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For some horse owners, a horse trailer is as necessary as a saddle, but choosing the right one is challenging. Modern horse trailers offer many options, but the primary consideration is hitch type: gooseneck or bumper pull.
The best horse trailer towing style depends on what you want. Bumper-pulls are lighter, less expensive, and cheaper to haul. Goosenecks can handle more weight, offers better stability, and gives you more room for living quarters, tack, and horses.
There is a lot to consider when shopping for horse trailers, construction materials, flooring, slant load, or straight load, but the preliminary decision is gooseneck or bumper pull. Which is best for you?
Gooseneck or bumper-pull horse trailer: Pros and Cons
There are benefits and drawbacks to both gooseneck and bumper pull horse trailers. Choosing the right one involves more than just looking for the most stable ride for the horses.
It’s also necessary to look at what you want to do while using the horse trailer and what vehicle you choose to tow with.
The two primary types of horse trailers are gooseneck and bumper-pull. Both offer advantages, but I think the most important considerations are your comfort level towing and safety.
These tend to be very stable when towing. The trailer’s weight is distributed over the truck’s rear axle, which allows you to haul heavier loads than bumper-towing can.
On most trucks, the gooseneck ball is placed in the bed slightly behind the rear axles. The placement of the ball in the bed provides good stability. Stability is vital when pulling a horse trailer.
They have gooseneck rigs for one-ton trucks that are rated as much as 40,000 pounds. Even though the horses can’t move around much, there are horror stories about horse trailers’ accidents.
Even if the horse isn’t injured, it can scare an animal to the point that it refuses to get into a horse trailer again. The trailer’s stability when pulling is the biggest pro for a gooseneck trailer, but there are other advantages as well.
Having a hitch in the truck’s bed makes it much more maneuverable, so you can take sharp turns that you couldn’t make with a bumper pull trailer.
While it is possible to have a tack area in a bumper pull trailer, they are more commonly found in the larger gooseneck trailers. Considering the bed space required for the trailer, it is something those who are doing competitions will likely want to have.
With the sleeping area, it makes for a more self-sufficient set-up. Gooseneck trailers can also be a lot longer than bumper pull horse trailers. That’s because the weight of the trailer isn’t centered just on the back axle.
It’s centered between the front and rear. These trailers can carry up to twelve horses, along with the required tack. The area over the truck bed often contains enough room to lay a mattress, making it less likely you’ll need to camp or get a hotel room on the road.
Gooseneck trailers tend to be heavier empty than bumper pull trailers. That’s not always a problem if the trailer is small and the tow vehicle has the capacity.
However, the addition of a tack area and the tack area’s added weight will have to be considered when figuring out what capacity vehicle you need to use.
The special equipment for a gooseneck trailer adds to the price of the entire outfit. It takes up a good deal of room in the bed for the hitch, and it limits what can be put into the bed, even when the trailer isn’t hooked up.
You are limited to a truck, as a sports utility vehicle or another such vehicle won’t have a place for the hitch. These trailers are more expensive than bumper pull trailers.
Another drawback is that hooking the truck up to the trailer can be difficult and the setup is a great deal more complicated. An inexperienced person on a youtube video actually split his truck in half by not hitching up correctly.
That was a costly accident for the couple who made the video.
Bumper pull horse trailers
If it’s capable of pulling, any vehicle will do. If you have a large number of people going with you, a van or other large passenger vehicle will be able to do the towing.
That makes bumper-pulls useful for families that like to go to equestrian events together. It is a lot harder to do in a truck, and people aren’t allowed to stay in the trailer while it’s being towed in most states.
The trailers are lighter, both on the pocketbook and the tow vehicle. They aren’t as long, which improves aerodynamics. The longer the vehicle, the less aerodynamic it is and, in turn, saves on gas.
Many drivers feel more comfortable with a bumper pull trailer. They aren’t as wide, so it’s easier to see traffic coming up on either side. This is something of a safety feature, as it is hard to change lanes when you aren’t sure if something is beside you.
One of the main cons of a bumper pull trailer is stability. You can do some things; anti-sway bars and weight distributing hitches can be added and increase stability, but they still don’t give you the peace of a gooseneck.
I wrote an article on weight distributing hitches you may find helpful: Best Weight Distributing Hitches for Horse Trailers. In the piece, I cover what to look for when choosing a weight distributing hitch and give my recommendations.
One of the many reasons folks prefer a gooseneck is its stability. However, some of the lack of steadiness of a bumper pull comes from inexperience in pulling horse trailers or lack of knowledge.
The term bumper pull isn’t exactly accurate. In the old days, we hooked trailers to bumpers, but that’s practice ended years ago. These are more appropriately called tag-along trailers.
That’s because modern bumper-pull trailer hitches are attached to the frame for stability and safety. From personal experience, that does make it difficult if there is damage to the bumper. It isn’t likely to go anywhere easily.
Bumper pull hitches are also limited in the weight they can haul. The most extensive standard bumper-pull trailers can only haul four horses, and they don’t have living quarters or a tack area. Those have to be arranged outside of the trailer.
Here I review the best bumper-pull horse trailers on the market today: 10 Best Bumper-Pull Horse Trailers on the Market Right Now
When it comes to choosing which is best, it truly does depend on what you, the driver, want. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, especially in a two-horse set-up unless you want a living space; they are equally as safe.
One is less expensive, and one provides more amenities. For larger trailers, most people opt for gooseneck to offer better weight management.
The first question to answer is what kind of vehicle are you going to use to tow the horse trailer? Unless it is a truck, a gooseneck hitch is out of the question. Even if it is a truck, there are still things to consider.
For example, are you able to give up most of the truck’s bed for the hitch? If not, then it’s time to consider the bumper pull. The type of truck is also essential.
For a small, two-stall horse trailer, something along the lines of the F150 will likely work reasonably well. You could use the short bed models, but a longer bed will give you more choices and at least some room for other things in the truck bed.
If you choose something more extensive and carry substantial weight, you’ll need to ensure your tow vehicle’s pulling capacity is up to the task. There are limits to the amount that can be towed, and gooseneck trailers tend to be heavier. For larger trailers, you’ll probably need a dually.
If you choose to use a two-horse bumper-pull horse trailer, you may find some useful information in this article: Towing A Two-Horse Bumper Pull Trailer: All You Need To Know
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