Trailer Play (Not Training!) – Session #1

If you follow us on Facebook, then you’ll already know I FINALLY got my horse trailer! And actually, this is the first horse trailer I’ve ever owned.

I’ve bought and sold cars every few years, for decades. But this purchase took me ages to decide upon – it was more stressful and required more research than any vehicle I’ve ever bought! It’s too early to tell you whether I made all the right choices, but so far, so good!

As you’ll see in this video, I custom-ordered this Featherlite stock trailer from Maggi Clark at Bickford Trailers in Snohomish, WA. Then drove it across the border into Canada, as it was much cheaper than buying it here. You can see most of the features and specs in the video…

If you want to see everything I ordered for this trailer, you can download my spec sheet. Maggi has worked on horse breeding farms (and now breeds her own Warmbloods) for decades. She has done a LOT of trailering horses around and was an invaluable help to me in deciding what was worth spending money on and the differences in driving a gooseneck vs bumper-pull, or 16′ vs 20′ vs 24′ trailer.

A gooseneck hitch trailer (where the hitch is in the bed of the truck, not at the bumper) is far more stable on the road. You also don’t have to worry about loading your heaviest horse in front – the rig is stable enough (especially with a Dodge Ram 3500) to just load your most difficult horse first, regardless of size.

The ideal horse trailer length and height

Vintage Horse Box!

I was seriously debating between the 16-foot trailer – which felt easy to me. And the 20-foot length trailer which felt like it would be a challenge. And then I wondered – having 5 horses – if I shouldn’t go with the 24-foot which would fit them all easily! Well, Maggi has loaded horses loose many times and said that if my horses get along well, that 5 would likely fit in the 20-foot just fine. She also told me that there is no difference driving or parking a 16-foot vs a 20-foot trailer, but that a 24-foot trailer made a significant difference in room needed to park or turn around. Oh my gosh, advice like that is pure GOLD to me. So I went with the 20-foot length.

I visited 4 different trailer sales yards to look at all the different types of trailers in person; to open the doors, stand inside them and have the salesperson close the door on me. I wanted to FEEL what my horses would feel. And I have to say, every ‘normal’ horse trailer – with its tiny windows – felt terribly claustrophobic to me. There’s no way I myself would ever want to ride in one – so how would I be able to tell my horses they should get in, and it would be fun??!

The trailers that felt the best to me – lots of light, open, spacious – were the stock trailers. Normally people have one or two rows of open slats on their stock trailers, but I ordered three rows open. Perfect! I can get plexiglass panels that slide into the rows to close up the trailer if I wish. Featherlite only offers smoke-colored or red (!?) plexiglass panels – uh… no thanks. But I found a local custom plexiglass company who can cut whatever I want in clear (or any color) if I decide I want to close it up, or just close up some of the rows.

7’6″ is considered a Warmblood, or Draft height horse trailer. But when I stood in one, it didn’t feel that great to me. 8 feet is the highest trailer I could order, without having to pay an additional $15,000 for reinforced sides and I tell you, that extra 6 inches of height makes a world of difference.

If I had 14 hands high or smaller horses, I would not have ordered the trailer 8 feet wide – because that extra width makes a big difference getting through 10-foot gates, or staying in your lane on country roads. But for my big guys, I like the extra width.

I still find it very challenging to drive this rig – not just because of the length, but also the 8-foot width puts me at the same width as many of the big dump trucks or 18-wheelers on the road – and you’ve seen how much of the lane they take up!

I don’t have a place to keep my trailer where I can get it in and out once the weather turns mucky. So I’m just going to leave it in the field and then once the ground hardens, I’m going to hire my friend’s Dad (who drives a logging truck) to teach me how to drive and park the dang thing, so I don’t feel panicked at the thought! And yes, of course, I’ll video the lessons to share with you when the time comes.

And remember, if you’re leaving a trailer in your horses’ field, you must fence it off so they don’t chew the rubber bits and tires – most horses LOVE chewing rubber! The arena panels I used (shown in the video and pictured below) to fence off my trailer are 7-foot long, 5-foot high, lightweight panels that I bought at a local wholesaler called Edge Direct for $54 each. I like these so much better than the medium or heavyweight panels I have that are 8 – 10-feet long! Yet they seem very sturdy and are doing the job just fine. They are also small enough that I can fill one of my 8×10-foot box stalls with these arena panels and the other box stall with a horse or two, and be able to construct a corral in one of the wilderness areas I’d like to hike/ride in. Oh yes, I have big plans for this trailer! We’ll have to see if my idea of fun matches the horses’ ideas πŸ™‚

A smooch after Trailer Play
Trailer Play (Not Training!) – Session #1

8 thoughts on “Trailer Play (Not Training!) – Session #1

  • October 17, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    that is one cute trailer!!

    • October 17, 2017 at 9:24 pm

      A cute little beast!

  • October 20, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    The exploration was fantastic. Your bunch is so lively. My trailer sits out in my horses night time area and they have never messed with it…sure hope they don’t start. 3 olderish geldings definitely different then your groups higher younger energy…I love seeing the exuberance and I can see where they really keep you on your toes…yet you are so comfy with them at the same time… like I am with mine…it’s a beautiful thing. Anyway thought it was interesting (could be coincidence..who knows) that Dreamer was so interested in the video session you were having while I was watching it. He’s a super gentle horse but he was adamant that he touch the IPad and join in on absorbing the energy and information coming from it while I was playing your video. It was really a hoot and he doesn’t usually even touch my IPad when we are lounging together. So cool…he went on for sometime I finally had to stop it and just watch later after he left because he insisted on absorbing it and I couldn’t see the screen…Lol. Like I Said not sure if it means anything? He & I are exploring the trailer quite a bit and trying to build his comfort zone in relation to it. He does not like any pressure but as I wrote before gets a lot of comfort and calm from having the halter on. I have attached the link to the video of Dreamer and the IPad playing your video. I tried to upload it here but it said it was to big. We have been having sessions about 3-4 times a week so he is really finding more comfort in it and has went on an away outing to the lake also last weekend…..& that went really good.✌?️❀️?

    • October 21, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      Michelle I find this absolutely fascinating! I’ll bet Dreamer recognized the sounds of the trailer, and we know from controlled experiments that horses can recognize different people from photos, so I’ll bet he could recognize (cognitively) what was happening pictorially in the video. I found it very interesting that he kept switching from the front of the screen to the back of the screen and then nudging the back with his nose. In one place he had those tension lines around his eye – just the same as Aude gets when she’s standing at the open trailer door. Now you’ve really got me thinking! What would happen if we played this video on a large screen TV where horses could see it easily? Of course the horses would need to be unrestrained in a large field, so they could come and go, or gallop off stress etc. What would happen then??

      AND what would happen if you showed horses suffering trailer-trauma a large-screen video of horses at liberty enjoying getting on and off a trailer? And you played that video until they seemed almost bored by it. Then you drove up with that exact same trailer to their field – so they were completely at liberty – and opened the door? What would happen then?? Oh my gosh, so many interesting experiments!

      The other interesting thing Dreamer’s response makes me think of is… how much can we communicate/transmit via film? I remember the first time my new video guy (who’s done a bunch of work for Disney) experienced the herd (and of course, they made sure he had a very personally powerful experience/teaching) and he said wonderingly afterwards, “That was just… so… amazing… HOW do we communicate that depth of feeling on film??”

      And then I’ve also been wondering, can we convey an energetic intent/message via video. Perhaps – just as wavelength frequencies can carry voice and music to cell phones around the world – there is a non-visible, as yet not understood, way to transmit energetic information via video? I’m thinking YES. Because I’ve had numerous people watch my videos of the horses in nature, or in the woods tell me they started crying, because they could FEEL the peace, the wonder, the vibrancy of what was happening on film. And now, we have Dreamer’s response – especially poignant since you often lounge together with your iPad and he is usually uninterested. But THIS video is an issue he has been working through himself. SO FASCINATING!! You will have to do this with Session #2, #3 etc and see what happens…

  • December 1, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    I loved watching this and all that you, humans and horses, discovered/uncovered! Those horses, so full of life and personality! It’s so exciting to see!
    And I do love the comment above by Michelle and your comment back! I would love to see that too, horses being able to watch on a big screen and be able to be part of the experience….What would we discover!? πŸ™‚

    I am starting to put my feelers out for a trailer, and so this is very helpful, thank you!

    • December 2, 2017 at 2:29 am

      Yes the whole trailer decision! You should have a lot more choice though as your 2 are not too big. Feel free to call Maggi and pick her brain – if you end up buying from her (they have used trailers too) she can have it delivered to you in Portland. Maybe you should show yours the video of Michelle with 1 of her horses going in and out of her trailer at liberty (where she’s sitting on a chair) and see what they think of it!

      • December 2, 2017 at 9:45 am

        Ha ha ha, yes, I should!! My horses haven’t had issues going into trailers! They went in several times as they got moved from one place to the other…. Not super easy, but within 5 mins of seeing the trailer, with no pressure, just coaxing. But they both pooped in it, so I know they were scared πŸ™

        I want them to be very comfortable, and I also wonder which is the best trailer for them…. In doing a little research I see the new ones have better suspensions, so better for them to not bounce around. Then I wonder about them being tied, what is that about? Everyone ties their horses, but it must be hideous for their faces to absorb all the movement???? I want to let them be free, what do you think about that?

        Also, I may just have someone transport them when I move, and buy a trailer later…. But I keep entertaining the idea of getting a trailer now, and practice driving it with no one in it, and then get them in and out (I can leave it at the barn they are now boarded and practice there). I am not sure I can trust anyone with them now. Ha ha ha!!! πŸ™‚

        Thanks for the tip about Maggi, I did not realize they could deliver it. Of course going to pick it up would give me some practice with no one in it…

        • December 2, 2017 at 6:02 pm

          Yes, all good ideas! I’ve already practiced with a 2-horse – loaded and empty. But I’m going to do LOTS more empty practice with this one. Remember, our horses greatest place of safety (or anxiety) is us! So if we are feeling at all nervous, unsure, inexperienced, that is going to translate directly to them.

          AND I am NEVER going to tie my horses – unless they ask me to! I trust my horses to be able to find the best position for their bodies – and the best head height. It all comes down to how comfortable the horses are in the trailer. If I work with them at liberty, so they are perfectly comfortable (not afraid or worried) then I will not even put a halter on them. When we arrive, I will go in and halter them and bring them out. IF I don’t feel safe going in there to halter them, then I have not done enough practice with them so they feel safe and calm.

          Have you seen photos of horses who hung themselves in a trailer (from the halter/rope)? It’s a pretty crazy idea. I don’t know of any reason it exists other than fear; fear of the horse damaging the trailer, fear of the horse taking off when you open the door, fear of the horse moving around while you’re driving, etc. Maybe if I were trailering other people’s horses there would be a reason to tie them… but for my own, I prefer to work at the source of all issues and resolve them there. And btw, if you’re getting someone else to trailer them, ASK if they will insist on your horses being tied – many do.

          Seeing how much trauma they go through and how long it takes to heal it afterwards, I would either drive them myself now, or hire an 18-wheeler air ride trailer with a box stall. That’s what I did for Zorra when she came from New Jersey and she was in great shape (mentally, emotionally, physically) when she arrived.


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