Wednesday, September 16, 2015

surveying the audience: truck / trailer considerations

Yesterday KateRose asked in the comments if I would share insights about trailers and hauling horses. Quite honestly, I feel very VERY far from being an expert in this subject.

My experience with hauling horses has been overwhelmingly positive, tho the shopping experience was... not something I'm eager to repeat. (kinda like riding v. saddle shopping. one is WAY more fun than the other!)

I bought a used v8 4wd Chevy Silverado 1500 with tow package off craigslist and a new Calico 2-horse bumper pull stock trailer from Kingdom Horse Trailers.

i love this truck
Truck shopping was more difficult and time consuming than I anticipated, mostly because my budget was unrealistic and I don't know much about trucks. Luckily a friend helped weed through the craigslist ads (and provided questions to ask) and a trusted family mechanic was willing to 'vet check' potential trucks (and vetoed a couple, too). It took about a month to find my truck.

By that point, the legwork involved in buying used wore me out and I was relieved to meet Ken, proprietor of Kingdom Trailers. We discussed specs and options at great length, then I visited the showroom, picked out my trailer, and got straight to the business of financing the thing. He also gave me a crash course in hitching and parking and general maneuvering, and sent me on my merry way.

so shiny and new!
This past spring my truck and trailer celebrated their one year anniversary since getting hitched, and I've put about 3,000 miles on them, give or take. Exciting stuff, y'all.

So... obviously my experiences above don't really translate to helping others figure out the actual technical requirements for matching tow vehicle to trailer, kinda a critical element of the shopping process.

one big happy family!
also - my next trailer will have a dressing room for sure. but for now, the cap on my truck's bed has proved invaluable
A couple other bloggers have written about it more knowledgeably than I can, including Amy @ Diary of a Horse Obsessed Girl. In her post she linked to this article about selecting a tow vehicle. Amanda from Bel Joeor has also written about hauling - specifically a balancing kit that she won't tow without installing on the truck/trailer (sorry Amanda but I couldn't find the actual post - feel free to link in the comments!).

So I'm hoping those of you out there who also haul or have hauled horses might be willing to share useful resources, links, experiences, tidbits, hints, whatever on the process. Considerations on brakes, tires, variations of trailers or towing vehicles, different requirements for long distance travel vs. local trips. Insights into maintaining these vehicles for optimal condition. Etc etc.

Really, any and all information is helpful! Perhaps if there's a ton of information in the comments I will synthesize it into a later post on general resources.

Thanks!

50 comments:

  1. Wow 3k already? You are out there doing stuff! (Which we already knew;) ) I'm envious of your truck/trailer package. ..

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    1. It's certainly a lot of miles! That also includes transporting other horses and trips where the trailer is empty too. It's not all on Isabel (tho the majority is). We certainly get around!

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  2. Wow 3k already? You are out there doing stuff! (Which we already knew;) ) I'm envious of your truck/trailer package. ..

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  3. Whats the towing capacity of your truck? I've started looking around and really wanted a chevy but have been shocked to see that all the ones I've found (older, hence cheaper) have a towing capacity of around 4500 lbs!!! What the heck? The Titans are 7200lbs, so I've been looking at those instead.

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    1. Titans are nice. My Chevy is rated for about 9,000lbs tow capacity, more than my trailer plus it's max capacity will ever add up to. It's a 2001, if that helps you figure out years etc.

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    2. Must be a different engine than all the ones I've found, Good to know!

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    3. possibly. i don't know the engine specs off the top of my head other than it's a v8 (which is why i didn't put any quotes into the post itself, tho i will double check and can get back to you about the exact details). but yea chevys can get up there. the newer silverados can get up to something like 12,000 tow capacity, i think

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    4. Some models of trucks come in two engine sizes. for example a V8 GMC Sierra can either be a 5.3 L engine or a 6.2 L engine. Same with other manufacturers too: 2 sizes of engines for a v8. The exact L number varies between brands. So when you're truck shopping you just have to be careful to get the larger of the v8 engine sizes to pull horses. They probably varies between model year too, but I dunno

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    5. that makes sense - i think that's actually pretty common in a lot of cars, not just trucks. regardless i'll be double checking next time my truck and i are in the same place haha

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  4. The only advice I can give would be to get a truck you like. I hate our truck. It's a 1989 1 ton diesel. A workhorse for sure, but I hate how it handles, I hate that it's so old and requires special attention. Every time we take that thing out I'm paranoid it's going to break down. I definitely wouldn't trust it to haul very far from home. I won't go into the details about how we ended up with this truck other than to say that my husband won that argument.

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    1. that's great advice. i definitely agree that you should be comfortable driving whatever it is you end up with - otherwise it just adds more stress to the situation

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  5. I have had bad tow vehicles in the past, towed my 1988 Trailet with a Jeep Cherokee for a couple of years before we bought a real TRUCK. Which towed exactly one time and toasted the motor pulling exactly what the Cherokee pulled. We then bought a 3/4 ton, two tone poo brown Ford and I hated it. Finally bought the Silverado and traded it in back in Dec for my beautiful Ram. Start out with what you can and slowly trade up to what you actually want. With lots of patience and an open ear, you can usually find/hear about a good deal eventually.

    For tidbits, however, make sure you do not skimp on the brake controller if your truck does not have integrated trailer brakes. Do not get the timed controller, it provides a rough ride for the animals and it can be scary if you have to stop fast. A timed controller applies the trailer brakes in increasing duration over a period of time. You want an inertia controller which brakes at the same rate as your truck!

    Maintenance is very important, this cannot be stressed enough. The best way to ensure you are not stuck on the side of the road is to make sure you fix it before it breaks. Tires, brakes, wheel bearings, oil changes, wheel bearings and a quick "good to go" from a mechanic will go a LONG way to ensure you are not broken down. It also lets you budget for a repair instead of having to forfeight show fees plus shelling out to fix a broken truck.

    Make sure you know the rating of your truck! A friend of mine bought a new 1/2 ton truck and burned the transmission up in a year by pulling her trailer with 2 horses. They wouldn't warranty it bc she was towing above it's capacity and was traveling through mountains. Know the weight of your trailer, add 1000lbs for your tack/hay/etc and then the horses. If you are within two thousand pounds of the truck's max, find a new combination as you will be disappointed in the handling, the performance and longevity of the truck. If you are always traveling on flat ground, all of the time, it may work but the majority of us live in slightly hilly land it will not work long term.

    Hope ths helps!

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    1. this is great, thanks so much! love the idea of starting out where you can and slowly moving up. i LOVE LOVE LOVE my current truck - but have also started saving away ideas of how my *next* truck will be different lol.

      also nice point on the maintenance. my truck is high mileage and i wasn't able to confirm what type of oil it used previously so i switched it over to full synthetic. costs a LOT more than a typical oil change (ugh my gluttonous beast) but hopefully it'll help everything keep running smoothly

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  6. I love my truck for towing the horses. I just need to buy a trailer now! Haha

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    1. it's a nice thing to have. not necessarily the most important thing, but nice all the same

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  8. Despite my relative nervousness about hauling, I have done it a lot, both personally and for work. Random tidbits:

    -Make sure your vehicle is okay to tow whatever you're hauling! Our current truck would be close to overloaded by hauling the trailer I already owned, which is a heavy steel 3-horse gooseneck rig. That's why we ended up buying a new, smaller trailer!

    -If you have a used vehicle whose history you're unsure of, ask the local dealer. Our truck was a hand-me-down from Johnny's parents, who bought it new, but couldn't remember if it had the towing package or not. One trip to the Toyota dealer later, and they told me all about it. They also recommended various maintenance things in addition to its scheduled stuff because they knew the truck would be hauling more frequently. (This was mostly using synthetic oil, which we did anyway.)

    -Stock your trailer with a basic equine first aid kit. I find the USPC first aid kit list is pretty useful.

    -I prefer gooseneck trailers to bumper pulls; I feel like they haul better and back easier.

    -AAA will cover towing for your truck, but not for your trailer! I once blew a head gasket on my truck hauling back from a show in Alabama, about 4 hours from my home in TN. AAA sent a guy for the truck, but I had no way to get my horse/trailer home. Luckily, the towing guy had a friend with a truck who was willing to haul the trailer home for me, but that is NOT always the case. Something like USRider is a better option if you are hauling frequently.

    Great post- I love hearing everyone's advice about hauling!

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    1. this is wonderful - thanks for all the info! great idea about checking with the dealership - i would have never thought of that (and much of my truck's history is a bit unknown). also i love the USPC pony club guides that you reference!

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    2. Dealers get a bad rap for being obscenely expensive for maintenance, but they're very useful for providing info on vehicles! I know Toyota has a number you can call with the VIN number and get information, too. I imagine other companies have the same.

      And you really can't go wrong with USPC guides!

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    3. it makes total sense now that you say it haha, i just never would have thought of it!

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  9. I bought my truck 2 years ago with the intention that it would likely live hooked up to my trailer (once I bought one). Since I didn't have a trailer yet, and wasn't sure what I would end up with I had a few lists of criteria. I found a great truck for a reasonable price that ticked most of the boxes, a '98 Dodge 2500 Diesel (Shortbox automatic). It has needed maintenance and work in the last two years but I don't have payments so I just put money away each month for repairs.

    In August of last year I bought my trailer. Once again I bought used in order to save myself the headache of financing. I have a 2002 4H Featherlite GN.

    I lovelovelove my rig. In the last year I've put over 6000 km on it. The freedom of having your own transportation is indescribable (and having the dressing room with a bed in the nose means I save on hotel costs).

    I would agree with appydoesdressage, an inertia brake controller is critical. I also think its very important to do your due diligance on trailer tires. My local tire shop tried to get me to put light truck tires on my trailer since they would ride better. I stuck to my guns and got tires with a higher ply to ensure that they had the extra load capacity. And rotate your trailer tires! Many people don't but unless you have a magical trailer that is 100% balanced on all 4 tires they will wear differently. Since I have a 4H and usually only use the 2nd and 3rd stall when hauling my front tires wear slightly faster than my back tires.

    I've been hauling horses since I got my licence at 16. When I got my licence my vet actually put me in the back of the trailer and drove around on back roads to show me how it feels back there. It was an eye-opening experience and I make everyone who borrows my rig do it.

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    1. it really is so liberating, isn't it? it's completely changed my whole view of the horse world and how i participate in it. nice idea about riding around in the trailer to learn what it feels like, i might have to try that! i like to think that i'm fairly considerate of my equine passengers.... but perhaps i really have no clue?

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  10. I'll have to find the stabilizing hitch stuff when I get the chance! I highly recommend it for anyone hauling a bumper pull.

    My best advice is to get the Cherry Hill book about farm equipment. There's a trailer shopping sheet in there that is an outstanding guide to what you need to make sure to look at, and her chapters on trucks & trailers tell you everything you would need to know.

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    1. ooh that's good to know, i wonder if it's available online somewhere too...

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  11. Thank you so much!!! :D Lots of wonderful info. I am bookmarking this for my *fingers crossed* truck/trailer hunt in February.

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    1. haha glad to help! sorry i don't personally have a lot of info on hand, but somehow i suspect the combined knowledge of this little internet community might be able to pull together some useful tidbits

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  12. The best way to buy a truck for towing: take someone with you who knows about these things. My only requirements when truck shopping were: Dodge, 4WD, back seat (for puppy hauling of course!). I looked on Craigslist until I found those 3 things, and then let Hubby do the rest. Love my truck, love my trailer, could not tell you much else beyond that! :P

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    1. haha yep - that's pretty much how i did it too. except i didn't care about the manufacturer and am not married to the guy that 'did the rest.' he's a chevy guy tho so that's what i got. my next truck will definitely have a back seat - that's maybe the *only* thing i wish was different about my current set up

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  13. I'm not in the market, but I was discussing various towing capabilities with my trainer recently and she told me one thing people often forget to consider is the wheel base length. Though some smaller SUVs have a towing capacity around 10,000 lbs, because the wheel base is short, the weight and size of the trailer can really push the towing vehicle around. This isn't SUCH a huge problem if you're just going straight or short distances and are very cognizant of your stopping distances, but can become a hazard on windy or slick roads, downhill grades, and windy days. Yet ANOTHER thing to consider! Can't wait until I go truck shopping for myself (hahaha not like I have to worry about that for five or six years....)

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    1. oooh nice point! i actually hadn't thought of that either but it makes total sense. i tow a pretty heavy trailer so it's not particularly sensitive to wind, but would potentially cause serious issues in an emergency braking situation for a smaller or narrower suv

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    2. People with trailers hooked to small SUVs terrify me!

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  14. This is excellent! I'm going to be looking at getting a trailer in the next year (fingers crossed) so I'll be starting this journey soon enough. This is all great information (post and comments!).

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    1. ooh glad you find it useful! as much as i hated the actual shopping process, it's still seriously freaking exciting!!!!

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  15. Following this for sure--I'm an still on the fence about whether I want to be in the market for a truck & trailer (and yes the new Chevy 1500s have up to 12k towing capacity, but they are not cheap!)

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    1. it's definitely not the kind of investment every rider needs to make - that's another reason why Amy's post is great bc she breaks it down and proves that for her purposes, it's more cost effective to get rides rather than have her own. but, should you decide to get a rig.... well, it's a lot of fun :D

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    2. From a cost effectiveness perspective .... yeah, I don't really have a reason to have a rig. Plus at least 4 people have told me at this point if I ever need a ride anywhere just call them (with enough notice, of course) AND the two places I go with the pon are a show or a vet clinic, and I've never had a problem getting rides to either, being at a full service h/j barn. BUT I WANT A TRUCK! lol I'm re-reading Amy's post now ...

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    3. haha and now that i'm rereading it i realize that she DOES have a rig - oops, sorry for the misinformation. (i swear i read a post somewhere where they decided they *didn't* need a trailer...)

      anyway tho my necessity for a rig came because we dont' have trainers at my farm, so if i wanted lessons i had to travel for them. without that single impetus i'm not sure it would have happened

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  16. We've got the trailer, and hopefully someday, we shall have our truck. Hubs has already decided exactly what he wants (2009-2014 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD with Duramaxx Diesel and Allison transmission, 6.5ft bed, full cab with that graphite blue color....) yeah, guess how much that one costs. He was a Ford man and I am a Chevy girl, so when he settled on that as our future truck, I kept my mouth shut and just smiled :)

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    1. haha yea seriously, sounds like an awesome dream truck - hope you can get it!!

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  17. We have an 02 Chevy 2500HD Duramaxx. It's like driving a Cadillac. Pulls so nice. We've had a few different trailers over the years until finding our keeper: 92(?) hawk 2 horse straighload goodneck. If you are buying your own trailer let me telling you right now... 10 PLY TIRES! If it doesn't have them already, invest in them. It's worth it. You are much less likely to get a blow out or flat. One time my person and I got 2 flats on one trailer in one 25 miles trip after we'd checked pressure before leaving. 10 PLY!!!!!!!!!!!! Also, if you plan on hauling more than 1 or 2 horses, get a gooseneck. I actually HATE pulling BP trailers. They aren't as secure. Fine for one or maybe 2 but I prefer a gooseneck. Also they are way easier to hook up. Make sure you test the truck and trailer together before purchase. We've gotten trailers who's plugs didn't fit with our truck and the brakes were flipping out and lights didn't work. We even tried converters to no avail. And of course when the brakes started locking up we were on an on ramp from hwy to hwy and I about peed my pants.

    And don't buy the first truck or the first trailer you see. We already had the truck. And we went through more trailers than we would have liked because we NEEDED one to go to races. We wore out our welcome borrowing. But it's much better to take lots of time and look at lots of trucks and trailers and find a good deal on what you WANT

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    1. great points about the tires. i don't even know what mine are, actually - except that they're new and only have about 3,000 miles on them so... probably fine for now lol. but i will absolutely keep that in mind when it comes time to replace.

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  18. I always love reading these types of posts because eventually I'd like to get my own truck and trailer, but feel like I don't know enough to form an opinion. Thanks for opening the discussion!

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    1. glad you find it useful! i definitely agree about feeling like i don't know enough - but fortunately there are plenty of ppl out there who DO know what they're talking about lol

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  19. Agree about wheel base length! When I was young I knew someone who flipped their trailer with horses in it bc their vehicle was to small to control the trailer- they were towing with a Jeep Grand Cherokee and had put many towing miles with it- but in a sticky situation it didn't have the size to safely handle it and thus flipped. (Horses survived though!)

    Also knew someone else who was in an accident and the trailer was pushed off a bridge- the driver had a beefy suburban and was able to pull the trailer back up onto the road bc it had the power behind it- AND there was a horse in the trailer when this happened! No one/animal was hurt in this accident but if she didn't have a proper towing vehicle for her trailer it certainly could of ended in a very bad way.

    I do think having a proper towing vehicle is like wearing a helmet when riding- if something bad happens you won't regret having the proper equipment!!!! Oh and 4 wheel drive is a must for me ;) I've never regretted having it and certainly have used it plenty of times :)

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    1. yikes those are both awful stories!! amazing that no horses were harmed! but great analogy between appropriate tow vehicles and helmets - i think that's exactly the right way to look at it. (and yea i'm so glad i insisted on 4wd bc i've used it many times now!)

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  21. Out of state trucks are supposed to have apportioned registration, meaning it is registered in multiple states.
    SRAC Interstate Trailer Hire

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    1. interesting - never knew that but it's good to have in mind!

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