering rig.

Yes, modern bumper pull horse trailers are very safe due to the following reasons:

1.      Small and compact sizes

Straight pull or tagalong trailers are safe because they are small and compact (depending on the style and size you choose, of course). The smaller ones are ideal for carrying one or two horses.

2.      Uniform weight distribution

Another safety feature of bumper pull horse trailers is that they are designed to carry the horses’ weight evenly over the axle. This uniform weight distribution reduces strain on the towing vehicle, which, in turn, makes it easy to maneuver.

3.      Excellent braking and emergency break-away system

Another reason why newer model horse trailers are safe is that they come with electric brakes. The different set of brakes allows the towing vehicles to stop suddenly. Many even include break-away systems backed by a rechargeable battery, which helps you stop when the trailer gets detached from the vehicle.

4.      Lights

Powerful lights on modern bumper pull horse trailers make the vehicle easy to see and make it easy for the driver to see under dark, foggy, low-light conditions. Many of the newer trailer models are lit up like a Christmas tree. You can also separately install LED lights to enhance visibility.

5.      Sound-dampening and insulating features

When you select trailers with insulated roofs, your horses will feel safer and also warmer in cold weather. You certainly don’t want to make your animals uncomfortable while hauling them on a highway under cold and noisy conditions. Sound dampening and insulation can keep you and your horses safe.

6.      Superior air-flow and breathability

Modern pull-along trailers also come with well-placed vents that keep the interiors well-ventilated. Having sufficient airflow when traveling is critical and ensures your horses can breathe in the fresh air and not feel suffocated; this is especially true for hauling our horses in hot and humid Louisiana.

7.      Extra escape door

Many new bumper-pull horse trailers are equipped with an extra escape door up at the front side. These doors give us who load horses another outlet to escape quickly when a horse gets nervous or scared by something.

Picture of a bumper-pull horse trailer with its rear doors open showing the dividers,

8.      Well-designed doorways and extra dividers

And lastly, some bumper-pull horse trailers feature well-designed doors that open wide and make loading and off-loading horses easy. Having a spacious entry for your horses is especially beneficial when transporting young, untrained horses. Additionally, they come with extra dividers towards the ends, which let you secure your horses and prevent escapes.

These eight features increase the safety and security of bumper pull horse trailers and safety is paramount when it comes to selecting a trailer for hauling horses. Recently, I wrote an article on the 10 Best Bumper Pull-Horse Trailers on the Market. So check out that article if you’re in the market for a bumper pull horse trailer.

How do you know if a horse trailer is safe?

Every responsible horse owner must carry out the following steps without fail before hauling horses in their horse trailer:

1.      Make sure the size is right

Buy a horse trailer tall enough to allow your horse to move its head comfortably. I recommend one at least seven feet high for standard-sized horses, but if you have large horses, make sure it’s even taller. Your time and money spent on vet bills because of injuries in a too-small trailer are not worth saving right now – invest more when necessary!

2.      Inspect the trailer before each use.

Before every use:

  1. Inspect the trailer before you transport your horse/s.
  2. Check the floors to ensure that the slats are undamaged. If they are, please have them replaced; otherwise, your horse could get injured.
  3. Check the walls and make sure nothing is protruding that could hurt them.

3.      Think about your animals’ needs.

Before every trip, equip the trailer with water, food, and a first-aid kit. If needed, wrap the horses’ legs before trailering. You can tie your horse in the trailer, but use a proper snap, halter, and lead rope.

4.      Check the tire and mechanics of the trailer and tow vehicle.

The last thing you want is a blown tire or other emergencies. So, check your towing vehicle and trailer, especially tire pressure and oil. And make sure you have a roadside emergency kit.

5.      Be mindful of how you drive.

Safe driving is critical when towing a horse trailer. It’s essential for your safety as well as the safety of your horses. After all, they are your responsibility, so you don’t want to spook them with braking, jolts, and sudden stops. If possible, take frequent stops, comfort your horse/s, talk to them, and check on them.

Which is better, bumper-pull or gooseneck horse trailer?

The following table will show you the advantages and disadvantages of both types so you can decide for yourself

FeatureBumper Pull HorseGooseneck
HitchHitch is under the rear bumper.The hitch is in the truck bed.
   
Towing vehicleBumper pull horse trailers can be used with any towing vehicle, including an SUV and some cars.Open bed pickup trucks
   
Ease of maneuvering and turningTurns and tight corners are easier with bumper pull horse trailersEasier to back up and maneuver in small spaces.
   
StabilityLess stableGreater stability than bumper pull horse
   
Potential for swayingMoreLess
   
Potential to tip towing vehicleLess potential of tippingGreater tongue weight can tip the towing vehicle
   
   
PriceCheaperPricier

Is it practical and safe to have living quarters in a bumper pull horse trailer?

You can have living quarters in the bumper pull horse trailer, but please make sure that it is safe for your horses and your tow vehicle is rated to pull it. Horse trailers with living quarters are heavy and often exceed standard trucks pulling capacity.

I don’t recommend buying a bumper-pull horse trailer with living quarters. If you need a horse trailer with living quarters, buy a gooseneck, they are much safer for you and your horse.

If you are dead set on getting a bumper-pull with living quarters, make sure it’s large enough for your needs and designed correctly. You don’t want cramped up space or moving/falling parts that could endanger you, your animal.

Also, please make sure the entry opens to give adequate room for loading and unloading your horses. Again, a gooseneck might be better if you need more space to sleep or a tack storage area.

Conclusion

The best choice in a horse trailer is one that makes you feel safe and comfortable. It is a myth that bumper pull horse trailers are unsafe. That is not the case. Bumper-pulls with large windows can be more comfortable for horses, and they are also stable and easier to maneuver.

The point I am trying to make is that you don’t have to spend money on a gooseneck for just one or two horses – a bumper can do the job just as safely, if not more!

FAQ

Is a 4-horse bumper-pull trailer safe?

Four-horse bumper-pull trailers are long–nearly 25 to 30-feet; this makes maneuverability a significant concern. Most experts recommend gooseneck trailers for three or more horses owing to their greater stability.
Having said that, it is a matter of personal preference and experience too. If you shop carefully, follow all safety rules, then even a long 4-horse bumper pull can be reasonably safe.

Miles Henry

I love animals! Especially horses, I've been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I have bought, sold, and broke racehorse yearlings. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn't make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines. Miles Henry

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