Trailers for Horse Camping

Ready to invest in a trailer to haul your equine companion to horse camps and trail rides? First, consider where you’d like to go. If you yearn to bounce off the beaten path, a large trailer loaded with all the comforts of home might not be practical. In fact, if your rig is too long and unwieldy, it can actually limit your destination choices.
Of course, you want-and deserve-comfort. But do you really need that microwave oven, TV, stereo system, and complete bathroom with bubble spa? Greater comfort means greater size. And face it, those add-ons aren’t there so much for your horse, but for you.

Before you shop for a trailer, write up a list of features you need, features you want, and those things considered “extras.” Keep in mind that your first priority is to keep your horse safe and comfortable on the road. Visit a few trailer dealers to see what’s out there in your price range. Then stop by trailheads and horse camps, and check out the trailers being used. Ask the trailer owners what they like and don’t like about their trailers.

As you make your list and do your research, here are some factors to consider.

Ease of towing. Will your trailer purchase be a lifetime investment or a “starter”? Your first hauling experiences will determine the future extent of your trail riding and horse camping adventures. If you start out with too much rig, you might become discouraged. Keeping it simple and easy will help keep you involved.

Convenience. Extras can sound convenient, but may not be in actual use. For example, take those built-in water tanks. Water weighs eight pounds per gallon. Fifty gallons of water equals 400 pounds of weight on the hitch-and that’s before you load your horse or a single bale of hay-which can affect towing stability. Plus, when your tank runs out, it may be easier to take a few 10-gallon containers down to a stream than tow your trailer to a water source. Not every campsite has a water-tank hose hookup.

Multiuse trails. Will you be hauling your horse to trailheads for day riding? Keep in mind that most trails-therefore trailheads and staging areas-are multi-use. That is, you’ll be sharing them with hikers, bikers, and in some cases, all-terrain vehicles. This traffic cuts down on the room you have for parking, backing, and turning your rig around. If you come upon a trailhead and find there’s no room to maneuver, you won’t be able to park and ride.

Know Thy Rig

After you buy your trailer, familiarize yourself with its dimensions to
help ensure a smooth ride to your destination.

Height. Know how high the highest point of your rig is for low-clearance
notices, fueling points, and going under tree branches.

Length. Know how long your rig is. When asking about roads, ask about turns and curves. Know the limits of your rig’s turning radius. If your rig
is too long, you won’t make hairpin curves.

Weight. Find out how much your rig weighs, both loaded and unloaded,
using a public scale. Then if you, say, approach a bridge with a one-ton
capacity, you’ll know you won’t get over it if your rig weighs three tons.
(Tip: You can always cheat a little by unloading your horses, walking them over, and bringing your rig across.)

Small, by design. Most trailheads and staging areas were designed 20 or 30 years ago. Consequently, the turning room for trailers is designed for rigs that are a lot shorter and tighter than today’s rigs can maneuver, even if you have a fifth-wheel (gooseneck). This is especially true if other rigs are parked nearby. (Tip: When you arrive at a relatively empty trailhead, turn your rig around and face out before others arrive, for easy egress.)

Mother Nature. Maneuvering and using a large trailer among trees can be impossible in some horse camps. At one camp, no matter how many times the driver of one big living-quarters trailer moved his rig, the horse campers still couldn’t get all their “pop-out” and slide-out rooms open at the same time without hitting a tree or a big rock. Just too much of Mother Nature was in the way. The group finally parked in a meadow situated several hundred feet from the corrals. Those with smaller rigs were able to park right next to the corrals.

Access roads. How far off the paved roads do you plan to go? National parks usually have wide, paved roads with good-sized trailheads. National and state forests, on the other hand, usually have main roads and secondary roads. You can usually find the best solitary camping and trail riding spots on gravel or dirt secondary roads, which can be rutted. Usually, the lighter your rig, the better you’ll be able to travel on such roads. (Tip: Contact the area’s local ranger district, and ask about road conditions and the maximum length allowed for rigs.) TTR

Bonnie Davis of Fremont, California, is an internationally published equine journalist and frequent contributor to The Trail Rider. She gives presentations, lectures, and workshops on horse camping, multiuse trail development, and gentle-use trail management. She’s the publicity coordinator of the Backcountry Horsemen of California, which preserves and maintains the traditional use of saddle and pack stock on trails.

Are you looking to upgrade your trailer? Go to, the premier classifieds site of the Equine Network to search for the perfect trailer for you!

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