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Straight or slant-load trailer more natural?

From: Dean


I know you are a fan of Equispirit Trailers, as am I. But, I also here people like Pat Parelli and other "natural horseman" stating that when a couple horses are put in an open stock trailer they always stand at a slant for better balance, just like humans do in a bus. This contradicts Neva and Tom's assertion that straight loads are more friendly to a horse's legs. What do you think? I am looking for a new trailer and more and more people I talk to say that slant loads are not best for the horse.



Hi Dean! I'm with the people who recommend straight load trailers - even if you want your horses to be able to stand at an angle. ;-)

I know it must seem odd, but truly there is no contradiction here. Horses standing in ANY trailer will generally prefer to stand at a slant with their feet spread for balance. That's something that has been observed for many years, and no one disputes it, although the horses don't typically stand at the same ANGLE of slant that they are forced to stand in a slant-load trailer, nor, when horses are trying to balance in a moving trailer, do they typically stand with their heads up as they must in a typical slant-load trailer! Standing at an angle is something that horses can do very easily in an open stock trailer, as well as in a well-designed, Thoroughbred-style (that is, with a breast bar instead of a manger) straight-load trailer.

The problem with most slant-load trailers really comes down to size and design - the limited stall space actually allows the horses very little room in which to stand. Small horses have a distinct advantage, but tall and/or long-backed horses are generally very uncomfortable when crammed into a slant-load. If a two-horse slant trailer is used for ONE horse, or a three-horse slant is used for TWO horses, with the partition(s) removed or tied back, then there is a good deal more room in which to stand, and the horse(s) can be comfortable - but exactly the same things apply when a two-horse straight load trailer is used, without the partition, for a single horse. Like the people on the bus in your analogy, horses need to have some space around them and enough room to spread their feet apart for balance - you won't see many people on a bus standing with their feet together. ;-) Some small, short-backed horses can ride comfortably in some slant-load trailers, but the fact is that those trailers were not designed for horse comfort or health, but rather as a convenience for humans (ranch workers, polo players, etc.) with a need to transport a string of relatively small, compact horses in a single trip.

So you see, standing at an angle in a trailer IS natural for most horses, but standing at the specific angle and in the cramped quarters of a slant-load trailer is NOT natural... and for larger horses, it's downright uncomfortable. They'll be able to stand and travel in greater comfort and better balance if you haul them in a nice big stock trailer or a well-built, Thoroughbred-style straight-load trailer.

Another consideration is that THINGS CAN CHANGE.

Even if your current horses are small and short-backed and can cope with a slant-load trailer, consider the possibility that you just might aquire or breed - or need to transport - a taller or longer horse someday. Trailers are expensive, and it's a good idea to get one that will continue to meet your needs for some years to come. Back in the days when small, narrow trailers designed for short Quarter Horses and Arabians were popular and widely available, a lot of people who acquired larger horses along the way discovered that the shift from a 14.3hh, short-backed horse to a 16.2hh, longer-backed horse meant that they suddenly needed new trailers to go with their new horses (and if they had recently built a barn with 9x9 or 10x10 stalls, the same thing applied - they needed to remodel the barn or build an add-on that could accommodate some 12x12 stalls.

To my mind, buying a trailer or building a barn that is ONLY suitable for smaller animals is just impractical - so many things can change! Try to avoid limiting yourself in that way. One thing I've seen over and over through the years is that horses can surprise you. Your trailer and the stalls in your barn can't really be too big - if you happen to come home from an auction with a very small horse, it will travel in your large trailer and fit into your 12x12 stalls. But if you buy or breed a horse that's too big to fit into your small trailer or your small stalls, your life can become very complicated and very expensive in a hurry.

I well remember one woman who was very petite, adored small horses, had a barn built for them, bought a trailer designed for small horses, and was happy for several years - until she acquired a very nice (small) QH mare. She bred the mare, all 14.2hh of her, to a lovely 14.3hh Arabian stallion... and the resulting colt was extremely nice, BUT he reached 15 hands and just kept growing. Sarah had never intended to own ANY horse that was taller than 15hh, but there was no way she was going to sell this lovely colt. By the time he was five, he was over 16 hands, and I believe he topped off at 16.2hh or thereabouts, a couple of years later. Meanwhile, Sarah had replaced her little trailer and remodeled her barn - two extra expenses that she could have been spared.

One final thought: Resale value! Once again, you can sell a large, comfortable trailer, be it a stock trailer or a straight-load, quite easily. Terms like "extra-tall" and "extra-wide" add value, even when the buyer doesn't have any extra-large horses... YET.


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