BY GORDON BALLANTYNE
ISO 3 horse LQ, 8’ wide with mangers or 7’ wide without. 8’ tall. 8’ or 10’ short wall living quarters. No toilet in the shower. 2012 or newer. Slides preferred, no leaks.
The senior equestrian in our house has spoken. Hunter/jumper is (temporarily?) out and dressage is in. The problem? No way, no how is mama changing barns. She adores her barn mates and trainer. The stables where she boards have an indoor ring, an outdoor ring, decent turnout and footing, plus back up to hundreds of acres of wilderness trails (never underestimate the power of sip and ride therapy).
So what’s the solution? We needed a horse trailer to go rogue with our own transportation to dressage shows. Our entire family, aka the traveling menagerie, was already used to hauling our giant 5th wheel to shows and family getaways. But with only one towing vehicle, we needed a trailer that could house us and the horses. And boy, oh boy. I thought a “top three in the hack hunter at a reasonable price” was the unicorn. Turns out, the real unicorn is this kind of trailer.
Living quarter or LQ horse trailers come in a myriad of sizes, shapes, and price points. We have a large warmblood, not necessarily in height but certainly in girth. He is the definition of an easy keeper… these are all code words for “he’s fat.” And senior equestrian won’t have him be cramped traveling.
Almost all horse trailers are built on the same chassis. The width distance between the tires is the same and built to the maximum allowable under federal guidelines. The most efficient use of space and most common is a slant load trailer. Trailers are either 7’ or 8’ wide depending on if the walls are built inside the wheels or partially over the wheels. The extra foot gives room for feeders which many 8’ wide trailers install on the head side of the horse.
7’6” to 8’ are standard trailer heights. The extra 6” doesn’t make a huge difference in the horse area but it is very noticeable for us humans in the nose of the living quarters where the bed is always located. The living quarters portion of the trailer comes in many configurations including couches, dinettes, bunk beds, and many different levels of finishes. Some trailers have mid-trailer tack rooms, while most have a collapsible rear tack area.
Our traveling menagerie 5th wheel was 42’ in length. We needed something much shorter for mama to haul around and be able to maneuver around horse barns and events. No offense to the senior equestrian, but she struggles parallel parking a Range Rover with a backup camera and proximity sensors. I do have complete faith in equestrian superpowers though and notice they always emerge when doing something they really want to do.
We scoured every advertisement and message board searching for the right trailer. We searched, then searched some more. When we finally found some that fit the bill, they were gone in minutes—not hours or days. We live in the Pacific Northwest, but we were even considering trailers in Texas! Mama and I had every Facebook page advertising horse trailers on alert….and finally, it pinged!
An LQ horse trailer in Idaho came on the market. Mama was like a shopper at a Black Friday sale. I swear she had a phone, a tablet, and a laptop working at the same time. “Why won’t she DM me back!”
The trailer was outside of our “firm” budget, but puppy dog eyes are not just reserved for canines and I always fold after the third “please.” The poor seller was cyber-stalked for the half-hour she took to answer my wife’s full-priced, all-cash offer. We had never done a person-to-person purchase of this magnitude before but we sent a photo of a certified check and the seller sent a photo of the trailer title.
The next morning, we set out on a 338-mile journey to see our potential purchase. We agreed to meet at a large parking lot with a branch of our bank across the street so we could verify the title and condition of the trailer and they could verify the check. I felt like I was doing an illicit drug deal, “C’mon man, give me some of those sweet living quarters.”
Everything turned out perfect, but the tires were in questionable condition and the propane fridge system was suspect. Any instructions that start with “just jiggle it a little bit” are usually not quite up to snuff. But we closed the deal and hauled the trailer home.
The trailer needed a few upgrades: new tires, a thorough cleaning including a new mattress, a new stud wall extension so the first stall could be used to haul the mountain of critical equestrian gear (AKA crap), a Scotsman fridge overhaul, and installation of both a hardwired backup cam and horse watching cam.
Mama is no longer barn bound and regularly zips around in her horse trailer for lessons. A modified pool noodle helps her get hooked up solo. She has now taken her horse trailer private residence to three shows. I went along as a passenger on the maiden voyage to assist if needed. Horse show drop off and pick up makes our child’s school drop off and pick up look like the ballet in comparison to that hot mess express. The senior equestrian is over the moon and there are now hushed undercurrents of secret plans for someplace called WEF for something called the winter circuit.